• Search by team or stadium name:

Buy the latest issue of Stadium Journey Magazine - Subscribe Today!

Stadium Journey Sports Magazine Subscriptions

McKale Center

Tucson, AZ

Home of the Arizona Wildcats

3.7

3.1

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


Arizona Wildcats website

McKale Center website

Year Opened: 1973

Capacity: 14,655

There are no tickets available at this time.

Reviews

Local Information

Share
this

McKale Center Getting Closer to Equaling Quality of Arizona Basketball

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 14,655, 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. Arizona has won one National Championship. That came in 1997 after they became the first team ever to have beaten three #1 seeds in a single NCAA tournament.

An $80 million renovation project is in the works for the Tucson arena, which had the first stages of it completed in 2013-14 with the installation of a new center-court scoreboard and two LED banners along each sideline. The second part of the renovation included new seating and concession areas as well as bathrooms on the exterior, which were completed before Pac-12 play began in 2015.

The renovations are welcome, and are certainly making McKale more of an arena you would expect from one of the nation’s top college basketball programs.

3.7

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, 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 areas, one at half court on each side. But that problem is not as bad as it used to be with the new configuration of the concession stands allowing for more cashiers to be open, and more space for people to stand in line without being in the main walkway. The barbeque sandwiches are my personal favorite at the main concession stands.

For some great Mexican food, the southwest corner of the arena has El Saguarito on both the inside and outside. Here you'll find a variety of quesadillas, nachos, and churros all for anywhere from $5-$9.

The food overall is decent, not great. 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    5

With the extended success Arizona has seen during the Sean Miller era, the overall atmosphere during games has really stepped up a notch than where it had been immediately after the Lute Olson days. 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 a lot of the arena being filled with people that are 60+ years old, but the revitalized student section and the ability to buy single game tickets has negated the effect that used to have on Wildcat basketball games.

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.

Another change during the renovations is the addition of NBA-style lighting to the court, and track lighting for pregame intros. Now there are some special effects going on during pregame intros, but during game action, the crowd almost disappears as the new lighting highlights the court like nothing else seen before.

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. ZonaZoo has started implementing some of the things you've seen around the rest of the college basketball landscape. All of the sudden 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 new seats now have extra leg room, cup holders, and are quite comfortable. As an added element, all of the main seats have a block A embroidered on the seat back. The seats in the ZonaZoo have been changed to make a big Block A that you can see when no one is sitting there. But typically those seats fill up as soon as the arena opens two hours before tip, so you might not ever notice that. Along the very top row of the center sections, new bar-style seating has been added, which is nice for those people who are forced to sit at the very top of the arena.

The logo at center court is facing the west side (sections 13-17), with the Wildcats sitting on the southeast side (sections 4-6), and the visiting bench on the northeast side (sections 1-3). Arizona players now enter the court out of a new tunnel located in the south end. The visiting players enter out of the northeast tunnel, right next to the Arizona students. During pregame intros, players from throughout the history of the program are shown in a video highlighting the past success of the program, typically 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 to do certain cheers. The Pride of Arizona pep band plays certain songs during certain media timeouts, and goes off the board in other places during the game.

Neighborhood    4

The arena 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. But 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. And it's a part of growing up.

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 new Streetcar system in Tucson makes access to places like University, Fourth Ave. and Downtown much easier than it used to be. The nearest station to McKale is located next to the softball stadium at 2nd St. and Cherry, which is about three blocks to the north.

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 Wells Fargo Arena. 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    4

Something weird happens when a team has an extended period of success like Arizona has...the fans all of the sudden become better and a more noticeable part of the game environment. That's definitely been the case as this program has transitioned into that prolonged period of domination.

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, which the student section does not get behind and does the "Left, right" chant until the player who fouled out sits on the bench. I hate that chant. It should stick to just baseball and when a player strikes out.

Access    3

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. This does however 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 would 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. There's also a Streetcar station there. Otherwise, I would recommend parking at the Aloft, or in the Sam Hughes neighborhood east of Campbell. Or you could park on Fourth Ave. and take the Streetcar.

The new configuration of the concourse has really helped with the ability to walk around the arena. The concession stand lines are now out of the way for the most part, and most of the bathrooms are actually located outside on the exterior concourse. You can go out the doors and to the bathrooms during games without worrying about being locked out or anything.

Another addition has been the standing area located outside of the east concession stands. This is a place on the exterior concourse where fans can stand and eat and chat before, during, and after games. It's a nice addition that probably goes overlooked.

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 all the various pricing and seating locations, check out Arizona Athletics' official McKale map.

You're also getting one of the nation's top teams year-in and year-out, so paying that little extra bit is expected and worth it.

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. Jason Terry's will be added to the mix during the 2015 season. 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 renovations are exactly what this arena and this program needed. And as the renovations continue, the experience will only get better, more enjoyable, and more fan friendly. It's an exciting time in Tucson as the basketball teams returns to its place in the national spotlight.

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

You must be a Stadium Journey member to post a comment.

Already a member? Sign in or Create a Stadium Journey Account

-- OR --

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.

A Venue in Transition

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 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.

Share your thoughts about McKale Center

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/

Local Entertainment

Lodging

w

© 2015 Stadium Journey