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McKale Center

Tucson, AZ

Home of the Arizona Wildcats

3.3

3.1

McKale Center (map it)
1 National Championship Dr
Tucson, AZ 85721


Arizona Wildcats website

McKale Center website

Year Opened: 1973

Capacity: 14,545

There are no tickets available at this time.

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A Venue in Transition

Since February 1973, McKale Center has been home to the University of Arizona men’s basketball team, as well as housing all of the major athletics offices and training facilities for the school. The women’s basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics teams also use McKale for most of their events. The arena was named after J.F. “Pop” McKale, who was the athletic director at Arizona from 1914-1957. He was also the head coach of football, basketball, baseball and track at various times during that period.

McKale Center has a current seating capacity of 14,545, which is the second largest capacity in the Pac-12 behind Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center. In 2001, the court was named the “Lute and Bobbi Olson Court” after the legendary Arizona head coach and his late wife.

McKale Center has been the host site eleven times for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, two of those being West Regional semifinals and finals in 1974 and 1980.

An $80 million renovation project is in the works for the Tucson arena, which has already seen the first stages of it with the installation of a new center-court scoreboard and two LED banners along each sideline. After the 2013-14 season, the seating area will be redone as Phase I, and in 2015, the entire exterior and concourse areas will get a facelift as part of Phase II.

3.3

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    4

McKale offers the typical food that you would expect at a basketball game: hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, pizza, chicken tenders, as well as some candy for those of you with a sweet tooth. You may have to face some long lines inside to get these though because there are only two main concession stands, one at half court on each side. There are some carts along the rest of the inside concourse where you can get some cotton candy or lemonade, but if you're looking for dinner, then you may want to go in the middle of the first half, definitely not half time.

Before you go through the doors, there are some stands set up along the outer concourse of the arena that are run by local Tucson businesses. Here you can find some amazing Mexican food from El Charro, or some other local favorites including barbeque and Asian stands. This concourse is outside the doors, but you are safe to go out there during the game because your tickets get checked on the ramps that lead up to that concourse area.

The food overall is very good, and as an extra bonus, if you are a student at the university, you can charge all the food inside onto your meal plan. The University of Arizona is currently a Coca-Cola school, and offers the same basic food and sodas at all of their sports facilities including Arizona Stadium and Hi Corbett Field.

As is the case with all UA sporting events, if you plan on going to multiple games during the year, the souvenir cup is a good investment. Discounted refills throughout the season definitely pays off.

Atmosphere    4

Even though nearly every single game is sold out, there is still an odd feeling of indifference during most of the game. There is no bad seat in the house, but to get the better seats, you have to contribute enormous amounts of money to the alumni association and the university. This leads to most of the arena being filled with people that are 60+ years who don't feel the need to cheer during most of the game. With the basketball program returning to its elite status, the cheering has gotten a little better, but it is still hard to get the whole crowd going for most of the game.

The new scoreboard is definitely an eye-catcher from the second you set foot inside McKale. It has four HD videoboards that show live game action, as well as instant replays throughout the game, giving fans a reason to boo or cheer the refs. It also has stats for the players that are currently on the floor on the circular screen on the bottom. Don't get confused by it though, as the team stats change where they are located about every 30 seconds.

In the rest of the arena, there are two long LED banners along the sidelines, and a scoreboard high up behind each basket. The two sideline ones are primarily used as ad space, with a tiny sliver at each end of them reserved for game stats or closed captioning of the PA announcer. The two end zone boards have the same stats that are now found on the main scoreboard.

The student section (Zonazoo) is located behind the north basket and goes from the floor to the roof, which is perfect for intimidating the opponent when they are going that direction in the second half. The pep band right behind the basket does a great job of getting chants started, and the cheerleaders located on the other side of the court get the rest of the crowd involved. It's clear that Zonazoo is implementing ideas from other places such as San Diego State to create more of a home-court advantage. In the last couple of years, people in costumes (who apparently have reserved seats in The Zoo), giant faces on sticks, and other weird distractions have shown up. That wasn't the case as recently as 2012. Times are changing as this team returns to its national powerhouse status.

There are entrances all around the arena. Most people probably come in and out through the north end as that's where most of the season ticket holders park. It's very easy to get in through any of the entrances, and security lines are not an issue at all. The seats themselves are not great, but before the 2014-15 season starts, that issue is supposed to be taken care of with an all new seating area.

