There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In 2009, the Bakersfield Jam were in trouble. Playing out of Rabobank Arena, home of the ECHL’s Condors and CSU Bakersfield hoops, the team was losing money and they actually briefly ceased operations in April of that year. But owner Stan Ellis, who was in the process of building a practice facility for the team, had a brilliant idea. Instead of paying leasing fees for the arena and incurring marketing expenses trying to woo a mostly uninterested fan base, why not use the new practice court as the team’s game venue as well? That decision alone saved over half a million dollars per year and allowed the Jam to continue playing in Bakersfield.
Rather than operate the traditional model of selling single game tickets to supplement the revenue earned from season seats, the Jam decided to sell only sponsorships to the local business community. Each sponsor, known as a Jam Partner, would receive season tickets as part of the sponsorship. The game is no longer a sporting event, but instead an opportunity to network in the Bakersfield business community. Sports fans may consider this elitist, but the fact that the Jam are celebrating their 10th anniversary during the 2015-2016 season is a testament of the success of this unique business model.
The shortcomings of this type of operation are apparent to sports travelers though, as it is almost impossible for those from places other than Bakersfield to get into the arena, now known as the Dignity Health Event Center. Single game tickets are not available at the door and there is no secondary market. While the Jam do provide tickets to the community, most of the audience consists of partners that have paid for a sponsorship up front, or those lucky fans that have received tickets. It is the most exclusive event in pro sports, with only 550 seats available for each game. Fortunately, Stadium Journey was granted a media credential, so we can tell you what to expect should you ever find yourself with a chance to attend a Bakersfield Jam game.
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 local restaurant provides a buffet that is included in the ticket price. The offerings differ game to game, but the food is much better than your usual stadium fare. You can choose from a variety of salads, fresh bread, and some interesting and tasty hot dishes.
If you are hankering for something customarily associated with sports, there is a lounge above the north end of the floor that sells pretzels ($3) and popcorn ($4) items along with all beverages. Sodas (Pepsi products), water, iced tea, and coffee are $3, while beer is $6-$7. Cocktails and glasses of wine are also $7, and you can order a bottle of wine for $35 and up, or bring your own, incurring a corkage fee of $15. Drinks and food can be delivered to your table, as can pizza ordered from an outside restaurant, with a staff member making the call. For dessert, a cookie is handed out to all fans at halftime. Safe to say that fans are treated very well when it comes to food and drink options.
There are three main seating categories: courtside seats, courtside suites, and lofts. The 120 courtside seats are exactly what you would expect, while the courtside suites are tables that are on risers just behind the courtside seats. Each table seats six, but can accommodate up to 10. The four private lofts are above the court at the south end of the court, and are more like suites in your typical arena, with sofas, food and beverage delivery, and memorabilia. Some fans prefer to remain in the aforementioned lounge, which has a few comfy chairs and provides a full view of the court.
The Jam maintain most of the traditional entertainment elements of the game, including a mascot, Swish. There are no cheerleaders, but three staff members, dubbed the Foxy Ladies, occasionally take the court to dance along with Swish. There is a free program that is available to all fans.
During timeouts, there are promotions on the floor that involve fans competing for a variety of prizes. In one instance, two fans rolled oversized dice, with the higher total winning a two-night stay at a Lake Tahoe resort, a much nicer prize that you will see at most pro arenas.
There is a single scoreboard above center court with only the score information. Player stats are not available in real time, but stat sheets are distributed to fans after every quarter.
The team has two banners on the north wall commemorating their 2013 West Division championship as well as their Showcase title from 2015.
Music is sometimes played while the game is going on, and the Jaws theme is prevalent when the Jam are on defense.
Fans in the courtside suites are provided with cowbells and ThunderStix and are encouraged by the PA announcer to use them often. With such a small crowd and most fans regular attendees, the PA announcer actually knows them by name, and does not shy from mentioning them specifically during breaks in the action.
The popular place that is footsteps from the facility is the Knotty Pine Café. However it closes at 2 pm, so it is not convenient for a night game. Further down Norris Avenue is the Airport Drive-In, while Hodel's Country Dining is just across the 99.
