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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Tempe, Arizona is probably the last place that you think you would find one of the elite hockey programs in a nationwide league. You would be wrong.
Arizona State competes in the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) in all 3 divisions, and all of those teams are at or near the top of the rankings year in and year out. They are the only team in Arizona that competes in all 3 divisions (Arizona is only division 1 and Northern Arizona is division 2 and division 3). However, with all of this success, they play in a surprisingly small venue considering the other ice arena options in Phoenix.
Oceanside Arena is located in Tempe, just northeast of the rest of the ASU athletic facilities. The facility was built in 1974. It’s convenient as far as location for the Sun Devil faithful, but it is not the best place for a team that has had so much success. There are not even close to enough bleachers for everyone that comes out to the game, and the whole set up is one that doesn’t entirely work.
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There is a snack bar on the end of the rink where everyone enters. They offer pizza, soda, popcorn, hot chocolate and coffee. There are also some vending machines along the walls if you're just looking for a quick snack during the game. You can get pretty hungry if you're one of the lucky ones that have to stand up the entire time. Some people did bring food in because they don't really check your bags when you walk in.
Everyone enters through the same door, and you instantly get cold. The majority of the bleachers are located on the side to your left, but there are also some bleachers just to your right at the end of the ice. ASU does attack this end twice though, so if you're there rooting for the Sun Devils, it's not too bad. The only scoreboard is located at the opposite end, but no one can stand down there anyway due to the rink setup, so having one scoreboard is plenty.
The benches are located opposite all of the bleachers, and the visiting team's locker room is right behind where you can stand for the games on that side. No matter what, you're going to be right on top of the action, whether you're sitting or standing. It is freezing cold though, so make sure to wear warm clothes. ASU fans didn't really seem into the game that much either, even though I went when they were playing Arizona, so the overall atmosphere was kind of a letdown.
Oceanside isn't too far away from the area where Sun Devil Stadium, Packard Stadium and Wells Fargo Arena are, but it is slightly isolated. There is nothing really within walking distance of Oceanside. Just across the Loop 202 on McClintock Dr. is Tempe Marketplace. It features a lot of dining and entertainment options. For food, some good options are Cadillac Ranch, Dave and Buster's, Lucille's Smokehouse BBQ, Paradise Bakery, and California Pizza Kitchen. All of these are located throughout the shopping center, but in the same general area.
If you feel like going closer to campus, the Rural Rd./Scottsdale Rd. exit is just one exit west on the 202 from Oceanside Arena, where there are plenty of options, such as Buffalo Wild Wings and Devil's Advocate Bar and Grill. ASU and Tempe offer tons of options for everyone, just none of them happen to be right next to Oceanside Ice Arena.
It's almost like they expect to win, and don't feel the need to get into the game. The U of A fans were more into the game than the Sun Devil fans. Listening to conversation during the game, it's pretty obvious that a lot of them know a ton about the team and the players, but there's some level of enthusiasm that is just missing. They sure pack the house though. I was surprised that there were no chants besides the typical ASU chant though, considering that it was an in-state rival, and one that they've dominated for so long at that.
Oceanside Ice Arena is just northwest of the Loop 202 Red Mt. and Loop 101 Price Fwy interchange. To get there, you can either get off the 101 at McKellips and go west, or get off the 202 at McClintock and go north. The arena itself is on McClintock, just south of McKellips.
Parking at the arena is free, and there's enough for everyone. The walking areas are very crowded during the game though, since about half the people there are standing watching the game. Once you find where you want to watch the game, it's probably best to stay there, especially if you have an unobstructed view of the entire rink. A lot of the places where you have to stand don't have a view of the corners, especially where I was near the visiting team's locker room. If I had to do it again, I would at least stand in the opposite corner right where you walk in, because a lot of the action happens near the benches, and you can't see that at all from where I was.
The concession stand is its own little separate room, but it really makes that corner of the arena feel even more crowded. Everything on the inside just feels cramped the entire time.
ASU games cost about $10 per person, which is not too bad considering how good the Sun Devils are every year. But you have to get there early if you want to sit. If you're okay with standing up, then feel free to show up just before the opening faceoff. All of the seating is general admission. Your ticket they give you is just a wristband that lets you into the building. So whether you're standing or sitting, it's going to cost you the same amount of money. Food isn't too expensive and parking is free, making Sun Devil hockey games an affordable form of entertainment.
It's interesting that the visiting team's locker room is almost right in the middle of where people are standing watching the game. And if you feel like going ice skating, stop by Oceanside in the morning, skate around for a bit, go out to dinner, and come back to watch one of the best teams in the ACHA.
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