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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Footprint Center – Phoenix Mercury


Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Footprint Center 201 E Jefferson St Phoenix, AZ 85004

Year Opened: 1992 Capacity: 18,422

 

Mercury Rising

The Phoenix Mercury is a professional basketball team based in Phoenix, AZ, playing in the Western Conference of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA). The team is one of the eight original franchises of the 25-year-old league.

The Mercury is a successful team and has won three WNBA Championships (2007, 2009, 2014). Attending a Mercury game is a refreshing sports experience; it is still about the sport played on the court and not the other extraneous activities that occur at many major league sports events these days.

The team’s name, Mercury, parallels its brethren NBA team, the Phoenix Suns. The NBA team gets its name from the hot Arizona sun, while the WNBA team gets its name from the planet closest to the sun. The same business person owns both teams.

The Mercury play their home games at the newly renamed and renovated Footprint Center in downtown Phoenix. The venue also hosts the NBA Suns, indoor football IFL Arizona Rattlers, and other entertainment choices like concerts, WWE, boxing, Commissioner’s Cup, and more. The arena opened in 1992 as America West Arena and previously hosted the NHL Phoenix Coyotes and ECHL Phoenix RoadRunners hockey and professional indoor soccer. It has had several other names throughout the years. The venue underwent renovations in 2003 and, most recently, in 2020.

In July 2021, the teams’ organization partnered with Footprint, a plant-based fiber technology company based in Gilbert, AZ whose mission is creating a healthier planet by reducing dependency on single and short-term-use plastics.

Food & Beverage 4

Footprint Center provides an abundant amount of food choices, and the choices are much better than standard stadium food. Not all concessions are open for Mercury games. Even so, there’s enough to fill a hungry fan, albeit at high prices.

Some of the food choices include:

larder + the delta (yes – small letters – a local farm to table restaurant) offers mouth water entrees (various chicken offerings, po’boy sandwiches $12- $14 and snacks such as cauliflower, low country hurricane popcorn or fries ($6.50 – $9).

Benihana with yummy hibachi and poke bowls ($18) or sushi rolls ($13).

480 Grill and 623 Grill (traditional stadium food) are named after AZ’s area codes. They sell nachos, hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn, ice cream, and the like ($5.50 – $12).

Streets of New York pizza offers pizza – even a gluten-free choice, wings, antipasta salad for $8 – $15.

Wetzel’s Pretzels is a favorite and often has a long line.

All concessions and merchandise are cashless; remember to bring your credit or debit card.

One of the many benefits of the renovation is chairs and tables are now near the two new concourse bars where fans can sit and eat their meals or snacks vs bringing them to their seats.

If you’re planning on eating your dinner at Footprint Center, we recommend getting a bowl from Benihana. The aroma dazzles the smell sense and the portions are sizable (enough for two).

Atmosphere 4

The Phoenix Mercury provides a very fan-friendly environment with excellent sportsmanship on the court.

The 2020 renovations opened up the arena. Instead of just walking into an enclosed lobby, the seating bowl is now viewed from the entry area behind a huge lobby bar. The remodeling includes two corner bar areas on the concourse with drink rails and stools overlooking the court. Unfortunately, black drapes close off one of the corner bars for members of the Founder’s Club.

The arena has two levels of seating with suites in between; the Mercury close the upper portion. Footprint Center does a fabulous job at closing off that level so you don’t notice it is empty. Most lower-level sections go up to row 28 with visitors entering on row 20 and going up or down to their seat row. All seats have decent views with sections 114 and 115 at center court, facing the logo.

Two lines of closed captioning are displayed in all four corners between the two levels of seating on the ribbon board; none on the side or center-hung video boards. Closed captioning includes safety messages, the Star-Spangled Banner, game announcer (play of game), and other points of data. Nicely done.

Footprint Center Closed Captioning, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


A new center video scoreboard is hung high; it looks like it’s positioned more for fans in the second level. Being so high is nice for those in the first level as it allows the fans to watch the game; not the scoreboard. Other video scoreboards are above goal posts AND the sidelines so there are certainly plenty of places to look for the score, quarter, time, etc. Player stats are posted on the side video boards throughout the game.

Thankfully, the Mercury offers some but not a lot of in-game promotions as it’s about the game. A pep-squad / dance team, known as the Hip Hop Squad, cheers on the sidelines and performs on the court during some breaks.

The music volume is loud but not invasive and the PA announcer is easily understood. The temperature is cool and comfortable (a good thing for hot Arizona summers). Bring a long sleeve shirt or sweater if AC generally gets too cold for you.

