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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Tucson Arena – Arizona Wildcats

Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Tucson Arena 260 S Church Ave Tucson, AZ 85701

Arizona Wildcats Hockey website

Tucson Arena website

Year Opened: 1971 Capacity: 6,521


Bear Down, Rise Up

The Arizona Wildcats hockey team (University of Arizona) plays their home games at Tucson Arena. The arena is shared with the Tucson Roadrunners (American Hockey League) and the Tucson Sugar Skulls (Indoor Football League).

Built in 1971, Tucson Arena is part of the Tucson Convention Center which was added to the National Register of Historic Places a few years ago. It received a $22 million renovation in 2014 which included new bathrooms, lighting, seats, a revamped sound system, a new kitchen, and a video scoreboard.

Currently, the Arizona Wildcats play in the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) as part of the Men’s D1 in the WCHL (Western Collegiate Hockey League) conference. They hoisted their first WCHL championship banner earlier this 2019-20 season.

Before 1979, the team was a student-run sports club. From 1979 – 2011, the team became the Arizona IceCats and was a founding member of the ACHA. In 2011, the University of Arizona took over the administration of the team and changed its name to the Wildcats.

Food & Beverage 2

One of the two permanent concession stands is open for a Wildcats game. Only a few portable stands are open. This suits the lower attendance crowd.

Choices include macho nachos, regular nachos, hot dogs, pretzels ($4 – $9.50), and a few other snacks like chips and candy. Other munchies include kettle corn ($5), cotton candy ($5), and lemonade. Mini donuts with four different toppings (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and Neapolitan) go for $6.

Pepsi products are the soda of choice ($4.25/$5.25) and beer and alcoholic beverages are offered ($7.25 – $13). It’s certainly enough to get you by if you’re hungry.

Atmosphere 3

Seating is U shaped with rows of seats on three sides; the concourse is above the seating area and the game is in view the entire time when walking the concourse. The best seats are on the sidelines and I’d recommend the second level to get a better view of the entire ice surface. The seats are tight, have cup holders on the sides of the seats, and there’s enough legroom.

Pregame, the music is way too loud to be able to talk with your neighbor and this is a downfall to an otherwise decent game day experience of watching hockey.

No center-hung scoreboard is provided. Instead, a video scoreboard is on the top end of the U while a standard stat board is on the wall above the bottom of the U. Neither shows the shots on goal stat. They do announce the shots on goal after the end of each period.

The temperature is cool and gets colder as the game progresses. Be sure to bring extra layers.

Between periods, promotions include a puck shooting challenge and there’s a Chuck-a-Puck contest at every game where the winner gets some article, like a signed hockey stick.

There’s a minimal indication that the Arizona Wildcats play here. The 2018-19 WCHL championship banner and Kelly Walker’s retired #16 are proudly displayed. Otherwise, it’s all about the Tucson Roadrunners in this arena.

Neighborhood 4

Visiting Tucson is a treat. It is not as commercialized as the Phoenix area and it maintains much of its natural beauty by not building and destroying its land and natural settings and landscape.

The arena is downtown near El Presidio Park, the old county courthouse, and the Pima County courthouse. Several museums are within walking distance including the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art. Or, if it’s a nice fall day, walk the Turquoise Trail, a historical walking tour of downtown Tucson.

A good place for a pregame dinner within walking distance (1/2 mile) of the arena is the El Charro Café. Other places include The HUB (ice cream, food, and drinks), and Senate Thai Bistro (a good Thai restaurant a few blocks from the arena).

Tucson offers several breweries nearby the arena. Barrio Brewing, Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, Iron John’s, and Ten55 might be worth a visit if craft breweries are your thing.

Not within walking distance but worth visiting when in the Tucson area are the Mission San Xavier del Bac (founded in 1692), the Saguaro National Park (home to the nation’s largest and most abundant cacti), and taking a drive up to the top of A Mountain (Sentinel Peak) for a beautiful view. All of these sites have no admission fee but do require a vehicle.

The biggest event in Tucson is the Gem and Mineral show at the end of Jan / beginning of Feb each year.

A few hotels are within walking distance of the Tucson Arena with the closest probably the Ramada by Wyndham Tucson or the Downtown Clifton Hotel Tucson, though there are plenty of others in the city. Sometime in the future, a DoubleTree Hotel will be right next door to the venue.

Other sports to see during hockey season include the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL), Arizona Wildcats football, basketball, and baseball.

Fans 2

Not a whole lot of fans show up for Wildcats games, which is too bad as the players play hard. Crowds can be much larger when rival ASU comes to town.

“It’s all your fault” a goalie chant can be heard when the Wildcats score a goal. At the game of this review, a middle school band attended and played the national anthem as well as songs between periods which was pleasing.

Access 4

Currently, quite a bit of construction is in process around the arena due to a Double Tree hotel being constructed. Before attending check their website for road closure notices.

Parking is available right next to the arena for $10. Other lots and garages a little further away run $3 – $5. Street parking is available a few blocks away for free. Click here for a parking map.

Tucson has a Sun Link Streetcar service (a light rail) that drops fans off just a few blocks from the arena which is an alternative option to get to Tucson Arena for a game. The nearest airport is Tucson International Airport about 8 miles south of the arena. And, Tucson is about a two-hour drive from Phoenix.

Upon entering the arena, fans must go through a metal detector and security check. Backpacks and large bags are not allowed. At the date of this review, clear bags were not required when entering the arena, however, that will change. Beginning Jan 1, 2020, all events in the Tucson Arena will follow the standard sports clear bag policy. Doors open 60 min before puck drop.

Once inside, walking the concourse is easy as few fans attend Wildcats hockey games.

Well-kept and clean bathrooms are located at each top end of the U as well as downstairs at the bottom end of the U.

Return on Investment 4

Be sure to check promos on their website. And ask about them when purchasing tickets at the ticket office. This game was $3 for seniors and free for students with a CatCard (University of Arizona identification card). Some Thursday games include $2 beer or soda. Family 4-pack games are scheduled throughout the season where 4 tickets can be purchased for $24.

Tickets generally run $11 – $15; games against ASU (Arizona State University) are $2 more. Concession prices are what to be expected for an AHL-first arena. Parking can be found for free or at minimal prices. The best games to attend are against ASU as there’s some heated competition during those.

Extras 2

Be sure to pick up a single-page roster sheet of both teams when entering the rink. The middle school band was a delight to have and watch (they, or other bands, are not on hand at all games).

Final Thoughts

Congrats to the Arizona Wildcats Hockey team for their 2018-2019 WCHL Championship. The Tucson Arena is an extremely nice arena in which to watch ACHA hockey, just lower the pregame music volume several notches.

The 2020 ACHA Men’s Division I National Championships will be hosted March 19-24 for the second time by the Dallas Stars, Visit Frisco, and Children’s Health StarCenters at the Comerica Center, in Frisco, TX. Here’s hoping the Wildcats can visit Frisco in March.

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