Tucson Arena – Tucson Roadrunners
Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Tucson Arena 260 S Church Ave Tucson, AZ 85701 Map It
Year Opened: 1971 Capacity: 6,521
The Tucson Roadrunners are enjoying their fourth season (2019 – 2020) in the AHL (American Hockey League) as the affiliate of the NHL (National Hockey League) Arizona Coyotes. The team originated as the Springfield (MA) Falcons AHL team and relocated to Tucson, AZ before the start of the 2016 – 2017 season. They play their games at the 48-year-old Tucson Arena.
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 video scoreboard.
The Roadrunners share Tucson Arena with the Arizona Wildcats hockey team (University of Arizona) and the Tucson Sugar Skulls (IFL – Indoor Football League). Other events such as Monster Jam and Cirque de Soliel are also held in the arena.
Food & Beverage 4
Tucson Arena provides a tempting offering of food choices during Roadrunners games. Several new items have been introduced this 2019 – 2020 season.
New items at the concession stands include foot long desert dog ($11), pastrami sandwich stuffed in a pretzel roll ($12), Tucson caramelo (quesadilla), and turkey and chipotle bacon wrap ($10).
Stand-alone food carts along the concourse include DJ’s Filling Station (Tucson famous Sonoran hot dogs, hamburgers, brats – $8 – $9), Meyer Ave Taco Stand (street tacos – three tacos $9), the Pretzel and Churro Cart and new this season the Presidio Cocina featuring chili cheese tots, pork or chicken nachos, and tamales.
Traditional stadium food and snacks like a regular hot dog, macho nachos, popcorn, cotton candy, soft pretzel, pizza, and the like are for sale ($4 – $9.50). Mini donuts with four different toppings (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and neapolitian) go for $6.
Pepsi products are the soda of choice ($4.25/$5.25) and beer and alcoholic beverages are offered ($7.25 – $13). Three local craft beer-only carts (Barrio and Dillinger, for example) are down both sides of the concourse and a cart offering beer and cocktails sits between the two entry doors.
It’s quite a nice selection with several local Tucson dishes. When in town, go for either a Tucson favorite Sonoran hot dog or a Tucson caramelo and a local craft beer of your choice.
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. Sections are clearly marked and friendly, helpful ushers are at the top of each seating area.
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 show the shots on goal stat. They do announce the shots on goal after the end of each period.
The temperature is okay; bring an extra jacket or sweatshirt if you’re one who tends to get chilly. Music is played between every stoppage in play (quite common). There’s a DJ and many fans are unhappy about that as the music continues to play even after the puck is dropped.
Game day promotions include chuck a puck and fan contests between periods. Dusty, the mascot, wanders the stands and concourse giving fans (especially kids) high-fives. The Roadrunners have all kinds of events throughout the season including many giveaways and special events like Military Appreciation, Harry Potter, Teddy Bear Toss, U of A Nights and more.
Be sure to grab a roster sheet at the customer service table in front of section 214 on the inner concourse. It also shows the AHL standings. A surprising delight is the lights are kept on between periods; though they are lowered a tad pregame.
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 the 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 Senae 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 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 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.
Lots of Tucson and Coyotes jerseys can be seen. Quite a few fans bring their cow bells and ring them at appropriate times (though they don’t rival the AHL Colorado Eagles bell-ringers). The Roadrunners have a strong base of diehard fans and it helps when the parent club is just 130 miles northwest.
Average attendance the last few seasons has been in the 4,000 – 4,300 range per game which puts them in the lower third of AHL attendance.
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 eight 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 painless 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.
A fan enters into a wide outer concourse (it holds the merchandise area); then enters into the inner concourse through additional glass doors. Folks enter at the top of the concourse and head down to the seating area. Hand rails are provided in the middle of the steps. Plenty of wheelchair accessible seating is on the top of the inner concourse with good views of the game. Once inside, walking the concourse can get crowded between periods.
Well-kept and clean bathrooms are located at each end of the U as well as downstairs on the bottom end of the U.
Return on Investment 4
Single game tickets range from $13 – $61. $31 will get you more or less center ice, second level and provides the best value for the game. An extra $2 is charged when purchased day of game. Check for sections 203 or 205 (faces the penalty box) / 221 or 223 (faces the player benches) for this value recommendation. Do not get seats in rows A or B.
Group, flex plan, and 12 game ticket packages are also available allowing a reduced fare.
Free parking can be found downtown and concession prices are not so bad compared to other AHL venues.
Though prices have gone up since their first year in the AHL, it is still an altogether good investment of a fan’s sports entertainment dollar.
Keeping the lights on – not many indoor venues do that anymore and it’s quite refreshing at a Roadrunners game.
A unique feature not that common in hockey rinks – the players benches are not long enough to fit the backup goalie so he sits on a stool behind the glass just where the players enter the rink.
Although five years old, the renovations have made a remarkable difference in attending a hockey game at the Tucson Arena.
Local brews and food – it’s great to see the organization trying to incorporate the community businesses.
Visiting Tucson, AZ and watching an AHL Roadrunners game is an enjoyable experience and one worth checking out. It’s quite a nice facility in which to watch a hockey game.