The logo at center court is facing the west side (sections 11-16), with the Wildcats sitting on the southeast side (sections 4-6), and the visiting bench on the northeast side (sections 1-3). Arizona currently enters the court out of the southwest tunnel, but that is something that will change in the coming years as well. During pregame intros, players from throughout the history of the program are shown in a video highlighting the past success of the program, finished off by Lute Olson showing off his 1997 National Championship ring.

There are not a lot of special promotions during games. Wells Fargo does a giveaway each game to a random fan who holds up their WF ATM card, and Jimmy John's gives away free sandwiches to two lucky rows of fans. Halftime has a couple of on-court contests that are not in the least bit exciting.

Sometimes the cheerleaders, pomline, and twirlers come out during media timeouts, but it is not nearly as often as it used to be. Also the pep band has definitely been scaled back in how much they play during the game. Disappointing to see that, but it seems to be the trend at the U of A right now.

Neighborhood    4

The arena itself is located on campus, which may lead you to believe that there are not very many interesting spots to meet up before or after the game and grab some food. However, there are several places within walking distance of McKale, which is good since it is nearly impossible to park close without having to pay a fortune. There are places on the east side of campus, which is where McKale is, such as Trident, Dirtbags, and 1702, which is a great pizza place.

Dirtbags is a part of Tucson culture, serving as the best meeting place for fans before and after basketball, football, and softball games. It is very much a dive bar kind of place, but is extremely popular since it is the closest place to campus to grab food and beverages.

On the other side of campus is Main Gate Square at University Boulevard, which has any kind of restaurant and shop that you could possibly want, all within two blocks of each other. Parking there can be troublesome though as well. It's easiest to just park in the Tyndall garage if you plan on going here.

The closest hotel to McKale is the Aloft located at the corner of Campbell and Speedway. I'm a fan of Aloft hotels, as there is one close to Arizona State's Sun Devil Stadium and Packard Stadium. The Aloft is very modern, and is reasonable. It also has a bar in the lobby if you are looking for pregame drinks, and you can also park there for basketball games.

Fans    3

Men's basketball games more resemble a retirement home than a lively college atmosphere for the most part. White hairs do not lend to an electric game day atmosphere, especially when the students are quarantined to one end of the arena.

The students that line up outside four hours before tipoff are extremely knowledgeable about the current team, as well as the history of Wildcat basketball. As you make your way up the student section though, it turns more into people that have no idea what basketball is and only go to games to either say they went or just to be seen.

Some chants right now include:

A foul on an opposing player - point at him and yell "you(x9) on you, that's who"

If it's an And-1 situation add "hey(x4), no no no no(x4), don't touch me"

At the beginning of each half before the opposing team scores: every dribble "boink", every pass "pass", every shot "brick". Also, the entire crowd stays standing for the beginning of each half until the other team scores.

For made Arizona free throws - "Swoosh, go Cats"

For missed opposing free throws - "Nice shot buddy"

When an opposing player gets their fourth foul - "Four, four, four, four"

When an opposing player fouls out the band plays "Another One Bites the Dust."

If the game is close, and there are less than ten minutes left in the game, McKale is absolutely electric. Other than that, you only have the bottom half of the student section cheering and trying to get everyone else involved. If the university wasn't trying to squeeze every possible penny out of basketball games, I feel like this would be one of the greatest places to watch a basketball game in the country. The seats around the court are so close but go to waste because only the people with ridiculous amounts of money can even consider sitting in those seats.

Access    2

Parking for basketball games can be a problem if you don't have a parking pass to park in the arena lots or garage, but it is possible to find free parking on local streets within five blocks if you don't mind a short walk to get to the game. It does mean you are risking leaving your car on a curb, and this can be troubling especially south of 6th Street, which is not such a great neighborhood.

I personally leave my car at the Babcock dorm, which is behind the McDonald's on Speedway in between Cherry and Campbell. Parking is free after 5 and on weekends, which accounts for almost every basketball game. And it's about a four-block walk from there to the north side of McKale. Otherwise, I would recommend parking at the Aloft, or in the Sam Hughes neighborhood east of Campbell.

The bathroom lines are just like the concession lines, better get there during game action if you don't feel like waiting in line forever. There are very few bathroom options along the inside concourse, leading to lines that spill out into the concourse, making it a little harder to get around the arena, especially at halftime and after the game.

