SAP Center (map it)
525 West Santa Clara Street
San Jose, CA 95113
Year Opened: 1993
There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
For the entirety of their existence, the San Jose SaberCats have shared SAP Center with the San Jose Sharks of the NHL. They have secured 8 division titles and 3 Arena Bowl Championships in 2002, 2004, and 2007.
There are only a few small adjustments between a Sharks and SaberCats game. For SaberCats games, black curtains are drawn in the second level beyond the goal posts. This covers about five sections or so at both ends of the arena. Therefore only the sideline seating is available upstairs. All of the seating was available in the lower level.
The only other major adjustment is that only about half of the concession stands were open. This was no doubt due to the fact that there are less fans attending.
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".
As I mentioned above, many of the specialty stands were closed for the SaberCats game.
Most of the main options were available at the "Classix" stands. Main offerings included polish sausage ($6), nacho grande ($5.75), gourmet nachos ($7), jumbo hot dog ($5.25), garden salad ($7.75).
Other options included peanuts ($5), popcorn ($4.25), and soft pretzel ($4). Dessert options were chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich and malts ($4).
Draft beer, soda, Gatorade, lemonade, and coffee were the beverage options at the "Classix" stands.
This was my first AFL game and I had no idea of the pace of play. That alone keeps the atmosphere level high. The ball is constantly thrown around the field and there is a ton of scoring. It is also nice to be so close to the action, whereas watching football on a gridiron requires you sitting farther away.
I will say that the peripheral noise in the arena (not directly from the fans) I found quite obnoxious. Whether it was the SaberCat growl (how do we know what they sound like?) after a big play, a cannon being shot off after a touchdown, or the excessively loud music, it was distracting and uncomfortable to me.
Also, the SaberKittens were outstanding.
Sharing the same neighborhood as the Sharks, SaberCats fans also benefit from a lively downtown area. Many bars and restaurants in the area allow for patrons to choose from fine dining to diner-style options. The typical 7:30 start time allows for time between getting off work and to the arena to explore the neighborhood.
A popular place for fans to gather and drink (on the cheap) prior to the game is Patty's Inn at the corner of Montgomery and San Fernando, a stagger from the Poor House Bistro and three blocks from SAP Center. This is a great place to meet fellow fans before the game but be prepared, it can be crowded and is usually staffed with only two bartenders.
There are a couple of museum options in the area if that's more your style. San Jose Museum of Art is nearby as well as kid-favorites the Tech Museum and Children's Discovery Museum.
Just down the street from the arena are public parking lots at a lower clip than the ones at the arena, so walking to the event can be fun as fans will be meandering through the downtown area as well. This gets the good vibes started before even being within eyesight of the arena.
I would venture to guess there were a little over 10,000 fans that attended the game against the Utah Blaze. Many of those in attendance seemed to be season ticket holders and diehards, decked out crazy costumes and lots of neon green. In an attempt to distract the opposing offense they bang cowbells chaotically on third downs.
The nice thing about the AFL is that it is financially accessible so you get people perhaps unfamiliar with the indoor football game or families looking for an affordable and entertaining night out.
Getting to the arena via car or train is easy as three freeways run near the arena. Wide city streets make for a stress-free route once downtown and allow easy access to the $20 SAP Center parking lot. It seems that for every block you move away from the arena a parking lot is available for a slightly lower rate than the previous block. Street parking is available on certain streets for free but you must be mindful of the signs indicating where you can park.
The San Jose Diridon Station is a quick stroll away from the main gates. The station serves both Caltrain and Amtrak trains as well as serves as a hub for VTA buses in the South Bay.
It's easy to get around the interior of the arena due to the fewer fans in attendance than at the Sharks game. However, it seems they have fewer workers on the clock as lines at the box office backed all the way out to the street.
Tickets start at just $12 to get in the door. I payed the extra $2 to get downstairs and ended up 9 rows behind the endzone.
Food is the same price as it is for Sharks games, which is to say expensive. Without as many specialty options, it seems a bit pricey.
Though SaberCats play in the Sharks' home, and there is little doubt about that. They do a nice job of adding SaberCats championship banners to the black curtain behind one of the endzones. The other "extras" are decidedly negative to me which includes the cannon blasts and other special effects.
One thing of note are the busts that surround the entire arena which represent the members of the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame. The more notable members are Kristi Yamaguchi and Bill Walsh.
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102 South Montgomery Street
San Jose, CA 95110
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