Spanos Center – Pacific Tigers
Photo Courtesy of Bob E / Yelp
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71
Spanos Center 1178 Larry Heller Dr. Stockton, CA 95211
Year Opened: 1981
A Team in Transition
The Pacific Tigers basketball team is in the midst of a major transition. Bob Thomason, the team’s basketball coach for 25 years, retired in 2013. Thomason left as the team moved to the West Coast Conference (WCC) the same year. This move placed Pacific in a conference with all private schools and better teams such as Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s.
One constant during this transition has been the Spanos Center. The arena has been largely unchanged since it opened in 1981 and has seen five Tigers squads make the NCAA Tournament during that time. From 1981 to the opening of Stockton Arena in 2005, the Spanos Center was the premier entertainment destination in Stockton as the facility is expandable to accommodate 8,000 people.
Food & Beverage 2
There are two main snack bars in opposite corners of the venue as well as a smaller one beyond one end line. There should be enough to satisfy your hunger albeit without getting too creative.
Hot dogs ($3.50), polish sausages ($4.50), and personal pizzas ($6.50) are the main dishes. However chili plays a big role; chili dogs ($4), chili cheese dogs ($4.50), chili cheese nachos ($4.50-$5.50) or a plain old cup of chili ($2.50) are all available.
Pepsi products ($2.50-$3) and an array of candy and ice cream accompany the main courses.
Though the Spanos Center holds over 6,000 fans, 3,000 mostly chair-backed seats make up most of the seating area. The upper levels are rarely used and the lower levels provide a great view. The upper levels are entirely made up of bleacher seating.
There are scoreboards in three of the four corners, one of which has video capabilities. Unfortunately, it is used predominantly for advertisements.
My favorite feature is the nicely designed ceiling, centered over the middle of the court. Orange and black banners close in the action and the excellent public address announcer work in concert for a great experience. This is a great place to watch college basketball.
Stockton is consistently considered one of the most dangerous or miserable or depressing cities in the nation. In 2013 they filed Chapter 9 bankruptcy after they were hit hard by the housing crisis. All that being said, Stockton is slowly coming back a bit.
Though Stockton is known (at times, rightfully so) to being a dangerous city, UOP is located in an upscale residential neighborhood. Safety should not be a major concern.
Nearby Pacific Avenue is a great place to grab a bite to eat prior to a game. One of my favorite spots is Abbey Trappist Pub which has the best tap/bottle list in town. The tap list tends to skew local while the bottle list covers the best nation and worldwide.
Empresso Coffeehouse is probably the most noteworthy place on Pacific Ave. The excellent coffeehouse is in an old movie theater where they have events such as concerts and art shows. It’s a very unique coffeehouse experience.
Though there are nice places nearby, Spanos Center can’t take advantage of the beauty of the waterfront, unlike Stockton Arena or Banner Island Ballpark.
While I’d like to believe there is excitement with the school moving to the WCC, it is not reflected in the seats. Even if you only consider the lower level as capacity, the seats are only a quarter full.
The student section wasn’t too rowdy and the fans subdued. They certainly understand and appreciate the game but it wasn’t your typical college basketball experience.
I feel like Pacific has an opportunity to be a destination for college basketball fans. They are the only Division I program in the immediate area. The Bay Area and Sacramento schools are at least an hour away and Fresno is two hours south.
Spanos Center is located just a few blocks from Highway 5 and two miles from 99. Getting from the freeways is easy through safe city blocks.
Take main drags Pershing or Alpine to the convenient (and on this night, spacious) parking lot. Parking in the designated lot costs $5 but there is easy street parking nearby as well. You can enter the arena from two of the four corner entrances.
You enter the Spanos Center at the top of the first level and the bottom of the second level. Restrooms and concession stands are at every other corner when you make your way around the court.
Return on Investment 4
A night at Spanos Center is a great buy with general admission going for $10 and assigned seating for $14. The assigned seats are in chair-backed seats. Premium games jump out to $14 and $20 respectively.
Considering the increased level of competition and affordable parking and concessions, this is an easy, fun night out.
I love the feel in Spanos Center; I just wish there were more fans there. The banners on one end of the court honor the league championships from every sport for men and women in Pacific history. Below these banners are retired jerseys from all the programs as well. Most notable of which is former number one overall pick, Michael Olowokandi.
At the other end of the court are banners signifying accomplishments at the national collegiate level; for example, NCAA tournament appearances by the basketball and swimming teams. Most dominating amongst these are the two National Championships for women’s volleyball from the 1980s.