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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
While MLS has not made its way to the Grand Canyon State, soccer fans do have an option with the USL’s Arizona United SC, who moved to Scottsdale in 2015. The club used to play at Peoria Sports Complex, but made their way to a more central location in the valley when they moved into Scottsdale Stadium, which is really best known as the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants.
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".
All of the concession stands that are open are on the west side of the stadium, or when there's a baseball field, down the third baseline. This area is known as the Four Peaks Corner Kick Pavilion.
One generic concession stand is open selling hot dogs for $5, popcorn for $3, and ice cream bars for $4 among other things.
There is an alcohol tent, where beers range anywhere from $7-$10. Of course there are a few Four Peaks options, since they are the primary beer sponsor. There's also a Jamba Juice tent set up, which is nice for those warm Scottsdale evenings. The smoothies go for $6 a pop. Snow cones are pretty popular too, at a price of $5.
You can never go wrong with Four Peaks and a hot dog, but some of those snow cones look pretty good on a warm Scottsdale night.
The people who set up the stadium do a pretty nice job with making it look like Arizona United's home rather than the Giants. Once you walk into the actual seating area, the only Giants logos you'll find are on the dugouts and on the elevator tower in the outfield area.
Most fans sit on the west side, which is near gates E and F along Drinkwater Blvd. The Arizona United merchandise stand is found just inside gates E and F as well. Chairback seating is found closer to the field, while metal bleachers are all along the top part of the stadium. There are misters going off over the metal bleachers throughout the night. You also have the option of sitting on the lawn, which is behind the north goal and also on the far sideline. There are picnic tables by the lawn seating on the far sideline too.
What is usually the outfield wall is loaded with advertisements, including my favorite one I've ever seen, which is an ad for the hospital across the street that says "Winning is contagious." If that doesn't convince you to go to a hospital, I don't know what will.
Playing soccer in a baseball stadium presents a unique problem with the scoreboard. The main one in the outfield is used, but since there are nine innings in baseball, and two halves in soccer, it looks peculiar. Also, the time is counted on the video screen, since baseball doesn't really have timers either.
There is no music played, although the rowdy fans behind the south net make a good amount of noise. After an Arizona United goal, they blast Bro Hymn throughout the stadium. The PA announcer gives various ad reads during gameplay, which seems odd. At halftime, they have several AYSO teams out on the field playing mini games.
I'd recommend sitting somewhere along the west sideline, since that seems to be the best vantage point for Arizona United matches. With their games starting at night, you don't have to worry about the sun or anything like that, and the seating areas throughout the stadium are generally the same.
Scottsdale Stadium is located in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, in the Old Town district. There are many restaurants, museums, galleries and more within walking distance of the stadium.
One of the most popular and closest restaurants and bars is Union Barrelhouse. Here you'll find some great burgers, sandwiches, and a wide selection of beers.
Another popular place right on Scottsdale Rd. is Salty Senorita. They are known for their margaritas as well as their tacos. It's one of the best Mexican food options right around the stadium. We also highlight more places to eat and drink in our AZL Giants review.
But there's a lot more to downtown Scottsdale than just the restaurants and bars. The Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art is right next to the stadium, but is typically only open during the day. If you want to go here, it's best to go there during the day, get dinner somewhere, and then head to the Arizona United game.
For shopping, there are plenty of small shops, and there's also the Scottsdale Fashion Square. There's Waterfront shopping here along the Arizona Canal, a movie theater, and more.
If visiting from out of town, I'd recommend staying in a hotel somewhere in the area. That way you can either walk or take pedicabs or the trolley in the area to get you everywhere. No matter what you're into, Downtown Scottsdale has it.
The number of fans that show up for Arizona United games may catch you off guard a little bit.
There were over 3,000 people at the game I attended. Several sections that are located near midfield are mostly full, with smatterings of people all along the sideline. Then you have the main supporters section behind the south net, and you've got yourself a pretty good fan base at games.
According to the Arizona United website, the premium midfield reserved seats sold out for the entire 2015 season, which is great.
For the most part, the fans are pretty quiet, but the supporters section behind the south net does its share of keeping the energy up in the stadium throughout. But the overall atmosphere is very good for a summer evening.
With the lack of an enormous crowd like there is for baseball, getting to Scottsdale Stadium is much easier for Arizona United matches than it is for Giants spring training.
The public transit in Scottsdale is composed of pedicabs, golf carts, and the free trolley, all of which are available to get to Arizona United matches. The nearest airport is Sky Harbor, and it isn't too far away from the area.
The club provides a very good map of where to park and how to get in the stadium, as well as what you can and can't bring in for the game. I recommend parking in the library parking garage, which is located at the corner of Drinkwater and 2nd Street.
If you're coming from the north or south, Scottsdale Rd is your best bet. If you're coming from the east or west, take Indian School. Those two roads are definitely the quickest ways to the Downtown Scottsdale area. Scottsdale also has a free trolley system available to get around the area.
Gates E and F along Drinkwater are your best options to enter the stadium, especially if you park in the parking garage. These gates are located by the main seating area, and also have all of the concession stands right there.
Once in the stadium, all of your food options are in the northwest corner. You are able to walk throughout the entire stadium, which is nice if you're either looking for a little more space to yourself, or if you have kids that want to kick a ball around on the lawn during the game. And even though the concession stands aren't open everywhere, the bathrooms are.
There is plenty of handicap seating along the main walkway as well, with roped off sections specific for those that need it.
The main problem with the Arizona United stadium experience is the amount of money they charge people. The cheapest tickets are $15, and if you sit where you're supposed to, those are located in the southwest corner and along the south end.
But it doesn't seem like there are too many ushers enforcing the reserved seats. Either way, that's a lot for tickets, and then when you add in concession prices that are the same as spring training, all of the sudden you're looking at spending around $100 for a family of four for 90 minutes of soccer.
Parking is free though, which is good for the overall return on investment.
One extra goes to the uniqueness of a soccer match being played in a place like Scottsdale Stadium. Not only is it a baseball stadium that offers a variety of options for you to watch the game, but it is also a very scenic baseball stadium that has trees around the outfield lawn, and a great view of the sunset with the mountains at the beginning of the game. And the fact they use a baseball scoreboard with nine innings for two halves is pretty funny.
Another extra goes to the supporters section. Those guys love them some Arizona United, and never stop showing it the entire game. After the game, the players go sign autographs for the fans by that goal.
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