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  • Ryan Norris

Leavey Center – Santa Clara Broncos

Photo Courtesy of Pinterest

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14

Leavey Center 500 El Camino Real Santa Clara, CA 95053

Year Opened: 1975

Capacity: 4,500


Bronco Basketball

The Leavey Center is home to the Santa Clara men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams. Prior to renovation and being renamed in honor of the founder of Farmers Insurance, the Leavey Center was known as Harold J. Toso Pavilion. The uniqueness of the building I will highlight as both a positive and a negative in terms of atmosphere.

Santa Clara Broncos basketball’s greatest successes can be attributed to three different eras. First in the early 1950s when they reached the Elite Eight three consecutive seasons, making the Final Four once. Second was a stretch of three straight Sweet Sixteen appearances from 1968-70. Finally, the last proud era was a stretch in the mid-1990s when the Broncos made three NCAA Tournament appearances in the four years when eventual NBA MVP Steve Nash was their point guard.

The Broncos have won two minor postseason tournaments in recent years, winning the 2011 Tournament and the 2013 College Basketball Invitational.

Food & Beverage 3

The standard concession items are as followed: hot dogs ($4), nachos ($3), super nachos ($7), soft pretzel ($3), popcorn ($3), candy ($2), churros ($3), fountain soda (16oz for $2, 32oz for $3), bottled water and Powerade ($3), fruit ($1) and hot chocolate and coffee ($2). I think these are fair prices for the standard items, and below many of similar venues.

Other options include a cobb salad ($7), classic cheeseburger ($6) and a garden burger ($5).

There is only one concession stand which is behind the free-standing seating section. This setup is more than capable of handling the small crowds.

Atmosphere 3

The Leavey Center structure is one of the more unique in college basketball and has several positives and negatives associated with it. I certainly would not characterize it as a typical “gym” as it seems that they have created an arena within a larger building.

One of the pros is the glass wall façade on one side of the building. During afternoon games, this allows natural light to enter the building. Another pro is the seating itself. It looks like an outdoor venue inside an indoor venue. Third, it seems that the way the seating is setup allows for a loud atmosphere. With just limited attendance this place can get LOUD.

They have a four-sided scoreboard with video that is hung in the center of the arena. A new video board is at one end of the arena flanked by the Final Four banners of the men’s basketball team and the women’s volleyball team.

One of the negatives of the setup is the amount of seats with obstructed views. Most of this is alleviated if you sit in the lower levels but it is odd nonetheless. Second, the lights that hang so low from the ceiling can sometimes obstruct your view of the scoreboard or the banners. Lastly, it seems a little odd to have a banner of Steve Nash holding his MVP trophy about three times larger than the retired numbers adjacent to it. It’s tacky and distracting.

In the lower level, the student section and the end lines are bleacher seats and across from the students are the comfy seats. The first several levels of the upper level are reserved seating with chair backed seats. Everything above those are bleachers and general admission.

This is a beautiful building but just feels a little sterile.

Neighborhood 3

The Leavey Center is on the campus of Santa Clara University adjacent to Buck Shaw Stadium, former home to the San Jose Earthquakes. The campus is beautiful and safe. The surrounding neighborhood is mostly residential with some businesses catering to the college crowd.

A popular lunch and dinner spot is Ike’s Place which is walkable on The Alameda. Featured on “Man vs Food” this popular San Francisco sandwich place has expanded to several locations throughout the Bay Area including this one in Santa Clara. All of their sandwiches come with Ike’s secret “dirty sauce” and leave you completely filled. Lines tend to get long so I recommend downloading their free app to place your order ahead of time so you can just pick up and go.

Other walkable options are Wicked Chicken (wings and craft beer) and Pizza My Heart.

The Hut is a dive bars on the opposite end of campus. You can stumble from there to the burrito or Thai place on the same block.

The area is largely residential and not much of a party scene. Santa Clara is a main cog in the Silicon Valley so you’ll see commercial buildings many places. Leavey Center is across the street from Schott Stadium, two miles from Avaya Stadium, five miles from SAP Center and about five and half miles from Levi’s Stadium.

Fans 2

The fans who go to Broncos games are certainly engaged and loud but there are just not very many of them. The acoustics of the building, combined with the rowdiness of the student section make for an impressive sound but the experience is still left lacking. Perhaps checking out a game against rivals San Francisco or Saint Mary’s would be better.

Access 5

The campus is located between three major freeways: 101, 880 and 280. All of these allow easy access to surface roads leading to campus. These surface roads are well maintained and easy to navigate, even if it’s your first time in the area. The major parking lots for the Leavey Center are located right off the El Camino Real and are easy to get in and out of. Trying to avoid paying for parking? Street parking is just as easy, just watch for signs.

Getting to Leavey Center from the peninsula is easy via the nearby CalTrain station, from Sacramento via the Amtrak station and other parts of the Silicon Valley via the VTA 22 bus that runs down the El Camino Real.

There’s a gradual incline leading up to the arena with no major staircases to scale. Walkways are wide enough for several people to get through and once inside the corridors are wide open; claustrophobia deterred. Getting to the restroom, concession stands or your seat is a breeze in this beautifully laid out building.

Return on Investment 4

Everything is reasonably priced at Leavey Center, though you can choose to spend significantly more to enhance your experience. General admission tickets and parking start at just $10 each. Concessions are reasonably priced and a good option with limited options in the neighborhood for later-evening dining. The only reason this isn’t five stars is for the overall lackluster experience for a Santa Clara basketball game these days.

Extras 2

Santa Clara does a good job of acknowledging Bronco accomplishments from the past with their banners and retired numbers as well as the current scholarship athletes and a nice memorial for former player Nick Vanos who passed away in a plane crash at 24 years old.

Another point should be awarded for the sheer uniqueness of the venue with the beautiful windowed wall.

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