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Official Review by Jason Bartel, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
US Airways Center (formerly known as America West Arena) opened in June 1992, and won awards for best new concert venue as well as best NBA venue as voted on by the players in its first full year. When it first opened, it was one of the first major sporting venues with multi-level suites, attached premium parking facilities, and an integrated practice facility.
Today, USAC is home to the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, Arena Football League’s Arizona Rattlers, and the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, as well as many major concerts and shows throughout the year. Located just one block west of Chase Field, US Airways is part of an ever-growing entertainment district in downtown Phoenix, one that gets nicer and nicer as the years go by.
The Phoenix Mercury have seen a lot of success in recent years, having won the WNBA championship in 2007 and 2009. Their first year was in 1997, with Cheryl Miller being the franchise’s first ever general manager and head coach. They are also most known nationally as the home of former UConn star Diana Taurasi.
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".
USAC has a huge variety of food located throughout the entire concourse. No matter what type of food you're craving, chances are you are going to find it somewhere. There are traditional concession stands with your typical stadium food on all ends of the building. If you take a walk around the entire concourse, you end up having your choice of Italian, barbeque, Asian (Samurai Sam's), cheesesteaks (The Great Steak), as well as fully stocked bars, and all for a relatively fair price.
The traditional concession stands also have a value menu, where you can get a hot dog, corn dog, soda, or popcorn for $1.50, making it easy to feed the little ones and cheap to get a quick snack during the game.
Walking around the arena, you would think you're at a Phoenix Suns game and not a Mercury game. The concourse is full of Suns logos and player pictures, but not really any sign of Mercury players. The walls are all orange and purple, which is not nearly as bad as it sounds, but it's still a very interesting look to the entire concourse.
During the game, there is music blaring nonstop, which can get pretty annoying fairly quick. Besides the typical offense and defense music that you get at professional basketball games, they also have little music clips for each Mercury player when they make a basket. Whenever they play it, it sounds like an accident, making all the noise that much harder to take.
US Airways is located on Jefferson and 3rd St., putting it right in the middle of the entertainment district in downtown Phoenix. It is closer to all of the more popular restaurants and bars than Chase Field, which saves you about three or four blocks of walking in the summer Phoenix heat. Alice Cooper'sTown Phoenix is located on the south side of the arena, and Hard Rock Café is on the north side just across the street from the main pavilion. A short walk in any direction downtown you are bound to find some restaurant that you and your entire group will enjoy.
Known as "The X-Factor", the fans of the Mercury are very loyal. The Mercury's success over the years has helped them secure a true fan base, as well as playing in such a nice facility like USAC. They've also got certain responses after the public address announcer says cue words for the crowd. Everyone is very engaged in all of the action going on during a game.
I went on Kids Camp day, which is an afternoon game that the Mercury play where they invite a whole bunch of the Phoenix area's kids camps to the game. This is a yearly event, and it definitely makes being at the game a little more interesting. If you do come on a Kids Camp day and you are above the age of 12, I recommend bringing earplugs. Expect a lot of screaming from thousands of summer campers.
The Mercury are also very good at getting the crowd involved during timeouts and during the game. They have a group of hip-hop dancers that do all of the in-game entertainment, from dancing to emceeing. The Mercury also have one of the highest average attendances in the WNBA year after year, so they are doing something right in trying to get the target demographic coming to the games over and over.
There is definitely enough parking right around US Airways Center for Mercury games. There are parking garages on the east and west side of the building, as well as surface lots and the Chase Field parking garage all very close to the arena. The light rail system that goes through downtown Phoenix is probably the easiest and cheapest way to get to a game. There is a station located right in front of the main entrance to US Airways, making it so you don't have to spend too much time outside in the heat. Parking can cost you either $5 or $10 depending on how close you want to park, and if you want to park in a garage that's attached to the building.
The bathrooms are the same way. Since everything is designed to host a capacity crowd for either the Suns or various major concerts that are in the arena, there are basically no lines for anything since almost everything is open on the lower concourse even for a much smaller crowd.
For a typical Mercury game, only the lower bowl is open, allowing them to charge a little more for a regular ticket. The average price range for tickets is about $10-$80 depending on if you sit behind a basket or at center court. Most food items are at regular arena prices that you would expect, with the exception being the value menu items. But with the huge variety of food offered, it is nice that none of it is priced above ten dollars.
The one thing that really stood out is at the end of the game, all of the players huddle up and salute the fans, and then go out into the stands to give away free t-shirts. I felt like it was a nice touch to thank the fans for coming out and supporting the Mercury and the WNBA.
I didn't really think the game experience itself was all that special, and at times very annoying with the different musical selections blaring on the sound system throughout the entire game. I'd never been to a WNBA game before, and thought it was a lot worse than all of the other sporting events I have seen at US Airways (Suns, Rattlers, Coyotes, University of Arizona and Arizona State basketball).
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101 East Jackson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85004
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