The San Jose State University Event Center is the home of the Spartans of the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). Located at the corner of South 7th and San Carlos Streets, the Event Center holds 4,600 spectators for basketball games and over 6,500 for concerts and other events.
It seems this venue is just as popular for music as it is for college basketball since so many big names have performed at the San Jose State campus. It seems to be the second option for arena style concerts in San Jose behind the Sharks home at HP Pavilion.
The outdoor facade is pleasing on the eyes as it has complex, modern features, but is still able to blend in with the older buildings around it and on this night, welcomed in the Weber State Wildcats from Ogden, Utah.
This drizzly Friday night brought no more than 500 butts to the seats inside. It could not have been more than 20% full for this non-conference battle and noticeably lacked any sort of student section. The only thing more obvious than the empty seats were the distractingly bad silver bathrobes the Spartans were wearing.
The banners that hung over one baseline represented the accomplishments of several different sports (baseball, gymnastics, volleyball, etc), while the banners high above the sidelines were designated for basketball accomplishments. Of the banners hanging, one was for the retired number 34, in honor of Rick Berry (no, not that Rick Barry).
At either baseline were black curtains that covered up excess bleacher seating, presumably available for bigger games or events. Above these curtains were very nice scoreboards, making available any information you might need.
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".
You can fill up a reusable souvenir cup with soda for $5 which would help wash down those $5 Gordon Biersch garlic fries (just $1 more than the regular fries). Pretzels and popcorn are available for $4 each and personal pizzas are $8, if you're looking for a more filling option. An array of candy and ice cream is available to satisfy your sweet tooth as well.
If you're really hungry and have time to stop before the game I recommend checking out the restaurants in the neighborhood and maybe just snack at the game.
There just aren't many options here as the stands had too many vacancies. The fans there were certainly attentive and rooting on their Spartans, but the empty seats loomed. There was a band and cheerleading squad that provided some entertaining moments but the Spartan mascot seemed a bit much for this night. Just when I thought the mascot was a bit over-the-top they did the chicken dance so, ya know.
The opponent had a relatively rowdy turnout cross-court from me that added a bit to the atmosphere, as well as the late-game run by the Spartans that got some people to their feet.
In the end, San Jose State may benefit from a more intimate gym that has their spectators closer to the action. The Spartans and the WAC provided me with an entertaining game and a top-5 scorer in the nation, Adrian Oliver, who more people ought to turn out to see.
The San Jose State campus is located in one of the nicer urban areas in downtown. There are tons of bars and restaurants on the college-centric 2nd Street, which happens to be on your way from the Caltrain station to the Event Center.
There are plenty of places to grab a bite before the game, such as San Jose Bar & Grill, Gordon Biersch, E&O Trading Company and the like. They are all easily accessible along 2nd and 3rd streets. This area is usually a haven for the campus crowd and is buzzing during Sharks or Spartans home games. This particular night was a tad lackluster, no doubt due to the rain.
There is a large, well-manicured park rotunda (Plaza de Cesar Chavez) and when nice out, can be full of people enjoying the weather. This park is surrounded by museums, theaters and civic centers and seems to be a bit of hub for all things culturally San Jose. My favorite cup of coffee is also poured there at a Philz Coffee location where every cup is individually brewed. Yum!
If you decide to walk under the 280 overpass you'll be pleased to find the Guadalupe River and its corresponding river trail. Weather permitting, I recommend a stroll or light jog for as long as the heart desires. It's beautiful over there.
The present fans were knowledgeable and cared about their team. They became more amped as the game got into its later stages and took pride in their team when the opposing supporters started to outshine them. There really isn't a lot of wiggle room here either since the stands were so empty.
San Jose State is surrounded by three different freeways; 280, 101 680. Each one of these has an exit within a mile of the University with 280 being the closest freeway. Whichever freeway you take will let you off in an easily navigated area of downtown San Jose.
When exiting from 280-Southbound, simply exit at 7th Street and make a left at the first light. The street will dead end into the 7th Street garage, 2 blocks from the Event Center. The fee for parking there after 6pm, like all city-owned parking lots and garages, is only $2.
Caltrain is an option when coming from San Francisco or the peninsula to the North. It is a fifteen minute walk from the station to the University or you can take the free shuttle provided by the city called DASH. On this night, I took the shuttle from the station and got off at Santa Clara and 7th Streets (during the torrential downpour) and made the walk on the way back after the game. It was a nice walk and it wasn't time sensitive as I had checked the train schedule and knew when it was arriving.
$10 gets spectators a general admission ticket to the game. This only excludes the three center sections which are reserved for season ticket holders, a $175 fee. Students that purchase a "Tower Card" at the beginning of the school year can scan their card and attend all men's and women's basketball games for free.
The quality of play plus the capability of sitting close to action makes this a very reasonable fee for entry. The reasonable concession prices and great parking situations make this quite the bargain. Now, if only people knew of the quality product and the reasonable prices, then the atmosphere could catch up to the return on investment, perhaps even pushing it up a notch.
There wasn't much in the way of extras in terms of entertainment on the court but the martial artists at halftime were pretty cool. There was plenty of memorabilia to pass the time looking at, including some sweet concert posters in the corridors at the far end of the Event Center.
The Spartans would benefit from playing in a smaller venue. I understand the need to cut cost and use the Event Center since it's there and would otherwise not be in use without basketball. The product on the court, to me, didn't seem to match the atmosphere created by the sporadically filled seats.
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