Again, these are all things that will be improved in the near future, but right now, access for the general public / non-season ticket holders is horrible.

Return on Investment    3

It does cost you a lot of money to get in, and the food prices are typical of what you see in sporting venues. But the majority of the people that go to these games are either donors that love giving money to the university and getting the tickets as a side benefit, or students who can pay just over $100 to get passes to every athletics event including men's basketball games. This price is for the entire school year, which while I was a student there from 2007-11, was a fantastic way to go to games.

For regular single game tickets, prices start at $20 for most of the games, and $35 for the premium games. It's not bad considering the product that the Wildcats typically put out on the court, but these seats are limited, and may not even be available for some games.

For the complete map of pricing in McKale Center, visit this page.

Extras    3

The arena is also home to the school's Hall of Champions, which is a great place to go in and look at the great history the athletics program has at the University of Arizona. The average sports fan that enters this section of McKale Center will instantly recognize a lot of the names and faces that are portrayed here, as Arizona has produced a ton of highly successful athletes over time in a wide range of sports.

Also, all of the championship banners from all sports are hung in the rafters of McKale, and a few retired jerseys including Sean Elliot and Steve Kerr. For more championship banners, take a quick stroll down National Championship Dr., which is in between McKale and Arizona Stadium. You'll find every national championship ever won by Arizona Athletics honored there.

The "Ooh-Aah" man is his own extra for many reasons. He is absolutely fantastic, but has had some recent health issues. He can no longer come out onto the court, but is doing just fine leading the A-R-I-Z-O-N-A chant from his seat, followed up by an arena-wide "U of A" chant.

Final Thoughts

McKale Center is definitely a must see for the west coast college basketball fan since it is one of the largest arenas in the Southwest and has a lot of history. Arizona has returned to the top of the college basketball world under Sean Miller, and that has changed a lot of the things going on during men's basketball games.

The upcoming renovations will be a welcomed sight, seeing as there are some major issues with going to an Arizona game right now. I will always love going to Arizona games, but that experience will only get better in the coming years.

Venues?

Isn't listed as one of the "classic venues"? Hmmmm......

Cant wait for the renovations, will be pretty sweet with sky boxes.

by Beardown_Buck | Dec 18, 2012 05:15 PM

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Crowd Reviews

Arizona Wildcats Basketball At McKale Center

Total Score: 2.86

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 2
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 1

Since February 1973, McKale Center has been home to the University of Arizona men’s basketball team, as well as housing all of the major athletic offices and training facilities for the school.  The arena was named after J.F. "Pop" McKale, who was the athletic director at Arizona from 1914-1957.  He was also the head coach of football, basketball, baseball and track at times during that period.

McKale Center has a current seating capacity of 14,545, and when you are at a men’s game, almost all of these seats are full no matter who the opponent is.  In 2001, the court was named the "Lute and Bobbi Olson Court" after the legendary Arizona head coach and his late wife.

McKale Center has been the host site eleven times for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, two of those being West Regional semifinals and finals in 1974 and 1980.

McKale Center - Home of Arizona Wildcat Basketball

Total Score: 3.29

  • Food & Beverage: 4
  • Atmosphere 4
  • Neighborhood: 4
  • Fans: 3
  • Access: 2
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 3

Since February 1973, McKale Center has been home to the University of Arizona men’s basketball team, as well as housing all of the major athletics offices and training facilities for the school. The women’s basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics teams also use McKale for most of their events. The arena was named after J.F. “Pop” McKale, who was the athletic director at Arizona from 1914-1957. He was also the head coach of football, basketball, baseball and track at times during that period.

McKale Center has a current seating capacity of 14,545, which is the second largest capacity in the Pac-12 behind Utah’s Jon M. Huntsman Center. In 2001, the court was named the “Lute and Bobbi Olson Court” after the legendary Arizona head coach and his late wife.

McKale Center has been the host site eleven times for the NCAA men’s basketball tournament, two of those being West Regional semifinals and finals in 1974 and 1980.

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Local Food & Drink

Trident Grill  (map it!)

2033 E Speedway Blvd

Tucson, AZ 85719

(520) 795-5755

http://tridentgrill.com/

Dirtbags  (map it!)

1800 East Speedway Boulevard

Tucson, AZ 85719

(520) 326-2600

http://www.dirtbagsbar.com/

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