The team shop is bland. It’s mostly Suns gear; not Mercury. It’s big and tidy with plenty of space to move and touch items. However, the merchandise is neither artfully nor prominently displayed in a manner that emanates ‘BUY ME’.

Neighborhood 5

Downtown Phoenix has a plethora of places to eat, drink, visit, and sleep. Two new dining restaurants in the area are Blanco Cocina + Cantina (Mexican) and The Ainsworth (upscale American restaurant and lounge). Old favorites like Majerle’s Sports Grill, The Arrogant Butcher, Crown Public House, and The Kettle Black Kitchen & Pub are still excellent choices.

If just wanting a beer pre or post-game, visit the Whining Pig. Craft beers in cans, bottles, and on draft, mead, wine, and cider are at a much more affordable price than in the arena.

Other things to visit near the arena are the Arizona Science Center, the Phoenix Police Museum, Heritage & Science Park/Historic Heritage Square, and the Phoenix Convention Center is just two blocks from the Footprint Center.

Other sports to see in downtown Phoenix during the WNBA season are the MLB Arizona D-backs and the IFL Arizona Rattlers. If you’re lucky, you can attend a doubleheader D-backs and Mercury game.

For places to stay, the Residence Inn is a block away. A Hyatt Regency and Hilton Garden Inn are a few blocks hike. The Hampton Inn and Suites is about five blocks away and may be a little more affordable than the others.

Some construction is still taking place in the downtown area so expect the city to close some intersections and/or place orange cones around them.

Fans 3

The Phoenix Mercury attendance generally ranks above the WNBA average and has averaged 8K – 10K fans per game this past decade. This number ranks them 1st – 5th in WNBA attendance over the last ten years. This 2021 season sees attendance dropping to about 5K – 7K fans per game (in part due to the COVID pandemic). Fans are approachable, friendly, and polite and do well in cheering on their team.

Access 4

Getting to and in and around Footprint Center is relatively easy. The best way to arrive is to take the Valley Metro Light Rail (your Mercury ticket includes the light rail ride). Get off at Washington and 3rd if heading west; Jefferson and 3rd if heading east. And, the light rail has a stop right at Sky Harbor Airport.

If driving is more your preference, the venue is close to both I-10 and I-17 (less than two miles off either interstate). Plenty of parking garages are nearby; the closest at the Center running $20. The Jefferson Street Garage is next door, at 3rd Street & Jefferson, and costs $15.

Plenty of places are available to sit and wait for friends outside the main entrance of the arena. More sports venues should do this. When entering the arena, expect x-ray machines like in the airport and metal detectors. The venue has the standard NBA bag-size requirements of 14” x 14” x 6”.

The concourse is not crowded for Mercury games; they were wisely widened as part of the 2020 upgrade and are comfortable to stroll. The restrooms are ample and clean.

Return on Investment 3

Single-game tickets run from $27 to $52 (plus Ticketmaster fees). Use the Phoenix Mercury App to access mobile tickets now. No more printed tickets. I couldn’t get the app to work but the helpful guest service rep was able to text me a ticket link.

Included in the price is a ride on the light rail. The prices are a little higher than other WNBA teams but you don’t have to pay for parking if using the light rail. Otherwise, parking runs from $15 – $20.

The Mercury and sponsors offer ticket deals during the season. All-you-can-eat seats, student discounts, and military and first responder discounts. Fry’s (grocery store) usually offers free tickets for select games if you purchase over $50 in groceries on a certain day. Be sure to check the Mercury website for these deals.

Concession prices are also higher though some selections are higher-end. It’s a nice venue, built more for basketball than other sports and the renovations make it much more appealing and fan-friendly.

Extras 5

Ease of access with light rail and partnering with Valley Metro deserves an extra mention.

Three WNBA championship banners hang from the rafters (2007, 2009, 2014), always a sign of a prosperous team.

The renovations certainly make a difference: from the ‘open air’ concept to new food concessions to four closed captioning points to corner bars and drink rails…All with the fans in mind.

The game day staff and guest services are helpful, friendly, and even Mercury fans in their own right. They certainly know how to make a fan welcome.

Final Thoughts

Attending a Mercury basketball game is an enjoyable afternoon/evening out. If you haven’t been to the arena in a while, come check out some summer hoops at Footprint Center. The renovations are impressive, the entertainment focuses on the game, and the organization’s personnel make you glad you are there.

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