Opened in 1992, US Airways Center (formerly America West Arena) is the current home of the Phoenix Suns, as well as the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, and the Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers. It was also home to the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes from 1996-2003. In 2004, the building underwent a massive renovation project, completely changing the façade along Jefferson St. as well as new scoreboards and video boards in the arena, and brand new club seating areas on the floor and in the suite level.
When USAC opened in 1992, it won almost every award possible for an arena including Best New Concert Arena, and Best NBA Facility by the NBA players. Immediately after that, a lot of new arenas started opening up in the western U.S. that took the greatness of USAC and applied slightly better technologies to give fans a great NBA experience (LA, Dallas, Seattle, Portland, Denver and Salt Lake City).
US Airways is still one of the premier venues in the NBA, and one of the best places to see a concert. Since Jobing.com Arena opened in 2003, some of the concerts have left Downtown Phoenix for Glendale, but USAC still gets its fair share of big names. Two NBA All-Star games have also been played in USAC.
The Suns have been in existence since 1968, when they played their home games at nearby Veterans Memorial Coliseum. In 1988, owner Jerry Colangelo got the new downtown arena approved. For the franchise’s 25th anniversary, they moved into US Airways Center, acquired Charles Barkley, got a new head coach in Paul Westphal, new logos and new uniforms. It was truly a new era of basketball in The Valley. That year they went to the NBA Finals for the first time since 1976, where they lost to Michael Jordan's Bulls. They have not been back since. In fact, out of the three current tenants of USAC, the Suns are the only one to have not won a league championship in their history.
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".
US Airways has no shortage of food and drink options throughout the arena. The main concession stands are loaded with all the typical stadium food items. The interesting part is the "Bargain Menu" where you can get a hot dog, corn dog, popcorn, or small drink for just $1 each. The drinks are a little small but the hot dogs are normal-sized hot dogs, which makes that a great value.
Streets of New York Pizza can be found everywhere, where you can get personal pizzas for $7.50, or chicken wings. Other options include a southwest grill with tons of southwestern options. G'rilla Dogs has specialty hot dogs if you're looking for more than just a generic $1 hot dog.
Near the main entrance on Jefferson is a pub stand, where they offer craft beers, pretzels and peanuts. Also there is the Blue Moon Club, which is a huge sports bar where fans can go, hang out in the bar area and watch the game on TVs instead of in their seat. All along the main concourse are various bar stands, where fans can find all kinds of beer somewhere in the arena. A lot of them are cash only though.
The upper concourse has a lot of the same food options, just a little smaller serving areas, which creates longer lines than the main concourse.
Although the Suns are getting away from the color purple in their logos, almost all of the seats in USAC are still purple; the exception being the floor seats which are black. These seats led to the nickname "The Purple Palace." All of the seats in the main seating area are padded, and have cup holders.
When entering, it doesn't really matter which gate you come in. The main entrance, lobby, and team shop are located on the north side of the building near the intersection of Jefferson and 1st St. But there are entrances on every side of the building, including a special one on the west side for people that park in that parking garage.
The Suns logo at center court is unique because it looks exactly the same from each side of the arena. The other floor logos are not so lucky though, and they all face the west side (sections 112-116). That west side has a ton of floor seats that are right on the sideline, and no press table that breaks them up. A huge amount of seating for those who can afford them. The Suns bench is in the northeast corner, and the tunnel that leads to their locker room goes under the north side seats (section 120). The visiting bench is in the southeast corner, with their tunnel going under the south end seats (section 108).
The suites are in the typical place for a basketball arena, in between the lower and upper bowls. USAC has a ton of suites; two levels that go all the way around the arena. Also in the north end is the Casino Arizona club, where you don't have to buy an entire suite but still get all the perks. It's meant for smaller groups of two or three, and you get your own monitor in the table where you're sitting.
Just like all other NBA arenas, music is constantly playing during the game, and the PA announcer announces every made shot. The main scoreboard is over center court, and gives the general basketball info on every other screen. The other scoreboards have the individual player stats of the players that are currently on the floor for both teams. The video boards were upgraded in the 2004 renovation, and they are fairly clear, but not the best. There are also out of town scoreboards, and stats from the Suns game in each end up near the rafters.
There are a lot of contests on the court during media timeouts, and of course at halftime. Before the 4th quarter, the video boards play clips of players encouraging the fans to get up for the rest of the game, and it has a little effect, but not too much.
The south end of the arena has the Suns Ring of Honor, where Suns greats like Charles Barkley, Dan Majerle, Tom Chambers, Paul Westphal and Jerry Colangelo are all honored. Above it is the Rattlers Ring of Honor, and the Rattlers deserve to be up there with their three AFL Championships. On the upper level, the concourse walls have stats and information about all of the people that are in the Ring of Honor.
Downtown Phoenix has really transformed into quite the entertainment district. USAC is part of the Legends Entertainment District, which also includes Chase Field, and other restaurants and shopping centers. Right across Jefferson from the arena is Tilted Kilt and Hard Rock Café. Both places are great for pre- and postgame entertainment. There are other great sports bars in the immediate area like Majerle's, and Cooperstown.
Downtown Phoenix also has a lot of cultural places of interest, like the State Capitol, Bolin Memorial Park, Heritage and Science Park, Phoenix Convention Center, and Comerica Theater among others.
With all these great restaurants and parks come tons of hotels. All of Downtown Phoenix is walking distance from USAC, so you can't go wrong with where you stay. Hotel Palomar Phoenix is the closest, but the Sheraton, Westin and Hyatt are all good choices as well.
