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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Fiesta Bowl has been in existence since 1971. Originally played on Arizona State’s campus at Sun Devil Stadium, the game moved to Glendale and University of Phoenix Stadium when the new home of the Arizona Cardinals opened in 2006.
UOP Stadium has a permanent seating capacity of 63,000, but for the Fiesta Bowl and the Super Bowl, the seating is expanded to 73,000. The largest crowd in the history of the stadium was the 2011 National Championship Game between the Oregon Ducks and Auburn Tigers. 78,603 people were in attendance for that game.
Under the new College Football Playoff structure, the Fiesta Bowl is one of the “New Year’s Six” bowls, which means it will occur on either New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day depending on whether or not it is a national semifinal game or not.
The 2014 version pitted the Arizona Wildcats against the Boise State Broncos. In recent years, the Fiesta Bowl and Boise State have become synonymous with one another. It started with the 2007 game against Oklahoma where the Broncos busted out all the tricks to pull out a miracle win over the Sooners. After the Arizona game, Boise State remains unbeaten (3-0) in Fiesta Bowls, and has now run the Statue of Liberty play twice in those games.
The game has turned into a week-long event in the Phoenix area. The Fiesta Bowl Parade occurs the Saturday before the game, and is held just north of Downtown Phoenix, not really anywhere near the stadium. Throughout the week, both schools host multiple events and rallies, including specific tailgates at the stadium just before the game. The Fiesta Bowl also includes the Cactus Bowl, which is a lower-tier bowl held at Sun Devil Stadium during the same week as the Fiesta Bowl itself.
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".
The main problem with hosting a college bowl game in an NFL stadium is the pricing of concessions. All of the options that are available during Cardinals game are available during the Fiesta Bowl, but are also available at the NFL prices. If you can, I would try and eat before and after the game either in the tailgate areas, or at Westgate City Center.
For out-of-towners, you may want to check out one of the many Tortilla Flats location to get some Mexican food during the game. There are also plenty of generic concession stands located throughout the stadium selling hot dogs for $5 or $6, as well as meal deals for around $10.
University of Phoenix Stadium serves Coca-Cola products. There are also primarily Budweiser products throughout the stadium. There are many places to get pizza slices and barbeque sandwiches among other things.
You can't truly appreciate how unique University of Phoenix Stadium looks and feels before stepping foot inside. When you approach from the outside, all you see is a big silver shell which is supposed to represent a barrel cactus.
There are many entrances, but they all feed into this massive dome, which somehow still feels intimate even though there are more than 70,000 other people in there. The center field logo faces the west side stands, which is where the Boise State bench was in 2014, but there is no set way to determine which team gets which sideline.
A lot of the Cardinals-specific signage is covered up with Fiesta Bowl banners throughout the stadium, but there are still some things that are cardinal red scattered around. However, the stadium people do a great job of making it feel like you are in a venue specifically created for the Fiesta Bowl.
The south end has the large video board, and the north end has a smaller version. Both of these boards show live game action and replays after every play. There are scoreboards everywhere in the stadium, so it's not particularly hard to find a game clock or what the score is.
Both bands are located in the south end. Each band gets to do both a pregame show and a halftime show. It's nice that the Fiesta Bowl doesn't try and cancel out bands with some over-the-top halftime show that no one actually cares about.
Before the game, a field-sized American Flag is unveiled for the National Anthem, which is usually sung by some music star that has Arizona ties. After the game, the trophy presentation occurs on the field, but as I witnessed, if you are a fan, don't try going on the field for it or you will get taken out by security.
UOP Stadium is one of three sporting venues within three miles of each other in Glendale. The Coyotes play at Gila River Arena, which is just north of the stadium. Camelback Ranch is about a mile and a half away, but nothing is typically going on there in December for fans to enjoy. But you can combine a Fiesta Bowl trip with one or two Coyote games usually.
Before the game, there are several tailgating areas available for fans. There are school-specific tailgates, and there is a FanFest area, which is located at Sportsmans Park, just west of the stadium.
