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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Since 1950, Salpointe Catholic High School has been a staple of the Tucson culture. When it opened, it was just the third high school in the city, joining Tucson High School and Amphitheater High School. Just 100 students were enrolled at Salpointe that year, which is named after Arizona’s first Bishop, Jean-Baptiste Salpointe. The Bishop was working as a missionary in the Arizona Territory from 1866-1885.
Nowadays, Salpointe boasts an enrollment of over 1,000 students. In 2013, the football program took home the Arizona Division II State Championship at a game played at nearby Arizona Stadium. The campus is located about a mile and a half north of the University of Arizona. Salpointe is usually in the upper-echelon of football programs in the state, and certainly in the City of Tucson along with Ironwood Ridge and Cienega among a couple of other schools. The school’s colors are maroon and gold, and the mascot is the Lancer.
The school made headlines in 2007 when it announced that it would have mandatory drug-testing for all of its students. Salpointe took hair samples from all of its students to test for any drug-usage during the prior 90 days.
Some notable Salpointe alumni include Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roll, sports reporter Alex Flanagan, and former Buffalo Bills offensive tackle John Fina.
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".
Salpointe has a concession stand located on the south end of each side of the stadium. There are not a lot of options at these stands. Hot dogs, popcorn, Gatorade and nachos are $2, with sodas and water costing $1. The food isn't great, and the service is slow, so there will more than likely be a long line no matter when in the game it is. There are picnic tables next to the concession stands if you feel like sitting at a table to eat your food instead of going back into the stands.
With the amount of success Salpointe has seen throughout its history, the lack of a great football environment is kind of surprising.
The home stands are located on the west side of the stadium, or to the left when you go through the gates. Each gate is labeled "home fans," "visiting fans," "visiting players," etc. The home bleachers are split up into two sections: a main section, and then an added section in the southwest corner that looks more temporary. The lone scoreboard is found near the entrance gates. The teams both run onto the field from the south end. Salpointe doesn't have a big inflatable helmet to run through like most Tucson schools. The Lancers still go with the classic run-through-a-paper-sign entrance. The stadium plays some bizarre music to accompany the team as it runs out. It was not a very good musical selection to get the fans and players pumped up.
Salpointe is unique from the standpoint that there is no track that goes around the stadium's field. The track stadium is located just to the east of the football stadium. This puts the stands closer to the sideline than most high schools. One issue on the visiting side is that the bleachers are not raised off the ground, so the players on the sideline block the view of the fans that are sitting in the first couple of rows. The field itself is artificial turf. A lot of people choose to stand along the fence behind the south end zone over going into the stands.
During the game, there is a lot of music played through the not-so-great sound system at the stadium rather than relying on the school's band. The PA announcer also sometimes goes into full play-by-play while the game's still going on, which seems a little strange.
Salpointe is located in a residential neighborhood just north of the University of Arizona. If you're looking for things to do after the game, areas like Fourth Avenue and Downtown Tucson are not very far away.
A popular spot with the Salpointe coaching staff after games is Old Chicago, which is just a few blocks to the northeast of the school. Also in the same shopping center as Old Chicago is Five Guys Burgers, Sauce Pizza and Wine, and Rubio's Mexican Grill.
Even closer to the school is Brushfire BBQ, which is my favorite BBQ place in all of Tucson. The food there is great, and all for a reasonable price. Salpointe's location lends itself to being fairly close to a lot of different restaurants, bars, and other hangout spots.
The student section, known as "The Dungeon," tries to carry the enthusiasm for the home fans, but there's not a lot of noise made by the Lancer faithful throughout the game. They also don't come close to filling up the stands on the home side. Sort of disappointing overall from the fanbase.
Salpointe is located on the southeast corner of Mountain and Glenn in Tucson. That's just a few miles east of I-10, and just a mile and a half north of the campus of the University of Arizona.
The parking options at Salpointe are limited to say the least. Most people are forced to park on the curbs of the surrounding neighborhood. If you're not at the game early, it's going to be a little bit of a hike from your car to the stadium.
Having separate gates on each side of the stadium helps break up the lines to get tickets and get in. The handicap access on the visiting side is atrocious. All of the walkway is covered in gravel, so good luck trying to get a wheelchair or walker through that. The bathroom lines are also a little bit of a problem during most of the game.
Everything is cheap, so it's not like going to a Salpointe game is going to cost you a lot of money. And the actual football product is usually one of the best in the state, so heading out to a Lancer game is definitely worth it. Just be prepared for a little bit of a lackluster environment, and not-so-modern amenities.
The campus itself is a staple of Tucson history, and if you're in town visiting on a Friday, a trip to Salpointe is a must to experience that bit of Tucson's past and present.
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