2013: The beginning of a new era for football in Tucson.
The opening of the new Lowell-Stevens Football Facility and the north end zone has completely transformed Arizona Stadium. If you haven’t made the trip to a Wildcats game since 2008, you probably won’t even recognize the place.
Originally opened in 1929 with a capacity of 7,000, the stadium has undergone massive transformations leading to the current capacity of 56,037.
Over the past couple of years, Arizona Stadium has seen several major additions. In 2011, an enormous video board was completed in the south end zone, one of the largest in the world. It is 113’ x 47’. Now in 2013, the north end zone seating and concourse have added a new comfort level to the stadium as well as making it a complete bowl, and allowing fans to travel back and forth to either side of the stadium, unheard of in the past.
A new artificial surface was also installed prior to the 2013 season. The design looks sharp, especially under the lights. A ghost-lettered “Bear Down” runs in between the hashes, and adds an extra visual element that the stadium has been lacking in the past.
In total, the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility cost $72.3 million, and was paid for through private donations. It is really quite impressive from a fan’s stand point, and as a football training facility. You can find a photo tour of the facility at AZ Desert Swarm.
The Arizona football tradition has never been a strong one, always being no higher than third on the popularity list behind men’s basketball and softball at the university. This is starting to change though, mostly due to the vast improvements of Arizona Stadium.
The football team has still never been to a Rose Bowl, making them the only Pac-10 member to never have made an appearance (Utah and Colorado are the other Pac-12 members to have never made an appearance). The athletics program as well as the city of Tucson are hoping that head coach Rich Rodriguez can turn this losing tradition around for good, something that previous head coach Mike Stoops had achieved for about two and a half years before seeing it all fall apart and losing his job in the middle of the 2011 season.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Arizona Stadium is fairly reasonable when it comes to pricing of traditional stadium food, $3 for a hot dog, with sodas and other traditional food items ranging anywhere from $2-$8. If you plan on either drinking a lot of soda at one game, or going to multiple games during the year, I recommend getting a souvenir cup, and taking advantage of the discounted refills. You can bring that cup in with you to future games, but no other outside food and beverage can be brought in. All University of Arizona facilities are currently serving Coca-Cola products.
There are also a couple of extra food items offered in the several concourses at Arizona Stadium. Some concession stands offer barbeque sandwiches for $6, which are very big, and very tasty. There are also personal sized pizzas from Dominos available for $8, as well as El Charro stands set up on the east and west sides of the stadium.
While the west concession stands seem to be the fastest and have the shortest lines, the north end zone has the most options. Outside of the traditional food, there are Sonoran Dogs, Sweet Potato Fries, as well as a Pinkberry Yogurt stand, and a Minimart. In the northeast corner, there's a stand that caters exclusively to various food allergies (peanut, gluten, etc.).
It seems like there are issues with customer service on the east side of the stadium, and north side is the most crowded because it has all of the best stuff.
@azdesertswarm zero lines on west side of the stadium when I walked by twice, including halftime. Heard the north side had some issues— Scott Coleman (@ScottColeman_UA) September 2, 2013
@azdesertswarm Very good on the West side. Short lines and speedy service.— E. Jay Richardson (@DrJayRich) September 2, 2013
@azdesertswarm biggest issue for me were the people running the stands. Took the lady 5 min to get my pizza/scan my catcard— Ben Rosenfield (@ben_rosenfield) September 2, 2013
The awkward thing about the new-look Arizona Stadium is the striking difference between the appearances of the north end compared to the rest of the stadium. Sure, it's great to have this shiny new toy added to one end, but the rest of the stadium needs some help. It's very weird to be standing on the street and see this great building with all this fancy stuff on it, but then look at the main stands and see worn-down concrete that looks ugly.
One drawback from making the stadium a complete bowl has been that the view to the north has been hidden. But if you sit up high, either in the suites on the west side, or the upper deck on the east side, you can still take in the foothills surrounding Tucson, and be able to look at all of campus, downtown Tucson, and the surrounding areas which are pretty cool from up high.
