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SAP Center at San Jose (map it)
525 W Santa Clara St
San Jose, CA 95113
Year Opened: 1993
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The San Jose Sharks moved from their temporary home at the Cow Palace into their permanent digs on Santa Clara Street in 1993. The then, San Jose Arena offered the team in teal a top tier arena in downtown San Jose. The Sharks wasted no time in rewarding the city by making the playoffs in their first full year at The Tank, knocking off the 1st seed Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Since then it has been a love affair between team and city.
With a capacity of 17,562 spectators, SAP Center has hosted playoff games in 14 NHL seasons since 1993. Along with hockey success, the arena has been home to the AFL's San Jose Sabercats, the San Jose Stealth of the NLL, tennis's SAP Open and even the Golden State Warriors while Oracle Arena was being renovated for the 1996-97 season.
The Shark Tank has now hosted parts of three different Western Conference Championships (against the Edmonton Oilers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Vancouver Canucks) with all three ending in disappointment for the Sharks and their fans. Still looking for their first trip to the Stanley Cup, the Sharks sit once again at the top of their division in the 2011-2012 season.
The beautiful exterior of SAP Center building is matched only by the equally appealing interior. It can have a bit of a hospital room feel as everything seems so clean, so white, so off-white, so beige. But the quality seats and sightlines set the spectator with views of the banners (Stanley Cup not included) to one side and the descending shark head to the other.
Once the smoke-breathing shark head hits the ice, all eyes go to the big-screens showing Los Tiburones emerging from their dressing room and down the hall until ultimately, skating through the imposing jaws. The Shark Tank is now at a deafening decibel. This tradition has been in place since the Sharks moved to SAP Center.
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 made my way around the perimeter of the arena I came across seemingly anything my heart could desire. Whether I was in the mood for hot dogs or ribs, burritos or sandwiches, SAP Center had me covered. There were both chain restaurants (Togo's and Round Table) as well as typical stadium fare vendors throughout the arena.
Like many arenas, fans in the Club Seats can order from servers and have their food and beverages (including alcohol) delivered to their seats. The menu varies a bit from the items upstairs with chicken nuggets and tri-tip sandwiches the more popular items.
Soft drinks were available at all food stands and alcoholic drinks were available at most. Those who imbibe will be happy to know there is an excess of kiosks that serve booze. These are small carts that may have a couple beers on tap, wine by the glass or mixed drinks. Drinks can be pricy ($8-$10) but not unlike most arenas. Craft beer lovers will be pleased to know they'll be taken care of as Fat Tire, Lagunitas IPA, and a few Sierra Nevada options are available at The Tank.
SAP Center boasts one of the loudest arenas in the NHL. The fans are loud and engaged from the drop of the puck. They have traditionally performed chomp-like arm strokes when the Sharks go on the power play to the cadence of the "Jaws" theme. On this particular occasion (February 2 against the Dallas Stars), the Sharks scored five goals, so the fans had plenty to cheer about.
If you have one of the club-level seats you can enjoy an area below the main walkways. This area includes different concession options and shorter restroom lines (a common complaint between periods in the main promenade). It also makes the travel distance to get to said amenities much shorter thus, you miss less of the game.
The practice of having to wait for a stoppage in play to go to your seat really appeased me. I appreciated not having to worry about people walking in front of me during the action. These ushers responsible for pedestrian traffic were outfitted in dazzling purplish-blue blazers, making them easy to spot.
One difference about sitting down low near the glass at a hockey game as opposed to a basketball game is how difficult it is to see down to the opposite end of the ice. Looking through the glass at an angle distorts the play but that isn't unique to SAP Center and is simply a product of looking through the glass. The Tank has a beautiful and effective scoreboard with screens on all four sides above center ice that allows fans to follow the play when it's in the corners and hard to see.
Sharing the same neighborhood as the San Jose State Spartans, Sharks 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 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 SA Center. This is a great place to meet fellow Sharks 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 the teal-clad faithful will be meandering through the downtown area as well. This gets the hockey vibes started before even being within eyesight of the arena.
Sharks fans create one of the loudest home arenas in the Bay Area and their loyalty rivals only the Warriors as far as consistency. They have never struggled to draw fans and the Sharks probably benefit from being the only major professional franchise in California's third most populated city.
