There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The American Hockey League (AHL) created a new Pacific Division for the 2015-16 season, moving five teams to California so that they would be closer to their NHL parent clubs. Three of these teams (Bakersfield, Ontario, and Stockton) simply took over rinks that were used by their ECHL counterparts while the San Jose Sharks moved their team to the SAP Center. Only the Anaheim Ducks decided to begin using a venue that was not used for hockey the previous season, as they purchased the Norfolk Admirals and moved them from the Norfolk Scope to the Valley View Casino Center in San Diego.
The team took the name Gulls, which not only goes well with the Ducks, but also has been used by four previous hockey franchises, including an ECHL team that left in 2006. That team also used the Valley View Casino Center, but back then it was known as the San Diego Sports Arena, except for a brief time as the iPayOne Center. Built in 1966, the arena has hosted 18 other sports franchises, including the Rockets and Clippers of the NBA. Now, only the San Diego Sockers of the MASL join the Gulls as regular tenants, but the facility hosts several big concerts every year as well.
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 concourse has several fixed concession stands, with typical arena fare available at most. Hot dogs are $5 as are pretzels and a bucket of popcorn, while nachos will cost you 50 cents more.
However, you should avoid all of these options and try one of the specialty stands. The most notable is Mess Royale, a local restaurant that serves the Canadian hockey classic, poutine. It isn't cheap, with the original going for $11 while the El Pancho, with carne asada and banana peppers, will set you back $13.50. Grilled cheese sandwiches are also sold here, but again the prices might dissuade you, with the basic sandwich at $11, while adding bacon adds $1.50 to the price. A basket of fries is more reasonable at $6, while brownies and cheesecake are $8 for those with a sweet tooth.
Cluckers Chicken operates a stand that is slightly more in line with what you would expect to pay at a minor league arena. Their chicken tenders are all hand-breaded and you can order them in a sandwich ($8.50, add $2 for the crinkle fries combo), on a stick ($6.75 for 6 ounces, a good deal), or as part of a combo with crinkle fries, sauce, and Texas toast ($9.50 for 3 or $24.75 for a 7-piece family pack).
Fans of Mexican meals can try Rockin' Baja, where burritos and tacos range from $11 to $13, while lobster bites with fries are $12. Most intriguing here is the fried ice cream ($7).
Low'n'Slow BBQ has pulled pork and brisket sandwiches for $10, and you can order a side of beans, mac'n'cheese or potato salad for $5. Pizza Port sells slices for $6.75, while a full pie will be $36. They also offer wings for $10. Those with a penchant for healthy food will enjoy Sambazon's acai bowls, with a regular 16-ounce version going for $11 and the large (24-oz) $13. Finally, one small portable stand sells caramel apples and frozen bananas, which count as fruit servings in the stadium world.
There is a great beer selection here, with one stand serving a dozen premium draft options such as Sculpin IPA and 10 Barrel Brewing's Pray for Snow, a rather ironic choice in San Diego. Prices are again much too high for AHL hockey, with these premium drafts at $12.50, while the domestic drafts (Bud and Bud Light) are two dollars less. Some stands offer premium tallboys for $11.50, while wine is also available for $7.
Coke products are the soda option: $5 from the fountain ($8 for souvenir size) or $5.25 for bottles, while bottled water is $4.50. Powerade and Monster Energy drinks are $6, coffee and hot chocolate a relative bargain at half that cost.
Food is definitely overpriced for this level of hockey and hence a point is docked from the score, but you will certainly appreciate the variety here.
Entering the arena, you will be on the single concourse with the walls on both sides decorated with photos of past concerts and sporting events. The breezeways to the seating bowl are blocked by curtains even before the game, and this is likely a result of the venue being used more for concerts, where ambient light can be a distraction.
There are two distinct seating bowls with a walkway between them. The lower bowl seats are mostly blue, while those in the upper bowl are red. One end of the upper bowl is blocked off by a large curtain to reduce capacity. There are a few special seats in the lower bowl known as "Limited Edition," but it is hard to see what is special about them. All seats are of the older cushioned variety, and there are no cup holders.
The team employs Gull Girls to greet fans and during the introductions they stand on the face off dots and wave flags around. There is a mascot known as Gulliver, who travels around the concourse and seating bowl greeting kids.