With the stadium now a complete bowl, entering at a specific gate is not necessary anymore. I know most tickets have a gate number on them, and if you're sitting on the south end you may want to follow that guide since it is the most difficult part of the stadium to get to from the rest. Gates 1 and 2 are in the northeast corner near Cherry Garage, and the gate numbers are highest on the west side. For a complete diagram of where the gates, sections, elevators and stairways are, visit the team website.
Since the west side press box and suites are so high, the sun is not too big of a problem for either side of the stadium if they do happen to play a day game. Most games at Arizona Stadium are played at night, which later on in the year can get very cold because the wind just swirls around and makes it uncomfortable unless you have a jacket or sweater. I would recommend not sitting on the south end of the stadium, because the video board is behind you. If you sit there it makes it sort of awkward if you want to see the replay of the last big play, or get a good view of the score. There is currently a scoreboard on the north end, but it can be sort of confusing to read and does not have any video board with it. That's definitely the biggest reason that the south end seats are cheaper than the north end. That and the north end has much better facilities than the rest of the stadium.
The Wildcats enter the stadium through the north end zone, coming straight out of their spiffy new locker room. The Pride of Arizona Marching Band forms a tunnel after they perform their traditional pregame show to the west side. You want to make sure you always see the Pride of Arizona perform pregame, halftime, and even the after-game concert held at the Admin Building.
Two hours prior to the game though, you'll want to check out "Wildcat Walk". Coaches, players and staff walk down Cherry to the stadium. Fans can high five them, take pictures with them and just hang out before the game starts. The Pride of Arizona Band also performs at this.
The U of A bench is on the east side, right in front of Zonazoo (the student section). Zonazoo takes up the entire lower half of the east side of the stadium. Only students can sit here, so if you are general public and want to sit on the east side you have to sit in the mezzanine or upper levels.
The seats themselves for most of the stadium are metal benches. But fans do have the option of renting seatbacks or bring in their own, as long as they are not wider than 18 inches and don't have armrests, cup holders or block the walkway. If you want to rent a seat for the entire season, you can do so at ArizonaWildcatSeats.com. The central sections of the mezzanine level are regular seats though.
The seats in the north end are regular seats, and are very comfortable. These seats all have cup holders and backs, and are grey colored so they don't get too hot in the sun. Also in the north end zone is the Sands Club, which is primarily reserved for high-end donors. The Sands Club has private boxes with their own HD TVs, as well as a full bar and lounge area inside behind the seating area. Other suites and boxes are found at the top of the west side. The north side is where you want to sit with all the new amenities and a straight on view of the video board. The video board is enormous, has live video and replays throughout the game. There are also a couple boards on each side of it with game stats.
The main section for visiting fans is section 17, which is located in the southwest corner of the stadium. The visiting band also used to be here, but they have been moved to the very top of section 209, where basically no one can hear them, which is a shame. The visiting team now enters through the northwest corner of the stadium, which is where the Wildcats used to enter before the opening of the new football facility. The on-field logos also face towards the west side.
Wilbur and Wilma the Wildcats are the U of A's mascots, and they are a central part of the football game experience. They actually come out through the tunnel before the football team. The Pride of Arizona is obviously a huge part as well. They have been moved from the corner over a couple of sections to be more in the ZonaZoo. They constantly play in between plays, even if the new offense runs a play every 15 seconds or so. Also, after every scoring play, make sure to sing along with "Bear Down Arizona".
Prior to each home game, there is plenty of tailgating along "The Mall" at U of A, which is a long grassy area that goes through the middle of campus along 3rd Street. The official ZonaZoo tailgate is at the corner of Cherry and The Mall, where they have free food available. Some tailgating also occurs in the various parking lots next to the stadium, and around McKale Center. Campus is just a big party on game days. Game days are the only days that alcohol is permitted on campus.
If you would rather go to a sports bar before the game, Dirtbags and Trident are both near the corner of Speedway and Campbell, and are both easily walkable to the stadium.
There is also University Boulevard, which has tons of restaurants, bars, and shops that you can enjoy before and after the game. "Uni" is probably the best place to go before a game that isn't tailgating. I personally like No Anchovies the best, a place with great pizza and a lot of drink specials. Gentle Ben's is another good option as well. It's all part of Maingate Square, which is located just west of the main part of campus between Park Ave and Euclid. And if you would like to drive somewhere, Fourth Ave has even more choices for you.