In recent years, as the Sharks have moved into the upper-echelon of the Western Conference, Sharks fans have become somewhat moody when things aren't going well. They expect full effort and have no problem booing a sloppy power play or inconsistent play from their goalie.
SAP Center has long been considered one of the toughest arenas to play in, especially during the playoffs. Many people assume that these loud fans aren't knowledgeable, as they aren't in a traditional hockey region, but the fans at the game really embrace the Sharks and hockey, and certainly understand and appreciate the game.
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.
Getting into the arena is swift as lines move quickly through the main gate, perhaps quicker than any main gate I've been to. Very efficient. Lines for concessions can be relatively long and lines for restrooms can be very long. The lines, at least for the men's room, move very quickly as there are plenty of urinals inside. It's more a matter of moving that many people through the doorway. This can cause backups into areas where people are trying to walk.
Single-game tickets run from $23 in the upper ends to $200 in the lower sides. This seems about the going rate for indoor arenas in the area. Though not a cheap event by any means, an extra point is given for the beautiful facility and the success of the team in the last several seasons, creating a better experience.
Problem is, most of the tickets are already spoken for making a second-hand exchange the only viable option for the bigger games. This, like for every team, creates a greater demand for tickets and can cost a consumer much more than what it was originally sold for. Conversely, you can find reasonable deals day-of for this great hockey experience.
Parking at the arena costs $25 and is very easy to get in and out of. Parking lots a few blocks away drop to $15 and if you're willing to walk several blocks, can be found for $5-$7. The city of San Jose doesn't allow alcohol consumption in the lots directly adjacent to the arena ($25) so if you were considering parking in the SAP Center lots for that reason, you may want to consider the lots a couple blocks away and enjoy the short walk and fresh air.
There are a few banners hanging from the rafters and a few traditions that the San Jose faithful have developed over the years that are uniquely their own. In their brief 21 years, the Sharks have been to the Western Conference Finals three times, won a President's Trophy, and have had a decent amount of success.
There are many who believe the first Shark that will have his number retired is Owen Nolan who announced his retirement February 7, 2012 after signing a one-day contract with the Sharks. Owen Nolan played eight years with the Sharks, serving as the captain from 1998-2003, and retires with the second-most franchise goals behind Patrick Marleau. SAP Center is one of only eight current NHL arenas without a retired number.
It seems the next big step for The Shark Tank would be to develop the mystique of Madison Square Garden or Joe Louis Arena. A few championships would go a long way in moving SAP Center into that echelon.
The San Jose Sharks moved from their temporary home at the Cow Palace into their permanent digs on Santa Clara Street in 1993. The then, San Jose Arena offered the team in teal a top tier arena in downtown San Jose. The Sharks wasted no time in rewarding the city by making the playoffs in their first full year at The Tank, knocking off the 1st seed Detroit Red Wings in the first round.
With a capacity of 17,562 spectators, HP Pavilion has hosted playoff games in 14 NHL seasons since 1993. Along with hockey success, the arena has been the home to the AFL's San Jose Sabercats, the San Jose Stealth of the NLL, tennis's SAP Open and the Golden State Warriors while Oracle Arena was being renovated for the 1996-97 season.
The beautiful exterior of HP Pavilion building is matched only by the equally appealing interior. The quality seats and sightlines set the spectator with views of the banners (Stanley Cup not included) to one side and the descending shark head to the other.
Once the smoke-breathing shark head hits the ice, all eyes go to the big-screens showing Los Tiburones emerging from their dressing room and down the hall until ultimately, skating through the imposing jaws. The Shark Tank is now at a deafening decibel. This tradition has been in place since the Sharks moved to HP Pavilion.
The HP Pavilion, home of the NHL's San Jose Sharks, is nestled in the heart of the downtown area.
It comes as a surprise to many when they witness the deep obsession that this city actually has with Sharks hockey. "This is Sharks Territory" signs litter every restaurant, bar, and liquor store throughout most of the Greater San Jose Area, with scattered supporters up and down the Bay Area's coast.
San Jose, often considered to be the little brother to the other major sports cities in California, may actually have the state's most loyal fans. The city's unwavering support for their one professional sport team is undeniable. With one visit to the HP Pavilion, it is easy to see that this often-overlooked city is actually filled with several of the NHL's strongest followers.
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