There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The NBDL started in 2001 with eight franchises, and over time subsumed teams from other leagues. In 2006, the Bismarck-based Dakota Wizards, who had been members of the IBA and CBA since their inception in 1995, joined the D-League, becoming affiliated with Washington and Chicago. They won the championship that year and became one of the more stable franchises as the league continued to grow.
As the NBDL gained recognition, NBA teams began to view it as a true minor league, and many clubs purchased a team to be their dedicated affiliate. The Golden State Warriors were the fourth to do so, purchasing the Wizards in 2011 but leaving them in the chilly North Dakota wilderness for another season while a suitable arena could be constructed in California. After the Kaiser Permanente Arena was built, the franchise moved to Santa Cruz in time for the 2012 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".
There are three concession stands, each with your typical offerings of hot dogs ($5), pretzels ($3), corn dogs ($4), pizza slices ($6), and nachos ($5 for regular, $7 for supreme). Some concessions have a bit more variety and you can find taffy for $5, kettle corn for $6 and maverick's mixed nuts for $4 at a couple of them. It's nothing special, but more than you would expect at this sort of venue and it all seemed fresh, but you will not fill up here, so eat before coming or stop by the Walgreens across the street to pick up a sandwich.
A good selection of canned beer includes Bud, Bud Light, and Coors Light for $6 and Blue Moon, Heineken, and Dos Equis for $7. Glasses of wine are also available for $6. For those not imbibing, Pepsi products are $3 as is Gatorade, while bottled water is $2.50.
The court is quite compact and fills nearly to capacity, which really helps the atmosphere. Before the game there is loud music playing and a buzz from fans chatting with their friends. The introductions are similar to the NBA, but all players are introduced for the Warriors. The acoustics are good and there are a lot of unique promotions during the game that keep fans entertained. One example is "Kids Dunk" where a few 3-4 year old kids run up to a toy basket to make a dunk with a small ball. It's very cute and something I have not seen before. The mascot is Mav'Ricks; a warrior sea turtle that does a short dance performance during one timeout that had many fans laughing during my visit. He also cavorts through the crowd taking pictures with kids. T-Shirts are thrown into the crowd on a regular basis by a Mob Squad, who also try to get the fans cheering during the action.
There is your usual MC who says "shooting.....two" in a really high voice and announcing every travelling call with "too many steps", things I don't need personally, but I realize that it works well here. Of course, music is played during the action, which drives me nuts, but such is basketball pretty much everywhere. One thing I did like though is the announcement after a Warrior trey: "Player Name for one...two...." and then the fans finish with "Threeeeee!!!!".
Overall, I was quite impressed at how quickly the team has been able to build an identity and have fans following along to the various tricks. This is a fun place and in a few years, it should be among the best basketball arena in all of minor league sports.
Santa Cruz is a seaside town with a boardwalk and amusement park that led to it being called "The Atlantic City of the Pacific" when it was first developed back in 1904. The arena is just a few minutes walk from this area, which is the main highlight. If you like colorful kitsch, you will love the Boardwalk, which has a roller coaster and carousel that are now National Historic Landmarks. Unfortunately, this area is closed for much of the NBDL season, which lasts from November until April. That doesn't mean it is empty, in fact, it is probably more enjoyable without the crowds. There are still a few attractions open, including the Casino Arcade with pinball machines, old video games, a miniature golf course and much more. No gambling of course, but this place is great for nostalgia buffs. Check out the "Historium", a wall with old pictures and a description of how the Boardwalk developed over the years.
There is little of note near the arena; in fact you might be surprised to realize that the blue corrugated shack is actually a professional basketball venue. I walked right by it looking for something else, and didn't notice the sign until later. There is a Walgreens, and on the other side of that is the Asti Café, which is really a dive bar that looked quite intriguing.
For the pregame though, you'll likely spend time at the eateries next to the boardwalk. There are a few along Beach Street with my recommendation being the South Beach Pizza Company, a pizza joint with a bar and a few TVs tuned to sports. Happy hour is from 3 until 8 which goes well with those early start times for east coast night games. Try a bowl of chili if pizza isn't your thing.
Another option is the Ideal Bar and Grill just across the street, which has views of the water and a more varied menu. Finally, the wharf is where you go for seafood, with about a dozen restaurants along there, not to mention a wine bar. Don't forget to say hi to the sea lions sleeping below the wharf.
There were 2,000 fans at the game I attended; a great showing, and most of them seemed to understand the game quite well. Still, many left early when their team had a big lead, missing an incredible comeback from the visitors. As well, there isn't a lot of team paraphernalia around yet, a result of the team's recent arrival. I expect that within another couple of years, these will be some of the best fans in the league, again, it takes time to build a truly dedicated fan base, but the Warriors are already most of the way there.
Santa Cruz is not that easy to get to, lying about 25 miles from the nearest Interstate and about 60 miles from both San Francisco and Oakland. If you are coming from the west, take the coast highway down and enjoy the salty air, while if you are coming from the east, I-880 to CA-17 is your best bet. The road through the hills is twisting and fun to drive, but take your time; there is no need to speed here.
Once in the city, you probably can leave your car at your hotel and walk around. The arena is just half a mile from the Boardwalk and there is no point in driving. If you happen to be coming in just for the game, there are plenty of meters within a couple of blocks of the arena that are enforced until 8 pm, so a quarter or two will get you set for the evening.
Inside the venue, there are no restrictions on walking around before the game. You can even stand right next to the court while the players warm up. I was told not to take photos from there, but I had already taken about 50, so that rule is not hard and fast.
As there is no parking lot, fans disperse after the game on foot and there is no traffic at all.
Restrooms are outside a set of doors in one corner and are more than enough for the crowd.
The arena is compact and there are no bad seats. But the Warriors have created 9 different ticket options for just 2,505 fans, unnecessarily complicating the process. The cheapest option is called Reserve-Bleachers, which means benches without a seat back. These start at row 13 in the sections that face the basket and cost $16 (plus a mysterious $1.80 tax at the box office). I sat here and found it perfectly acceptable. You can pay $25 to sit in the Reserve Select benches between rows 7 and 12 (or row 13 and up in the center court sections) while the Reserved Premier seats are rows 7-12 in the center and cost $32. In other words, somebody sitting 10 feet away from me paid double.
Preferred Seats are those that come with seat backs but they are not available online. If all seats were just $16, the return on investment would be very good, but these additional seating categories make no sense to me. The advantage of sitting just a little bit closer cannot justify the increased prices. Just buy the cheapest available seat and enjoy high-quality basketball for the price of a couple of beers at an NBA arena.
There is almost nothing here outside the basketball court and concession stands. I'll give a point for the map of the NBDL teams, a feature that is a great help for road trip planning. Another point for the banners listing players who have been called up and those who have won awards. There is also a memorial banner for two police officers who were killed in the line of duty in February 2013, which is an unfortunate incident that shows that small communities like this are not able to escape the gun violence that defines America early in the 21st century.
Santa Cruz is not the sort of place most sports travelers would put on their list of destinations. If you are a basketball fan though, it makes a surprisingly fun outing for a couple of days, especially if you have children between 8 and 13 or so. The NBDL offers top notch hoops at an affordable price and the Warriors are one of the more entertaining franchises, not only in the NBA but here as well. Next time you are in the Bay Area and wondering what to do, check the D-League schedule to see if the Warriors are at home and if they are, make the 60-mile drive south and enjoy a trip to the past before seeing the stars of the future.
There are no crowd reviews yet. Be the first and help us build with your expertise!
303 Beach St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!