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Official Review by Ryan Norris, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Leavey Center is home to the Santa Clara men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams. Prior to renovation and being renamed in honor of the founder of Farmers Insurance, the Leavey Center was known as Harold J. Toso Pavilion. The uniqueness of the building I will highlight as both a positive and a negative in terms of atmosphere.
Santa Clara Broncos basketball’s greatest successes can be attributed to three different eras. First in the early 1950s when they reached the Elite Eight three consecutive seasons, making the Final Four once. Second was a stretch of three straight Sweet Sixteen appearances from 1968-70. Finally, the last proud era was a stretch in the mid-1990s when the Broncos made three NCAA Tournament appearances in the four years when eventual NBA MVP Steve Nash was their point guard.
The Broncos have won two minor postseason tournaments in recent years, winning the 2011 Collegeinsider.com Tournament and the 2013 College Basketball Invitational.
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".
The standard concession items are as followed: hot dogs ($4), nachos ($3), super nachos ($7), soft pretzel ($3), popcorn ($3), candy ($2), churros ($3), fountain soda (16oz for $2, 32oz for $3), bottled water and Powerade ($3), fruit ($1) and hot chocolate and coffee ($2). I think these are fair prices for the standard items, and below many of similar venues.
Other options include a cobb salad ($7), classic cheeseburger ($6) and a garden burger ($5).
There is only one concession stand which is behind the free-standing seating section. This set up is more than capable of handling the small crowds.
The Leavey Center's structure is one of the more unique in college basketball and has several positives and negatives associated with it. I certainly would not characterize it as a typical "gym" as it seems that they have created an arena within a larger building.
One of the pros is the glass wall façade on one side of the building. During afternoon games, this allows natural light to enter the building. Another pro is the seating itself. It looks like an outdoor venue inside an indoor venue. Third, it seems that the way the seating is setup allows for a loud atmosphere. With just limited attendance this place can get LOUD.
They have a four-sided scoreboard with video that is hung in the center of the arena. A new video board is at one end of the arena flanked by the Final Four banners of the men's basketball team and the women's volleyball team.
One of the negatives of the setup is the amount of seats with obstructed views. Most of this is alleviated if you sit in the lower levels but it is odd nonetheless. Second, the lights that hang so low from the ceiling can sometimes obstruct your view of the scoreboard or the banners. Lastly, it seems a little odd to have a banner of Steve Nash holding his MVP trophy about three times larger than the retired numbers adjacent to it. It's tacky and distracting.
In the lower level, the student section and the end lines are bleacher seats and across from the students are the comfy seats. The first several levels of the upper level are reserved seating with chair backed seats. Everything above those are bleachers and general admission.
This is a beautiful building but just feels a little sterile.
The Leavey Center is on the campus of Santa Clara University adjacent to Buck Shaw Stadium, former home to the San Jose Earthquakes. The campus is beautiful and safe. The surrounding neighborhood is mostly residential with some businesses catering to the college crowd.
A popular lunch and dinner spot is Ike's Place which is walkable on The Alameda. Featured on "Man vs Food" this popular San Francisco sandwich place has expanded to several locations throughout the Bay Area including this one in Santa Clara. All of their sandwiches come with Ike's secret "dirty sauce" and leave you completely filled. Lines tend to get long so I recommend downloading their free app to place your order ahead of time so you can just pick up and go.
Other walkable options are Wicked Chicken (wings and craft beer) and Pizza My Heart.
The Hut is the diviest of dive bars on the opposite end of campus. You can stumble from there to the burrito or Thai place on the same block.
The area is largely residential and not much of a party scene. Santa Clara is a main cog in the Silicon Valley so you'll see commercial buildings many places. Leavey Center is across the street from Schott Stadium, two miles from Avaya Stadium, five miles from SAP Center and about five and half miles from Levi's Stadium.
The fans who go to Broncos games are certainly engaged and loud but there are just not very many of them. The acoustics of the building, combined with the rowdiness of the student section make for an impressive sound but the experience is still left lacking. Perhaps checking out a game against rivals San Francisco or Saint Mary's would be better.
The campus is located between three major freeways: 101, 880 and 280. All of these allow easy access to surface roads leading to campus. These surface roads are well maintained and easy to navigate, even if it's your first time in the area. The major parking lots for the Leavey Center are located right off the El Camino Real and are easy to get in and out of. Trying to avoid paying for parking? Street parking is just as easy, just watch for signs.
Getting to Leavey Center from the peninsula is easy via the nearby CalTrain station, from Sacramento via the Amtrak station and other parts of the Silicon Valley via the VTA 22 bus that runs down the El Camino Real.
There's a gradual incline leading up to the arena with no major staircases to scale. Walkways are wide enough for several people to get through and once inside the corridors are wide open; claustrophobia deterred. Getting to the restroom, concession stands or your seat is a breeze in this beautifully laid out building.
Everything is reasonably priced at Leavey Center, though you can choose to spend significantly more to enhance your experience. General admission tickets and parking start at just $10 each. Concessions are reasonably priced and a good option with limited options in the neighborhood for later-evening dining. The only reason this isn't five stars is for the overall lackluster experience for a Santa Clara basketball game these days.
Santa Clara does a good job of acknowledging Bronco accomplishments from the past with their banners and retired numbers as well as the current scholarship athletes and a nice memorial for former player Nick Vanos who passed away in a plane crash at 24 years old.
Another point should be awarded for the sheer uniqueness of the venue with the beautiful windowed wall.
Member Review by ryannorris
The Leavey Center is the home of the Santa Clara University Broncos of the West Coast Conference (WCC) and the next door neighbor to Buck Shaw Stadium. The aesthetically pleasing red and white exterior is imposing as it sits high above its outdoor neighbor.
You enter the building at one corner of the court with upper level seating to your left and right, and stairs to the lower level straight ahead. Because the court is lower than the street outside, the playing surface has a sunken feeling. If upon entering you veer right to the opposite end of the court, you'll notice the backside of the upper level bleachers visible, unusual for indoor venues (picture bleachers at a high school football field or grandstands at a speedway). Behind the bleachers are concession stands and a wall of plaques acknowledging the current scholar-athletes.
The opening behind the stands allows for plenty of room to move around, a significant difference from the narrow corridors common for basketball games. Because of the convenience, that area becomes a meet-up spot for students before they head down to the substantial student section below.
Across the court from the bleacher-like seats are similar seating arrangements with the difference being they are built into the wall, more typical of indoor venues. Above the upper level on that side is what looked to be a single, large luxury-style box.
This particular night pitted the Broncos against the Loyola Marymount Lions. On paper, the .500 Broncos and the 2-win Lions did not seem exciting but the teams ended up producing a 3-overtime affair.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Feb 12, 2016
Food is cheap and they have a big salad and fresh fruit for those sick of typical stadium fare. Sit in the back row of the student section so you can rest against the wall. $12 GA seats are a good deal, park on the street across Alhambara and have a slice at Pizza My Heart. Big inside, and the Nash banner is cool. Needs more student support.
2235 The Alameda
Santa Clara, CA 95050
2565 The Alameda
Santa Clara, CA 95050
700 Bellomy St
Santa Clara, CA 95050
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