The Suns have not been good lately, and that's taken its toll on the fan base. US Airways is rarely full for a Suns game anymore, which is a far cry from what it was like in the Steve Nash/Amare Stoudemire/Mike D'Antoni era. Suns fans came out in those days, but they weren't really loud then either. Up until the last 6 minutes of the game, you'll be lucky if you hear one cheer from a majority of the crowd. It's just very dead.
US Airways Center is located in the heart of Downtown Phoenix, which is in between the I-17 and I-10 highways. Also, Sky Harbor International Airport is not too far east if you're flying in from out of town. When driving to US Airways, there are a ton of options of where to get off the highway. 7th St., 7th Ave., Washington, Jefferson, McClintock. They all work almost equally well no matter from which direction you're coming.
Phoenix recently opened a light rail system in the Downtown Phoenix and Tempe area, which connects Downtown Phoenix to Arizona State University. The light rail has two stops in front of USAC where you can get off. All-day passes for the light rail cost just $4. The closest station to USAC is the 3rd St./Jefferson Station, which is located at the northeast corner of the arena.
Parking garages are found all around the area since the Diamondbacks and Chase Field are just a block away. The best garage option is to park in the Chase Field garage, which is on the southwest side of Chase Field at the corner of 4th St. and Lincoln. That garage only costs $5. Other garages that are just a block closer cost $12 and $15, the more expensive one being the one that is connected to USAC on the west side.
Once in the arena, getting around is very easy. The main concourse is very open, but there is only one escalator to the upper level, which is found on the east side behind section 101. The upper concourse gets a little more congested than the main concourse because it is smaller, and the food lines are longer. Getting around the arena is not difficult at all at any point during the game.
When going to a Suns game, be sure not to bring any big bags or outside food, because security will take them. As long as you travel light to the game, and are prepared to go through a metal detector by taking stuff out of your pocket, the security check will go by fast.
Single game tickets run anywhere from $15 - $160, of course depending on upper and lower level, and how close to center court you want to sit. With the $15 tickets, Suns games are actually a pretty good deal. Combined with the dollar menu at the concession stands and the $5 garage parking, the money spent is pretty low for an NBA game.
But very few people that plan on going to a Suns game want to sit in the upper corners, simply because basketball is not exactly the best sport to watch from far away. And a lot of people will not think of dollar hot dogs and 10 oz. sodas as enough for the night. Most of the rest of the food is pretty expensive, and so are the drinks. And the product on the floor just has not been good in recent years, and it does not look like it's going to be getting better anytime soon.
In the upper area is a play area called the APS Gorilla Greenhouse. It is a huge play area for the kids to go during the game and get some of that energy out instead of squirming around in their seats.
The dollar menu is a nice extra. Chase Field has the same kind of thing, and it really does make it a better value to go to a game. And all of the regular concession stands offer it, instead of just one or two of them like some places do.
The area around USAC is one of the best for a sporting event. Chase Field is just two blocks away, there are tons of restaurants, sports bars, and other places to go do things before and after the game. All of it is within walking distance, or you can by a daily pass for the light rail and take that out to Tempe to hang out in the area around Sun Devil Stadium and Packard Stadium. Even if the Suns game isn't too exciting, making an entire day out of it is very easy and convenient, and doesn't cost too much money to do it either.
The Suns Gorilla is also one of the best mascots ever. Everyone has heard of the Gorilla, and he does not disappoint during the game. He's gotta be the most entertaining part about going to a Suns game.
US Airways Center (formerly America West Arena in the Charles Barkley days) in downtown Phoenix opened in 1992. It also serves as the home for the WNBA franchise Phoenix Mercury (league champs in '07 and '09) and a host of other minor league soccer, hockey and football teams.
The Suns have represented Phoenix since 1968, and no other team existed there before the late 80s when the football Cardinals moved there in 1988. The Cardinals play in suburban Glendale in a stadium complex adjacent to the arena for the Phoenix Coyotes who arrived in 1996 via the Winnipeg Jets. Also arriving in the 90s were the Arizona Diamondbacks in 1998. Their home, Chase Field, is also downtown and only a block east of the US Airways Center.
So while an inception of 1968 doesn't ring with historical significance it does give them historical priority locally. Be very clear, this is a Suns town. The Suns have consistently had good, competitive teams. They've made the conference finals multiple times in every decade they've been around and twice lost in six games in the NBA Finals - the first was the "Sunderella" team of 1975-76 that eventually lost to the Celtics and the Barkley-lead team that were beaten by the Bulls in 1993. As any Cubs or Vikings fan will tell you, losing only makes the heart grow fonder. Phoenix is definitely fond of its Suns.
The Phoenix Suns began their NBA existence in 1968 becoming the first professional sports franchise to the city. The Suns’ first arena was the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum at the Arizona State Fairgrounds. In 1992, they moved into the newly constructed America West Arena and continue to play in that facility, now called the US Airways Center.
Also sharing the US Airways Center are the Arizona Rattlers (Arena Football) and the Phoenix Mercury (WNBA). The arena hosts other entertainment events like Disney on Ice, NCAA Division Championship games, concerts, etc.
US Airways Center has a majestic grand entranceway. There is a wide open space to congregate in the entranceway with plenty of ticket windows; there are many banners and a huge video display promoting upcoming events. Do take the time to visit this entryway should you attend a game here.
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