As Bakersfield is rather easy to get around, you can travel a bit farther from the arena and try out some of the other local favorites such as Padre Hotel. Beyond observing the beauty of this historic hotel, there are food options for everyone at four different spots. The Belvedere is clearly for the upscale customers while Brimstone offers hardwood floors, billiards, music, televisions and pub food. The Prairie Fire, which is a second floor rooftop bar, has fire pits, cabanas, and a warm breeze for patrons to enjoy. Also on site is a coffee shop known as Farmacy Café.
Goose Loonies is a sports bar that serves surprisingly good Greek food and is close to Rabobank Arena. A few blocks north of here is Nuestro Mexico, which gets rave reviews.
You may expect the fans who attend the game to be more interested in business than the game, but this is not the case. They pay attention to the action, yell at the refs (who can hear them) and generally have a good time. It is fun to be at an exclusive event like this and the fans certainly demonstrate that.
The venue is located in north Bakersfield just off Route 99 on Norris Road and is difficult to spot for first-time visitors as only a few small signs indicate that there is a sporting event going on. Parking is free and more than plentiful for the crowd on hand.
Once inside the arena, the area surrounding the court is rather tight as this was originally constructed as a practice facility. If you walk around before the game, you sometimes have to step on the court, so be aware of your surroundings and watch for stray rebounds as the players warm up.
The bathrooms are similar to what you would find in a luxury hotel and are clearly more than sufficient for the crowd.
This is the toughest category to rate because the cost of a sponsorship is not made public. I think that many Jam Partners would rate their investment as a 5 as they come back year after year. For those of us who are not from the Bakersfield area, a yearlong partnership to see a single game would not be a wise choice of money. So overall, I'll give this an average score.
There is a charging station available in the lounge.
All the suites get bingo cards with basketball events (100 points in a half, traveling, etc.) instead of numbers. These cards keep fans focused on the events at hand and the prizes are quite nice, including Jam jerseys.
A point for the PA announcer and his signature "That's a Bako Jam!" for every home team dunk.
I really enjoyed my time here and wish there was an easy way for stadium journeyers to find their way in. Some possible suggestions are to contact the visiting teams to see if you can join a group of fans that might be traveling with them, or posting something on a social media site such as the Jam's Facebook page or Bakersfield Craigslist. Finally, you can try contacting the team directly to see if they have any options for you; everyone I spoke with was extremely friendly and you might be able to figure something out. It is definitely worth trying because the Jam experience is one that you will not soon forget.
Member Review by DrewCieszynski
If you think about businesses that have survived the test of time, it is often a result of attributes that set them apart from the competition. These businesses survive because they find ways to evolve by thinking outside of the box and challenging the norm. For whatever reason, sports franchises are held to a different standard and fans expect their model to be very specific. Thankfully you have Stadium Journey and can peer into some of these unique business models.
Since the inception of the D-League, 14 teams were defunct as of 2012, so sustainability has been a challenge as the league gains acceptance. The JAM could easily be number 15, but some innovation has allowed basketball to continue in Bakersfield.
Prior to the Jam Events Center, which eventually opened in 2009, the JAM played at Rabobank Arena, current home to the Cal State Bakersfield Roadrunners basketball program and the Bakersfield Condors of the ECHL. The modern facility presents a stark contrast to the community's minor league baseball stadium (home of the Bakersfield Blaze), which is over 70 years old.
The team was on the brink of extinction in 2007 when owner Stan Ellis had one of those "ah-ha moments." He was already building a practice facility for the team, so why not also make it a more intimate home court that the most consistent fans could enjoy? Sure, it would be risky catering only to corporate clientele, but he could save over half a million a season by avoiding lease and marketing costs.
Unfortunately due to this model, most individuals cannot attend a Bakersfield JAM game. Single game tickets are not available at the door and while the JAM does provide tickets to the community, most of the audience consists of partners that pay a handsome sum up front.
The current capacity can seat up to 750 in a variety of ways; namely courtside chairs, tables and the lofts at one end of the court. With such a small capacity, it almost seems like an exclusive club and I would liken it to the local country club.
1530 Norris Road
Bakersfield, CA 93308
5430 Olive Drive
Bakersfield, CA 93308
5917 Knudsen Dr
Bakersfield, CA 93308
816 18th St
Bakersfield, CA 93301
716 21st St
Bakersfield, CA 93301
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!