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  • Writer's pictureDave Cottenie

SAP Center – San Jose Sharks

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

SAP Center at San Jose 525 W Santa Clara St San Jose, CA 95113

Year Opened: 1993

Capacity: 17,562


The Shark Tank

With his move to the Los Angeles Kings, Wayne Gretzky opened up the Sun Belt to the National Hockey League. Although the Kings had played in LA long before The Great One arrived, the NHL was no more than an afterthought anywhere south of St. Louis. The failure of the Oakland/California Golden Seals seemed to cement the idea that hockey was pretty much a northern sport. However, with the success that the Kings enjoyed and the pageantry and attention that accompanied Wayne Gretzky the idea that hockey could make it in the south gained momentum.

The first stop for the NHL after the explosion of popularity that the Kings enjoyed was San Jose, California. The Sharks ushered in a new era of hockey as an expansion team in 1991 with their non-traditional teal and black color scheme. The first home for the Sharks was the Cow Palace in San Francisco. The home was temporary until the San Jose Arena could be completed in the untapped sports market on the edge of the rapid growth of Silicon Valley. San Jose Arena would go through a number of different names including the HP Pavilion at San Jose, before the current naming rights agreement was completed rechristening the arena the SAP Center at San Jose.

Expansion hockey was brought to San Jose by former Hartford Whalers owner, Howard Baldwin. The NHL would create a deal where the shares of the Minnesota North Stars were swapped to Baldwin by former Seals owners Gordon and George Gund who would oversee the birth and growth of the newest team. In 2002, the Gunds sold the team to San Jose Sports & Entertainment Enterprises which is currently controlled by SAP founder, Hasso Plattner.

Food & Beverage 4

SAP Center concessions are solid. All of the regular arena items are available at multiple stands, but there are plenty of spots to find something a little different. Konjoe Burgers has a variety of burgers including a chopped Pastrami burger and angry chicken sandwich as well as OG Duck Fat Fries. Launch Test Kitchen offers a variety of Mexican options including tacos and tamales. Cream has handcrafted and warm ice cream sandwiches. The Hula Truck offers a variety of Hawaiian options including the Bayritto and Pineapple Sausage. There are some concession stands in the upper level with some seating as well.

There is a wide variety of alcoholic beverages also available. Coors Light and Modelo are the main beers that are available throughout. Coca-Cola products are the soft drinks that are available at the arena.

Atmosphere 3

It is a little strange how SAP Center still seems like a new building, yet it is nearly three decades old. In reality it is the fourth oldest building in the league. The exterior of the building does show some innovation for the time with large windows in the corners to let in some natural light, a feature lost on older arenas. The exterior features some grey, metallic siding that gives the building a bit of a futuristic look that remains to this day. Massive billboards on the side of the building that do not advertise anything having to do with the Sharks, however, are more of an eyesore than anything else. The plaza on the opposite side of Barack Obama Blvd. features a number of palm trees which are wrapped with Christmas lights and illuminated for fans after the game.

The design of SAP Center mimics that of the former home of the Detroit Pistons, The Palace of Auburn Hills. Upon entry, fans are greeted by massive staircases and escalators which gives fans the opportunity to ascend to the main concourse. Like the Palace, the SAP Center features a single concourse with stairs to both upper and lower decks. The main merchandise store is almost hidden away on the ground floor, beneath the main concourse and is easily missed. The concourses do not offer too much in the way of excitement however, there are a number of LED ribbon boards, which is pretty unique for a concourse and the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame plaques are on the inner walls of the concourse and do spark some interest for those exploring.

The seating bowl inside the SAP Center is two main levels that feed from a single concourse. The ice surface runs from north to south. The northeast corner of the ice is where the players enter, through fog and a large shark mouth, which has been the calling card of the team since its inception. The west side of the ice is the spot to be in for that perfect center ice logo picture. The state of the art, crystal clear, video board hangs above the ice surface and is as good as any other in the league. At the south end of the arena hang the banners for the Division titles the Sharks have earned as well as banners honoring Gordon Gund III and Doug Wilson. No numbers have been retired.