There are your typical promotions during the ice scrapes and intermissions, while a single scoreboard is above center ice. One odd thing is that shots are not updated during play. Otherwise, this is a fairly typical minor league hockey atmosphere.
San Diego is America's Finest City but you wouldn't guess it as you drove into the Valley View Casino Center. Located in the Point Loma neighborhood, just southwest of the intersection of Interstates 5 and 8, the arena is bounded on the north by several side streets with little activity. To the south, Sports Arena Boulevard is the main drag here and there is a shopping mall across the street, but little in the way of good bars and restaurants within walking distance.
Phil's BBQ is just west of the arena and is the best choice, particularly for those visiting as it is just one of four locations and has a full menu at very reasonable prices. Meanwhile, Modern Times is a microbrewery that is a bit out of place on Greenwood Street, but well worth your time if you are looking for excellent craft beer and an amazing piece of artwork made entirely of Post-It Notes of Michael Jackson and Bubbles.
Most of the other nearby options are fast food or family restaurant chains, so you are advised to drive elsewhere. The beach is just a couple of miles west, and you can try the South Beach Bar & Grille, with Mexican-inspired seafood and a good selection of microbrews.
Just south of the arena is the NTC Park area, with the Corvette Diner a must-see for 50's era aficionados, while Stone Brewing has a bistro in the area too. Be aware that these close early and are best visited before the game.
Of course, downtown San Diego is just minutes away and easily accessible on the trolley, with hundreds more options to choose from, while tourist attractions such as SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo ensure that there is something for the entire family during the day. Don't miss Balboa Park either, one of America's finest urban settings.
It is unfortunate that a more impressive nightlife scene has not enveloped the arena, and most fans will use their cars to get to a more interesting area of the city for their post-game libations.
The Gulls are averaging over 8,400 fans so far in their inaugural season, good for second in the AHL. That still means a lot of empty seats though, but still very impressive for this new club. The fans that show up seem knowledgeable and generally follow the play, though some have yet to figure out the etiquette rule of not standing up while there is action on the ice.
The arena is walking distance from Old Town trolley station, where a one-way ride is $2.50 and a day pass is $5, though you will need to buy a card for $2 to get the day pass. Most fans drive though, and pay $15 to park in the attached lot, more than at many NHL rinks. Budget-conscious fans can find free street parking in the neighborhood if they get there early enough. Getting out of the parking lot takes a bit of time, all the more reason to find a spot a few blocks away.
Inside the arena, the concourse is as spacious as you would expect for a venue nearing its 50th birthday, so it does become crowded during intermissions. There is a special club area underneath the concourse, with its own seating section near the glass in one end zone, but other than that, fans can sit anywhere.
All upper bowl seats are $18, while those in the lower bowl range from $26-$60. Note that there is a $3 facility charge added to every ticket. There is no reason to pay more for the lower bowl, as the venue is quite small with no suites, so even the last row is good enough for the game.
The problem here is that parking and food can be very expensive. You can easily spend $50 even if you buy the cheapest ticket, which is a bit much for AHL hockey.
The concourse walls are filled with photos of past events that necessitate arriving early and taking a walk around. A few famous sports figures that played here, such as Elvin Hayes and Bill Walton are shown, but most of the photos feature musicians that once performed here, including black-and-white shots of The Doors, Queen, and the Famous Flames. More recent artists, such as Taylor Swift, are shown in color. Most impressive about these is that the set list that was performed is listed in its entirety.
A banner honoring Willie O'Ree was raised during the Gulls' second home game in October 2015 for his 80th birthday. O'Ree was the first player of African descent to play in the NHL and later played for the original Gulls of the Western Hockey League between 1967 and 1974.
Because it has not hosted a Big 4 team since 1984, the Valley View Casino Center gets little national press, but that shouldn't stop you from going to see a Gulls game. The venue has a lot of history on display and is a throwback to an earlier time, when arenas were designed to be functional fan facilities rather than income generators for owners.
There are no crowd reviews yet. Be the first and help us build with your expertise!
3750 Sports Arena Blvd
San Diego, CA 92110
3725 Greenwood St
San Diego, CA 92110
5059 Newport Ave
San Diego, CA 92107
2965 Historic Decatur Rd
San Diego, CA 92106
3340 Sports Arena Blvd
San Diego, CA 92110
3888 Greenwood St
San Diego, CA 92110