GCU Arena - Grand Canyon Antelopes (WBB)
Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Grand Canyon University Arena
3300 West Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85017
Year Opened: 2011
The Grand Canyon University (GCU) is a Christian-based university in central Phoenix. Its spirited athletic teams are the Antelopes (Lopes), proud members of the NCAA D1 WAC (Western Athletic Conference).
GCU Arena, which opened in 2011 and expanded in 2014, is a mid-sized indoor arena. It is home to the GCU Antelopes (Lopes) basketball and volleyball teams, as well as other university-sponsored events.
While the men’s basketball team draws the larger crowds, the women’s basketball games are enthusiastically attended, especially when they play their in-state rivals, the ASU Sun Devils.
The GCU women’s basketball team began in 1988 in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (small college athletics). They moved to NCAA D2 in 1991, then transitioned to D1 in 2013 as a member of the WAC (Western Athletic Conference). While in D2, the team made the NCAA tournament six times.
Team colors are purple, black, and white, and it’s a purple party pre, during, and post game.
Food & Beverage 3
The arena has five concession stands. The number of them open during an event depends on the expected crowd. Two (on the second level) were operational at the game of this review, which was plenty. The food stands are nicely arranged in the corners, and each has tables and chairs to sit and enjoy food and beverages. One stand even has an outdoor patio deck which is great for warmer Arizona days and evenings.
GCU Arena Concessions, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Food choices are the traditional stadium fare: hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot dogs, bratwurst, walking taco, and chicken sandwich ($4.50 - $7.50). Snacks include pretzels, popcorn, nachos, ice cream, and more ($3.50 - $6). The menu lists the calories next to the food choices; you can decide if that’s a good thing or not.
Drinks are Pepsi products, bottles of water, and Gatorade ($3.50 - $4). GCU Arena does not serve alcohol.
It’s a decent variety, enough to hold you over for a basketball game.
GCU Arena provides an outstanding game day presentation and venue for Lopes women’s basketball games.
Cushioned purple seats (somewhat narrow) with cup holders surround the court on three sides. Legroom is adequate. The Thundering Heard Pep Band has a full bleacher section behind one of the baskets. Section 113 is center court facing the logo, though most presentations face the opposite section, 103.
A crisp, clear video board is in one corner. Another corner board displays the players’ game day stats and game score. Ribbon boards behind each basket also present the game score. The arena does not have a center scoreboard which fits in perfectly for this intimate arena. The ribbon board displays the players’ names and photos when the team takes the court. The boards do not offer closed captioning.
The very end sections (115 and 101) face the bleachers. Don’t sit there.
The students, cheerleaders, dancers, and Thundering Heard Pep Band provide most of the fantastic in-game promotions and entertainment. The dancers and cheerleaders number more than 25 and provide energy and enthusiasm throughout the game. Individuals do backflips across the court; they perform jumps, moves, and routines that layer up to three high!
The Thundering Heard members dress in purple and white overalls with one arm sleeve undone. The sound booth and the pep band orchestrate a perfect mixture of canned music and pep band music. The volume level is perfect.
A prayer is said before the game. On the day of this review, one of the cheerleaders gave the prayer.
Grand Canyon University is in central Phoenix. The area around the university is not considered the safest in the metropolitan area. The campus is perfectly harmless, comfortable, and pleasant.
Several fast food places are within 1,000 feet of the arena. The Quad Kitchen (across a grass area in front of the arena) just recently opened selling BBQ items. The university is planning to open an on-site restaurant called the Havoc House in the near future.
Off campus, we recommend visiting other neighborhoods for a bite to eat before or after the game. The Cracked Egg is a decent restaurant for breakfast or brunch just a few miles from the arena. Huss Brewing has a taproom and kitchen about three miles from campus.
When on campus, visit the Jerry Colangelo Museum right next to the arena. Jerry Colangelo was very influential in moving the Grand Canyon Antelopes from D2 to D1, as well as introducing and promoting other sports in the Phoenix area.
Other nearby sports to see during basketball season include Milwaukee Brewers spring training at American Family Fields. And, of course, visit other Lopes teams like men’s basketball and baseball.
For crowd enthusiasm and a packed house, the best games to attend are those against in-state rivals ASU Sun Devils. Over 6,000 fans pack the house for those games, and the environment is electric.
The biggest fans are the cheer dancers, cheerleaders, and Thundering Heard Pep Band. Other fans include alumni and student Havoc fans. Everyone stands until the Lopes score. It’s loud and there are not even a lot of people there. Before a Lopes foul shot, the crowd shouts “GCU Forks Up.” The place goes dead silent and fans raise their arms above their heads with index and pinky fingers raised.
The women’s basketball team generally draws less than 1,000 fans a game.
GCU Arena is less than a mile off Interstate 17. Depending on the time of day and what road construction is taking place, you may hit some local traffic. Park in the garage at N 33 rd Ave and Camelback Rd. You’ll pass through security before parking. Tell the guard you’re going to the game, and they’ll direct you to the garage. GCU does not charge parking fees.
The current rideshare lot is at the corner of Colter and 30th Drive for drop-off and pick-up, a few blocks from the arena.
The arena is about 10 miles from Sky Harbor Airport. Valley Metro provides public transportation to the venue. Bus route 50 has a stop right outside the building.
Fans pass through metal detectors prior to entering the facility. Clear sports bags (12” x 12” x 6”) are allowed. It’s painless, and the security staff is quite friendly and welcoming.
Fans enter a large lobby area and then take steps up a grand staircase to the second level. Fans can also enter on floor level and walk up to their desired seating area.
The venue is not the greatest for those needing handicapped seating or access. The facility has two elevators. One was closed at the game of this review. The escalators only go up. Handicapped/wheelchair seating seems to be only available at the very top of the second level. This may be one area to look at if the university ever decides to do another renovation.
The arena has plenty of restrooms which are sparkling clean.
Return on Investment 5
The price of attending a women’s basketball match can’t be beaten-- five dollars. And, it’s general admission, so you can sit wherever you desire. And move around. All GCU students with a valid student ID pass get in free.
Free parking and affordable concessions make this a fantastic game day or evening out.
Outside the arena is a grassy area called the Quad that usually has some event occurring before a basketball game. At the game of this review, a Mahalo Market was assembled which included tables and tents of many international crafts, wares, and food. The Quad Kitchen just recently opened and sells yummy BBQ and all the fixings. It is open weekdays 11am – 7pm.
Be sure to step into the Jerry Colangelo Museum and visit a statue of him just outside the entrance to the arena.
Lastly, all the staff are extremely helpful and make you feel welcome.
While the women’s team doesn’t draw the crowds the men’s team does, it’s a fun, affordable afternoon or evening out. Come join the purple party!