The night before a home game, Uni is home to Bear Down Fridays, which is the traditional pep rally. It takes up the entire area. The band, cheerleaders, and even some coaches from the rest of athletics take part in it. If you're coming in to Tucson for the entire weekend, then BDFs is a must.
Hopefully later in the 2013 season, the long-awaited street car will be up and running, making it even easier for fans to get to Fourth and Uni from campus.
For hotels, the closest option is the recently-opened Aloft, which is at the corner of Campbell and Speedway, walking distance from the stadium. Tucson Marriott University Park is in Maingate Square, so it is also walking distance, just a little further down the road.
There are very few strong fan traditions at Arizona football games. The one that everyone knows is jingling your keys in the air prior to each and every kickoff during the game. Also, after the 1st quarter, a U of A chant goes throughout the entire stadium. A somewhat newer tradition happens after the third quarter. "Shout" is played up on the video board, and the students love it. It has definitely worked for getting the crowd pumped up heading into the fourth quarter.
Arizona fans are probably known somewhat for their hostility to opposing teams' fans. Arizona Stadium is not exactly the most welcoming place for out of town fans, but they can sit in the designated away team section, which is in the southwest corner of the stadium. The west side is a better place to sit if you are coming from out of town anyway. There are a lot fewer students and new alumni on that side compared to the east and south sides.
That video was from the 2009 Oregon game, which actually sent an Oregon cheerleader to the hospital. When the Ducks came back in 2011, the UO Cheerleaders had some fun with it and wore construction helmets on the field.
Here's another video. Ever since this appeared, Arizona Athletic Director Greg Byrne has pushed the "Bear Down with Pride" motto. Because what school really wants this video attributed to its fans. (Warning: Not safe for work)
As a person who attended U of A for four years and graduated from the school, I can't stand how a lot of the fans act at games. But it's definitely not the majority. Most people actually show a lot of pride in their school and represent it well. And maybe the dumb stuff will go away if and when the product on the field is good on a consistent basis.
Arizona Stadium is located on the southeast corner of campus, near the intersection of 6th St. and Campbell Ave. There are several parking options on game days. There are many parking garages on campus that charge varying rates depending on how close they are to the stadium. Most surface lots are restricted to tailgate specific passes, so garages are the best bet for on campus parking.
There are surface lots south of 6th St. that you can pay to park in, or you can park for free on the sides of the street in places that don't require a permit 24 hours a day (typically south of 8th St. and east of Cherry). Sixth Street itself is closed next to the stadium, so don't bother trying to drive on it before a game. You can also park on the sides of the streets just east of Campbell Ave. This is what I recommend doing, since most of the time, you end up closer by parking on the curb in these places compared to where some of the garages on campus are located.
There is also the option of parking at Hi Corbett Field, and taking the Sun Tran, which provides a shuttle from Hi Corbett to Arizona Stadium starting 2 hours prior to kickoff for just $5. Fans that live in Marana, Oro Valley, and Phoenix can also take advantage of the Sun Tran offer at Arizona Pavilions, which is located at the Cortaro Rd. exit on I-10. They have return service starting in the fourth quarter until about 45 minutes after the game ends. This is a good idea if you don't want to walk very far, but don't want to pay a bunch of money to park on campus.
For those Wildcat fans in the Greater Phoenix Area, there is a special bus that you can sign up for that has a few different pick up locations and will shuttle you down to Tucson and back up to Phoenix after the game. You can reserve a spot on the "Cat Cruiser" by calling (520) 797-CATS.
It is very easy to get into the stadium with a quick security check if you have a bag. The concourses are usually not too crowded, so walking around your particular area of the stadium is easy. New in 2013 is the ability to walk around the entire stadium thanks to the north end zone concourse. The bathroom situation has also been vastly improved. Gone are the days of port-a-potties in the stadium.
The new elevators and stair wells on both corners of the north side also provide better access for everyone to the different levels of the stadium.
Cell phone service used to be a huge problem, but by the end of the 2013 season, the plan is to have the equivalent of 23 cell phone towers servicing Arizona Stadium. And for the 2013 season opener, I didn't notice any issues with sending texts, which used to never go through at all during a game.