The gameday production is on par with other settings. When the Sharks go on a power play, the theme from Jaws inspires the crowd and they do some chomping actions with their arms, similar to what they do in Florida for the Gators. A unique feature in the SAP Center are the LED lights attached to all of the armrests in the arena. Some teams ask fans to log into an app where the production staff can take control of their phone flashlights, but the lights on the chairs take those actions to the next level without controlling the smartphones of their patrons.

Neighborhood 3

SAP Center is located just south of the Autumn Montgomery neighborhood of San Jose. It would be considered on the western edge of Downtown San Jose, but with the SAP Center surrounded by parking lots and Highway 87 bisecting downtown, fans will need to hop in the car to be in an area where there are things to do and place to eat. Scott’s Seafood and Henry’s World Famous Hi-Life are spots to consider.

San Jose is sneaky big, with the 10th highest population in the United States, and a larger population than Bay Area brothers San Francisco and Oakland. It is the heart of Silicon Valley and there are a number of huge tech companies in the area. Maybe checking out the Apple visitors center would be of interest. The Tech Interactive and San Jose Museum of Art are also downtown along with the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts. For fans wanting some more sports, San Jose State University is just east of downtown. The Spartans play football at CEFCU Stadium and basketball at Provident Credit Union Event Center. Minor League Baseball’s San Jose Giants can be found at Excite Ballpark and the San Jose Earthquakes of MLS play at PayPal Park. For fans who just want more hockey, the Sharks’ AHL affiliate, the San Jose Barracuda have opened a brand new facility at Tech CU Arena.

There are plenty of hotel options downtown including The Westin San Jose and San Jose Marriott.

Fans 3

The days of the Sharks dominating at the turnstiles have left the building. So far, in the 2022-23 season, the Sharks are drawing over 14,000 fans. The previous year they drew just over 12,500 fans. This is good for 29th and 28th in the NHL respectively. The capacity of the SAP Center is over 17,000 so the potential is there for the Sharks to dominate the landscape again, but a bit of a rebuild has kept some of the fans away. What the future holds for the team for the rest of the season remains to be seen, but there is definitely room for improvement here. Sharks fans do know their hockey and are more than able to get loud when the time is right.

Access 4

Getting to SAP Center is not too difficult. Located just north of the confluence of Highways 87 and I-280, it is pretty easy to get there by car. There is plenty of parking in the immediate area, but it is still worth the effort to pre-purchase parking for certainty when getting to the arena. For fans who wish to take public transit, VTA buses run on W Santa Clara Street, south of the arena. The train station and light rail are very close to the arena as well. Fans should check out the Valley Transportation Authority website for fares, maps and schedules. The washroom facilities are decent at SAP Center. The main detractor, however, is the sheer volume of stairs. When fans enter, they ascend a set of stairs to get to the main concourse and then ascend to get to the upper bowl or descend to get to the lower bowl. This design does not seem to be in use anymore.

Return on Investment 5

According to the Fan Cost Index of 2022, the San Jose Sharks are one of the most affordable experiences in the NHL. The Sharks are the 28th most expensive experience. Tickets can be found as low as $16.50 and can climb up to over $400 for premium seating. Concession items and parking are pretty average for the league. The gameday experience is solid and fans will no doubt have a good time attending a Sharks game.

Extras 3

An extra mark for the influence that the San Jose Sharks have had in the merchandise department as well as in the Sun Belt.

An extra mark for the unique and iconic pre-game entrance of the players through the mouth of the Shark.

An extra mark for the underrated nature of the city of San Jose.

Final Thoughts

The San Jose Sharks are a great experience for all NHL fans. Their influence throughout the 90’s is undeniable and they have had great influence opening up the southern belt to NHL hockey. A trip to the Shark Tank will be a memorable one for hockey fans everywhere.

Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and on Instagram.

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