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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

GCU Arena - Grand Canyon Antelopes (WVB)



Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

GCU Arena 3300 W Camelback Rd Phoenix, AZ 85017

Year Opened: 2011 Capacity: 7,000

 

It's Canyon Time

Grand Canyon University (GCU) Antelopes women’s volleyball team began in 1981 when they played in the NAIA (National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics). The team moved to NCAA D2 in 1993 as members of the Pacific West Conference. All GCU athletics began transitioning from D2 to D1 in 2013 as Western Athletic Conference (WAC) members.


The women’s volleyball team played in Antelope Gymnasium until the beautiful GCU Arena opened. The team made its first postseason appearance at the D1 level in 2022. In the past four years, the team has had more winning seasons than losing ones, and they look to continue this trend.


GCU Arena is a premier mid-sized sports venue which hosts GCU Antelopes men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams and other university events. It is conveniently located on campus in Central Phoenix.


Food & Beverage 3

GCU Arena concessions serve typical stadium fare at reasonable prices: Pepsi products, bottled water, Gatorade, candy, hot dogs, sausages, nachos, pretzels, etc. They provide a decent variety, enough to sustain you for a volleyball game. Prices generally run $3.50 - $6. The concession stands do not sell alcohol.


The arena has its concession stands on both the first and second level. The number 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 venue arranges the food stands nicely in the corners, and each has tables and chairs for sitting and enjoying food and beverages.



Atmosphere 4

GCU Arena, athletes, and fans provide a pleasurable day or evening for a volleyball match.


In volleyball, the winner of a match is the best of five sets. The first team to reach 25 points wins each set. The teams switch sides after each set. Coaches can challenge calls at NCAA volleyball matches.


At GCU Arena, fans can either walk onto the floor level and up to their seats (handrails are available) or take an elevator or stairs to the second level, and then walk down to the seats. Only the second level has wheelchair-accessible seating areas. The arena has comfortable cushioned purple seats with grey GCU across three sections on each court side. The seats are narrow, and the rows lack legroom. The arena layout opens three sides of the seating area at a volleyball match.


GCU Arena Seating, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


The arena has two boards in each corner on the far end of the court. One is a video board that shows crowd shots, the sets, sponsor messages, etc. The other corner board displays the set and match scores; the players game stats are above the score. A ribbon board above the side seats shows players, sponsor ads, the score, and other miscellaneous information. The arena pleasantly does not have a suspended center board making it wide open and easy to watch the band and fans.


The temperature inside the arena is comfortable. Shorts and a T-shirt are suitable, no need for a sweater or jacket.


A band and a DJ play music between stoppages of play. The Thundering Heard, the Antelope’s pep band, entertains the crowd, promotes the Lopes school spirit, and has the fans dancing in their seats throughout the match. Cheerleaders boost the school spirit with jumping, cheering, pom-pom waiving, pyramid building, and flips.


The team has a mascot dressed as an antelope named Thunder who wanders the stands pregame. He/she wears the number 49 for the year the school opened.


Neighborhood 3

Grand Canyon University is in central Phoenix. The area around the university is not considered the safest in the metropolitan area. The campus itself is perfectly harmless 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) sells BBQ items but check the dates and times it is open. Canyon 49 offers Mexican style fare on campus.


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 and introducing and promoting other sports in the Phoenix area.


Hotels are not close to the arena. We recommend driving four or five miles to midtown where the Hilton Garden Inn Midtown and a Hampton Inn are affordable places to stay.


Other nearby sports to visit during volleyball season include GCU men’s and women’s soccer, Arizona Diamondbacks, Phoenix Mercury, or even an ASU hockey game in nearby Tempe.


Fans 4

So far in this 2023 season, the GCU students and fan base have shown up in force for volleyball matches. Seven thousand showed up for their home opener; the matches since then have had 2,600 – 3,000 in attendance.


Grand Canyon University Student Section, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Similar to during a basketball free throw, fans are absolutely noisy when an opponent is serving but quiet as a mouse when a Lopes player has the serve. Everyone stands till the Lopes score a point for each set. The student section stands the entire time when sets are in progress.


And, of course, the engaging pep band and cheerleaders energize the crowd.


Access 4

GCU Arena is less than a mile off Interstate 17. Depending on the time of day and road construction, you may hit some local traffic. Park in the garage at N 33rd 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. ADA drop off and pick up is at 33rd Ave and Camelback Rd near the main entrance (just after the security booth).


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.


The ticket window booths could have been labelled more clearly to indicate which one to approach for group tickets, individual tickets, or Lope Nation Passes. I ended up at three different lines before finally getting to the correct one to purchase my ticket. Facing the booths, the one on the right is the one for single game tickets.


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.


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 does not offer closed captioning, though assistive listening devices are available at guest services.


The arena has plenty of restrooms which are spotless even after the match. My sister-in-law would approve. GCU Arena includes two family restrooms with changing tables, one on each level.


Return on Investment 5

Attending an Antelopes match is well worth the price. Five-dollar admission. Free parking. Concession prices no higher than $6. And even better, the Lopes offer several promotions.


A Lope Nation Pass is $50. Fans can attend all women’s and men’s volleyball and soccer matches and all baseball and softball games with this pass. That’s a fantastic deal if you live nearby and can get to at least ten games a season.


The team has a free Future Havocs Club for Lopes fans who are high school-aged and younger; it’s a fantastic idea to introduce future students to the college.


And the team offers group ticketing which allows groups of ten or more individuals in for free.


The games are entertaining and pleasant. It’s definitely worth the price of admission.

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Extras 3

The cost of attending a match is worth another mention. A student says a short prayer before the match. The music volume is perfect; enough to engage fans but not too loud where you can’t converse with your neighbors. Nicely done.


Unfortunately, the gift shop wasn’t open at the match I attended. I seem to remember it’s a decent one from other sporting events I attended at GCU Arena.


Final Thoughts

I never knew volleyball was such a big sport at the college level. I’ve always had a good time at any sporting event I attended at GCU. Fans are engrossed in the action and cheer the team on enthusiastically. If you’ve never been, it’s worth your sports entertainment dollar.


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