Individual game ticket prices range anywhere from $15-$225 for regular tickets depending on the opponent, and where in the stadium you want to sit. To get a decent ticket against a Pac-12 opponent, expect to pay somewhere between $40-$80.
The north end zone seating is $57 for conference games, compared to $34 to sit in the south end zone. As I've explained, the value of sitting on the north side is worth it.
There are no real bad seats in Arizona Stadium, you just have to decide if you want to be high in the upper level along the sidelines, or down on the lower level with a view of the video board or not. It all depends on your preferences. I recommend printing your tickets at home before going to the game so you don't have to stand in line at the ticket window at McKale Center or at the new ticket offices that have been added to the stadium.
The lack of a strong football tradition shows in the stadium. There is a ring of honor for those players and coaches that are legends in the football program (Teddy Bruschi, Antoine Cason, Chuck Cecil, Lance Briggs, and Chris McAlister among others). And there is also a banner for each bowl game that the Wildcats have been apart of, which is not a very impressive list compared to other Pac-12 programs.
There are on-field fireworks when the team runs out before each game which is pretty cool. And after each game, the Pride of Arizona Marching Band does a parade through campus to the Administration building and Alumni Plaza where they do a postgame concert that is finished off by the ringing of the bell from the USS Arizona.
The north end gets extra points. Everything is state-of-the-art on that side of the stadium. If you're looking for the best amenities and food offered, a trip to that end of the stadium is a necessity. Also part of the north end is Bear Down Kitchen, which is open to the public Monday-Friday for breakfast and lunch. It has buffet options, made-to-order options, a pizza oven, and a salad bar. Breakfast is served from 7 A.M. - 9:30 A.M. and lunch is served from 11A.M. - 1:30 P.M. Breakfast costs $8.50, lunch costs $12.50, and it's all-you-can-eat for both. Pretty unique to let fans in the stadium throughout the week and eat to their heart's content.
One last extra: The field design. I wasn't impressed with the ghost-lettered Bear Down the first time I saw it, but having seen it under the lights, it's pretty cool. Glad that happened as part of the overhaul.
I attended the University of Arizona, and was a member of the Pride of Arizona Drumline all four years, so Arizona Stadium is a special place to me. Every year on the first night of band camp the week before school, Professor Jay Rees leads the band into the stadium, in the dark, and we just sit there and take it in. Take in all the history, look around at an empty stadium that the next time we'll see it will have over 50,000 people in it.
Certainly the new north end zone facilities are welcome, but the rest of the stadium still needs a little bit of help. A lot of the main concourse along both sidelines still looks like a dump, and as one fan from Arizona State told me, "It's like slapping a new bumper on a Pinto". The new football facilities will bring in the recruits, but revamping the rest of the stadium will bring in the excitement.
For more on Arizona Football and the rest of Wildcats Athletics, check out AZ Desert Swarm.
When it was built in 1928, Arizona Stadium held only 7,000 people. This season, during a huge renovation project occurring on the north side of the stadium, it can hold 55,124. There have been many changes over its history, but the current project will definitely end up being its most defining.
Over the past couple of years, Arizona Stadium has seen the addition of an enormous video board in the south endzone, one of the largest in the world. The seating at that end of the stadium was affected last year, but it has returned to its normal state, having seating from the field up to the video board. This season, the north end of the stadium is closed due to the ongoing construction of the stands, as well as the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility. When completed, the stadium will be an entirely closed bowl, with much needed improvements in the concourse walking accessibility.
The Arizona football tradition has never been a strong one, always being no higher than third on the popularity list behind the men’s basketball and softball at the university. The football team has still never been to a Rose Bowl, making them the only Pac-10 member to never have made an appearance (Utah and Colorado are the other Pac-12 members to have never made an appearance). The athletics program as well as the city of Tucson are hoping that new head coach Rich Rodriguez can turn this losing tradition around for good, something that last head coach Mike Stoops had achieved for about two and a half years before seeing it all fall apart and losing his job in the middle of the 2011 season.
Take part in the pregame festivities and enjoy the Wildcat walk...try to hang with the Red Army and then join one of the greatest atmospheres in Pac-12 football!
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Tucson, AZ 85719
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