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Official Review by Paul Donaldson, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Originally located in Salt Lake City, the “Starzz” were a banner member of the WNBA when the league tipped-off in 1997. After six seasons in Utah, the team moved to San Antonio, adjusted their nickname to the “Silver Stars,” and now share a home at the AT&T Center with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs. The Silver Stars have drawn crowds which vary from a franchise high of 16,255 (2008) to near bottom of the league (7,527 season average in 2009). Fans attending a Silver Stars game can expect an NBA-styled atmosphere sure to satisfy the pro-basketball appetite when the NBA is out of season.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
A major benefit of playing in the same venue as the San Antonio Spurs is having access to the same amenities. There is enough variety in concession options to satisfy almost any sports fan's craving. The following stands were available throughout the concourse: Top Dog (hot dogs, brats, sausages), Whataburger (burgers, chicken sandwiches, chicken strips), Pizza Hut Express (pizza, wings, cheese sticks), Taco Cabana (fajita tacos, fajita nachos, quesadillas, margaritas), Texas Favorites (foot long hot dogs, BBQ sandwiches, nachos, fanfare items, full bar), Smokehouse BBQ (San Antonio cheese steak, chopped brisket, chopped baked potato, crazy fries), Fiesta Favorites (hot dogs, nachos, fanfare items), River City Grill (foot long hot dogs, tossed chicken tenders, chicken sandwich, garlic fries), and Anne's Old Fashioned Ice Cream Bars.
You can't miss by stopping by the Smokehouse BBQ stand - when in Texas, do as the Texans do. It's not often you get tasty-Texas BBQ in a major sports venue like this, so give it a try. Another unique item was having a Whataburger and Taco Cabana stands available (yet another Texas thing). Though you might not enjoy paying twice the amount you would for these items if you were five minutes down the street, it's still great to have go-to food options available.
With the NBA amenities come the major sports concessions pricing. Expect $5 sodas, $8 beers, hamburgers which range from $5.50 to $8.75, $6 nachos, $5 popcorn, and $4 peanuts. Price gouging is common throughout professional sports, so while the dollar signs add up, it shouldn't be unexpected.
A neat feature in the concourse was a large sign which listed all of the concession stands in the arena and the major food options within each. This made it easier to decide on an option.
Completed in 2002, the AT&T Center (formerly known as SBC Center) has an overall capacity of 18,581. The arena has two open seat levels with a suite section between those two levels and wrapping around the entire arena. Located on the western side of the second level, the HEB Fan Zone is an interactive area for fans both young and old and is an open area which oversees the arena.
The AT&T Center is a pretty good fit for the Silver Stars. The one drawback is the venue's size compared to the average crowds. This is somewhat accounted for by the unsightly large curtains which cover the vacant seats in the four corners of the second level. This is easily made up for by playing in an arena designed for pro-basketball and all the amenities that come with it.
Banners hang from the ceiling for the retired Spurs jerseys (including George Gervin and David Robinson), the four Spur NBA championships, and a Western Conference championship banner for the Silver Stars. Though most of the historical relevance is for the Spurs, that still makes it a unique atmosphere for professional basketball.
The in-game atmosphere is very similar to an NBA game from the pumped-in music during possessions, to the dance team (Star Squad) between breaks, and an involved mascot (the Fox). One criticism is with the Star Squad. The dance team is usually a major part of the atmosphere at an NBA game and this certainly wasn't the case for the Silver Stars. The dance team was unimaginatively dressed in pre-game jump suits, didn't make many appearances, and don't really provide the boost in fan energy you would expect.
Overall, if you happen to attend on a night when the attendance is high (10k+), expect to be surprised with just how much you'll enjoy the atmosphere.
Since the AT&T Center is just under five miles away from downtown San Antonio, there isn't a lot of great options for food and entertainment in the immediate area. But if you take the short ride downtown, you'll be overwhelmed with options. The Riverwalk is the premier attraction in San Antonio for a mixture of food, music, attractions, and nightlife. For some of the best ribs you'll ever taste, stop by the County Line conveniently located along the Riverwalk. Though certainly not unique to San Antonio, you can't go wrong grabbing a mug of beer and a dozen raw oysters at Hooters on the River. Be sure to grab a seat overlooking the river. Other great dining options are Casa Rio and Saltgrass Steakhouse. For good margaritas, check out Ritas on the River.
Located in downtown and near the Riverwalk, don't miss out on visiting a true Texan and American treasure: the Alamo.
Though attendance fluctuates throughout the season, this particular review took place during a game with an announced attendance of 13k+, which was a nice sized crowd for a WNBA game. Though not completely unique, it was nice to see the fans stand after tip-off and until the Silver Stars scored their first point. Expect a knowledgeable and passionate fan base, plus an NBA-styled experience. Fans know when to cheer, stay in the game, and are active when the opposing team attempts free throws. Expect a community feel to the game as fans celebrate together.
The AT&T Center is accessible from both Interstates 35 and 10, plus via E Houston Street if coming from downtown. Having multiple major interstates close by is definitely a plus for access to the arena. Parking was available and plentiful at the arena. Expect to be able to get into the parking lot and exit the arena pretty quickly. As far as parking away from the arena, there really aren't any options since the location isn't in the best of residential areas.
As you approach the arena, the ticketing lines are short and ushers are very helpful. The restroom facilities are exceptionally clean and there are never any lines. There is also a great diagram posted on a large flat screen TV just inside the main entrance area which shows an overlay of the arena seating sections. This makes it pretty easy to identify where your section is within the arena and quickly make it to your seats.
Overall, the AT&T Center is very accessible and you shouldn't have any problems in this area.
Ticket prices range from $11 (upper endline seats) to $36 (upper sideline seats) to $87+ (sideline/courtside). Parking was $8. Expect to spend about $20+ per person on concessions, depending on your appetite. If you're planning to purchase some Silver Star gear, do it before you get to the arena. I attempted to buy a hand-sized "the Fox" (mascot) stuffed animal for my son and was not to thrilled to find out it was $20 when I got to the check-out counter. Just like high-priced concessions, unreasonable fan shop prices are par for professional sports venues. At some point, you do have to wonder how much money these teams really need to make off concessions and fan gear, but that's not a knock specifically on the Silver Stars, but the system overall.
In review, the return on investment isn't bad when considering the atmosphere and overall experience. This may not be a stop you want to place on your bucket list, but if you find yourself in San Antonio and you are looking for some great entertainment during the summer or early fall, I'd recommend giving the Silver Stars a try.
The first bonus is $1 hot dog and soda night. What better way to get an affordable family outing than exceptionally cheap concessions? For this review, I saw families loading up on 10+ hot dogs stacked on top of trays.
Another bonus point is the close proximity to downtown. Though not within walking distance, it's just a short drive from the arena. This makes venues like the Alamo and Riverwalk just a couple of minutes away.
The final bonus point goes to an interactive and festively decorated concourse. There was a live band, plenty of booths, great decorations, and memorable pictures of great moments in San Antonio Spur history (though it would be nice if they could find a way to transition this to great moments in Silver Star history during WNBA season).
The tickets prices are pretty reasonable (if you are as cheap as I am, $11 seats are perfect) and if you catch them on $1 hot dog and soda night the entire experience becomes extremely affordable. Again, though this is likely not a venue to add on your sports stadium bucket list (unless you are a WNBA superfan), it's definitely a great option when you find yourself in San Antonio. I'd even recommend adding it to your travel itinerary if you are planning a vacation to San Antonio that happens to fall during the WNBA season.
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