What you want to do, either before or after the game, is go to Westgate City Center. There you can find all kinds of restaurants, bars, shops, and even a movie theater, and during Fiesta Bowl season, you may even get the mini ice rink that they put out there. No, it's not quite real ice because it is still pretty warm in Phoenix for New Year's, but you can skate on it. Westgate is also where the general parking area is located.
There are a couple of hotels in the immediate area, but your best bet is staying at hotel farther north in Glendale or even in Peoria and then driving to the game from there.
It may have been because this particular Fiesta Bowl had an in-state team against a program that is so tied to the game, but this Arizona/Boise State match up had intense fan support throughout the game. It actually felt like Boise had more fans there than Arizona, which is quite impressive considering Tucson is only about two hours away and a ton of Arizona alums live in the Phoenix area.
Boise got out to a fast start, so its fans were into the game from the get-go. As the game got closer, you could feel the two fan bases feeding off of each other and creating an electric atmosphere for a "neutral site" game. It definitely felt like it could have been a home game for either team at some point during the game.
The stadium area is very easy to get to as it is located just east of the Loop 101 Agua Fria Fwy in Glendale. The problem with having the stadiums in Glendale is that they are not very close to Sky Harbor Airport or any of the major public transportation systems Phoenix offers, so you'll want to drive yourself out there.
Once in the area, parking may be a problem. The majority of the lots are permit specific, so if you really plan ahead and find a parking pass, you'll be in good shape. Otherwise, you will want to try and find a parking spot at Westgate City Center, which costs $20.
Even though the Fiesta Bowl is not an NFL game, the NFL clear bag policy is still in affect. So make sure to know what you can and can't bring into the stadium before getting to security. It will be quick if you know the rules. It will take forever if you don't.
Once inside, there is plenty of room to walk around on the concourses. There are sometimes very long lines at the concession stands and at the bathrooms, which can make it a little difficult to get around.
After the game, traffic is horrible on the Loop 101 because you have 70,000 people emptying out onto essentially two freeway exits. Sometimes going across the highway and taking 99th Ave. in a particular direction can save you a lot of time.
The Fiesta Bowl may be one of the best venues for a bowl game, but it comes at a price. The cheapest tickets for the 2014 game were $50, with the majority of tickets costing either $75 or $150. Combine this with the expensive parking and the expensive concessions, and all of the sudden you are spending several hundred dollars to see a football game.
But it is the Fiesta Bowl, and is guaranteed to be two of the best teams in the nation playing each other. And the overall experience is pretty great. Just know it will cost you a good chunk of change.
For football fans, if you're not into going to a Cardinals game, the Fiesta Bowl is a good way to see what University of Phoenix Stadium is all about. You really do need to go once just to understand how unique the building itself is. Also, I recommend going when Boise State plays because you know something entertaining is going to happen.
The Cardinals Ring of Honor is still visible during the Fiesta Bowl, featuring Pat Tillman. Tillman is among the most revered sports figures in all of Arizona, and having his name up there during the Fiesta Bowl is a little something extra.
If you are in town for more than just the day of the game, you should visit the Fiesta Bowl Museum, which is located on the other side of the valley in Scottsdale. You can see the Fiesta Bowl Trophy here, as well as a ton of other memorabilia from around the college football world.
And finally, the atmosphere in the area before and after the game is the final extra. Even though it was a rainy day in 2014, the tailgating area was the place to be before the game, and then afterwards, Westgate City Center has all the entertainment options you could want, no matter your age or interests.
Member Review by AlexShoemaker on Jan 16, 2013
The University of Phoenix Stadium, used as the home for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals and site of the Fiesta Bowl, opened in August of 2006 to seat 63,400 but can expand to seat 73,000. The stadium features a retractable roof, much needed for the hot desert of Phoenix.
The stadium uses natural grass that grows in a retractable tray that can extend outside the stadium to ensure maximum exposure from the sun. But what really sets this stadium apart is its incredible design and clean look. With bright red and blue colored corners completing its sleek silver interior, University of Phoenix Stadium is a marvel of architectural design.
The stadium is also host to other sporting events including soccer matches and more.
6751 N Sunset Blvd
Glendale, AZ 85305
9375 W Coyotes Blvd
Glendale, AZ 85305
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