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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

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

 

Beep! Beep!


The Tucson Roadrunners are enjoying their eighth season (2023-2024) in the AHL (American Hockey League) as an 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 2016 – 2017 season.  They play their games at the 52-year-old Tucson Arena.

Built in 1971, Tucson Arena is part of the Tucson Convention Center (TCC), which was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.  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. 

 

The Roadrunners share Tucson Arena with the Arizona Wildcats hockey team (University of Arizona) and the Tucson Sugar Skulls (IFL – Indoor Football League).  The Tucson Arena hosts other entertainment events, such as Monster Jam and Cirque de Soliel.  One of the biggest draws to the Tucson Convention Center is the Mineral and Gem Show, usually the first two weeks in February.


Food & Beverage 4

Tucson Arena provides a tempting offering of food choices during Roadrunners games.  Two permanent concession stands are to the left and right after entering the rink.  Several stand-alone food carts line the upper rim of the concourse.

 

Permanent concessions offer chicken BLTA (bacon, lettuce, tomato, and avocado) wrap, jumbo double cheeseburger, macho nacho, mouth-watering birria quesadilla, Sonoran dog, and turkey panini ($9 - $14).  Traditional stadium food and snacks like hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, soft pretzels, and the like are for sale ($7).  First Friday Specials include a $5 domestic draft beer and a $5 hot dog.


Stand-alone food carts along the concourse include DJ’s Filling Station (Tucson’s famous Sonoran hot dogs, hamburgers, brats - $8 - $9), Tucson Tamales ($6 - $12), the Pretzel and Churro Cart, and Mini donuts with four different toppings ($6/cash only).  Chick-fil-A sells their famous chicken sandwiches, other wraps, and salads at select games.  A Maui Wowi cart provides smoothies.


Pepsi products are the soda of choice ($5/$6/$8), and beer and alcoholic beverages are offered ($10 - $18).  Barrio Brewing Co. and Dragoon Brewing (local Tucson breweries) have beer carts on each side of the concourse that sell several of their own brews on tap. A cart offering beer and cocktails sits between the two entry doors.

 

It’s quite a nice selection with several local Tucson dishes.  We recommend the birria quesadilla (which fans can order vegan style) and a local brew.


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. I recommend the second level for a better view of the entire ice surface.   The seats are tight, have cupholders on the sides of the seats, and there’s enough legroom.   Sections are clearly marked, and helpful ushers are at the top of each seating area. 

 

Within the last few years, the city installed seating along the top of the U next to the announcer’s stage, added comfy-looking loge hospitality boxes at the top of multiple sections (only $40 a person/$160 total), and added a new party deck above the south goal.

 

The arena does not have a center-hung scoreboard.  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.  



 

Short ribbon boards (one to each side of the video scoreboard) show sponsors. Video boards were installed on the back of the camera wells which run a loop of upcoming events at the TCC.   

 

The temperature is okay; bring an extra jacket or sweatshirt, gloves, and hat if you tend to get chilly.  The person in charge of music plays it between every stoppage in play (quite common in hockey). The music is uncomfortably loud.  Bring earplugs if you are sensitive to loud music.

 

Game day promotions include chuck-a-puck, a 50/50 raffle, fan contests like musical chairs, pee wee hockey, and t-shirt tosses.  The Roadrunners have a variety of events throughout the season, including many giveaways and evenings like Comedy Night, Anime Night, $10 College Night, Kids are Free Nights, Harry Potter, Teddy Bear Toss, and more. 

 

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 that the lights are kept on between periods, though they are lowered a tad pregame.


Two Zambonis groom the ice; one looks like a mouse (sponsored by a critter control business).



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 pleasant 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), Miss Saigon Downtown (Vietnamese), or Empire Pizza & Pub (New York-style pizza).


Tucson offers several breweries near the arena.  Barrio Brewing, Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, and Iron John’s are 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.  


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


One hotel, Double Tree by Hilton Tucson Downtown Convention Center, is right next to the hotel, but it’s pricey.  We recommend Hotel McCoy about 2.5 miles from the arena.  It is a reasonably priced hotel and has all sorts of nifty items.


Other sports to see during hockey season include the Arizona Wildcats (University of Arizona) football, hockey, basketball, and baseball teams. 


Fans 3

Visitors see lots of Tucson and Coyotes jerseys.  Quite a few fans bring their cowbells 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.


The Roadrunners have averaged 3,500 – 3,750 per game since the pandemic, placing them toward the bottom of the AHL attendance numbers.


Access 4

Currently, quite a bit of construction is in process around the area.


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. A standard sports clear bag (14” x 16”) is allowed. Doors open 60 minutes before puck drop.  

 

Fans first enter a wide outer concourse which contains the merchandise table. Then, they enter the inner concourse through additional glass doors.


A visitor enters at the top of the concourse and heads down to the seating area. The seating areas provide handrails in the middle of the steps. Sufficient wheelchair-accessible seating is on the top of the seating bowl with good views of the action on the ice. Once inside, walking the concourse can get crowded between periods.  


Well-kept and clean bathrooms are at each end of the U, and downstairs on the bottom end of the U. 


Return on Investment 4

Single game tickets range from $17 – $79.  $39 will get you more or less at center ice, on the second level, and provides the best value for the game.  The Roadrunners charge an extra few dollars when tickets are purchased on game day.  Check for sections 203 and 205 (faces the penalty box) or sections 221 and 223 (faces the player benches).  Do not get seats in rows A or B.

Specials include plenty of group, flex plan, and 12-game ticket packages allowing a reduced fare.  Remember to look for 'kids are free' nights throughout the season.


Fans can find free parking downtown and concession prices are pretty reasonable compared to other AHL venues.


Though prices have increased since their first year in the AHL, it is still an altogether good investment of a fan’s sports entertainment dollar.


Extras 4

The merchandise area on the outer concourse is worth another mention.  There’s plenty of room to walk around and shop.  Spin the wheel at the promotions table and win tchotchkes like stickers, sunglasses, keychains, etc.

 



The TCC Plaza outside the arena was recently refurbished with new fountains, trees, flowers, and a garden.

 

A unique feature not that common in hockey rinks is that the players' benches are not long enough to fit the backup goalie.  They sit on a stool behind the glass where the players enter the rink.


Extra applause goes to the city of Tucson for continuing to maintain and update the Tucson Convention Center and the Tucson Arena.


Final Thoughts

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.


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