Desert Financial Arena - Arizona State Sun Devils
Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Desert Financial Arena 634 E Veterans Way Tempe, AZ 85281
Year Opened: 1974
The Arizona State University Sun Devil basketball team participates in the Pac-12 conference and plays their home games at the seasoned Desert Financial Arena, formerly called the Wells Fargo Arena, and the ASU Activity Center in Tempe, Arizona.
Opened in 1974, the arena hosts not only Sun Devil men’s and women’s basketball but also the volleyball, wrestling, and gymnastics teams of ASU. Concerts, graduations, and shows also fill the stands at the venue.
The ASU men’s basketball team has appeared in the NCAA Tournament 16 times (most recently in 2018-2019) including three Elite Eight.
Though team names have changed, the school colors have remained maroon and gold since 1898. The school team name began as Normal (1885 – 1921), changing to Bulldog (1922 – 1945), and then switching the name to Sun Devil during Phoenix’s growth after WWII. I have been told Sun Devil is not just the name of the university’s sports teams. Nor is it strictly the name of a person involved with ASU athletics. It’s everyone who has ever attended ASU.
Food & Beverage 3
Desert Financial Arena provides standard sports venue concessions. Nothing out of the ordinary but enough to satisfy a hungry fan.
Several permanent concession stands dot the concourse. They offer super dogs, bratwurst, nachos, pretzels, popcorn, cotton candy, peanuts, candy, etc. Prices range from $5 – $11. Coca-Cola is the soda of choice and runs $6 – $25 (for a refillable cup).
Chick-fil-A ($8.50 for a sandwich – very pricey for just the sandwich), Blue Bell ice cream ($4 – $10), old-fashioned kettle corn, and old-time lemonade have carts on the concourse selling their wares.
Beer began being sold at the college arena beginning the 2018-2019 season. Offered at separate tables throughout the concourse, cans of Coors, Coors Light, Miller, Four Peaks, Henry’s Sparkling Water, and wine run $9 cash or credit.
Honest, with all the tremendous numbers of restaurants just a block or two or three away in Tempe, skip eating at the arena and spend your refreshment money in downtown.
A decent merchandise shop is at the east entrance for souvenir needs including hat pins, pennants, jerseys, and shirts.
Attending a men’s ASU basketball game is an absolutely, enjoyable few hours of sports entertainment.
A perfect-sized, center-hung video scoreboard shows game replays, score, time, half, time outs left, and fouls. Two matrix boards hang from the ceiling on each end of the court which shows player on-court stats.
Two levels of seating are provided with a walkway between the two.
Fans enter the walkway. The lower level runs up to 22 rows with the row closest to walkway #22. The upper level begins at about row 23 and increases up to about row 43. Handrails are not available on any of the stairways so for those with step concerns try to get a seat in row 22. There are, of course, wheelchair and handicapped areas. All seats are red, fold-down stadium-style seats with no cup holders.
Player banners, team championships, and year to the NCAA tournaments for all ASU sports (wrestling, volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball, gymnastics) hang from the ceiling.
At half time and during time outs, Sun Devils history trivia is displayed. For example, the video board will show the stats of athletic alumni, and fans need to guess who it is. Cheerleaders (now called the spirit squad) perform during breaks and halftime. Promotions are not overdone as the focus is on the game.
The exterior is cement, though not bad looking, and has beautiful southwestern landscaped outdoor walkways and plaza areas (palm trees, cacti, palo verde, etc). Plenty of benches are available to sit and wait for friends or the gates to open. More venues should do this.
Arizona State University has one of the best neighborhoods for its athletic facilities. Desert Financial Arena is located directly next to Sun Devil Stadium (ASU football), and the majority of the rest of its athletic facilities are right in the same area in Tempe.
Downtown Tempe is just a short walk away, and is the place to go pretty much all the time when you’re at ASU, but especially on game days. Whatever kind of food or atmosphere or price is desired, downtown Tempe has it. It’s one of those places where one could go to a different restaurant or bar before every ASU basketball game and still not see everything by the end of the season.
Snooze an AM Eatery is always a good place for breakfast/brunch, as is Chompie’s Restaurant. A Buffalo Wild Wings is close by. Devil’s Advocate Sports Grill is certainly one of the more popular options among ASU fans. Less than a mile away (or one light rail stop) is Mill Ave home to all varieties of restaurants and bars. Four Peaks Brewing, Sleep Dog Saloon & Brewery, and The Beer Shop are 1 ½ – 2 miles from the arena.
About a mile northeast of Desert Financial Arena is Tempe Marketplace, which has even more restaurants and shops, as well as a movie theater.
Hotels within walking distance of the arena include Residence Inn by Marriott Tempe Downtown/University, Tempe Mission Palms Hotel, and Conference Center, or Courtyard by Marriott Tempe Downtown. There’re plenty more to choose from just a light rail stop or two away.
Other things to see or do in Tempe include the Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Gardens, and the Arizona State University Art Museum. Other sports to visit during basketball season in Tempe include Sun Devil football and baseball and spring training at Tempe Diablo Stadium or Sloan Park. A little further away, basketball fans can visit the Talking Stick Resort Arena and see the Phoenix Suns, or just a tad north visit Grand Canyon University Antelopes basketball at Grand Canyon University Arena.
Fan attendance and enthusiasm have grown tremendously since the hiring of coach Bobby Hurley in 2015. Average attendance for a men’s basketball game in 2015 was 5,807; in 2018 that number grew to 10,538 and it doesn’t appear to be digressing. Cheering and groans can be heard for the duration of the game depending on the Sun Devil's action on the court. Chants of “Let’s Go Devils” and “A-S-U” erupt throughout the 40 minutes. Fans stand and cheer for the first two minutes of the first half and at least one minute of the second half.
The student section called the 942 Crew, sits behind one basket in sections K – P (K1 – P1 on the upper level). A large pep band is a focal point of the section. And, the fans in the student section do what they do: hold up poster faces of people, wave colorful foam sticks/tubes, and make noise when an opposing player shoots a free throw. The ASU student body has embraced a tradition called the Curtain of Distraction.
Individuals (sometimes famous stars) come out from a portable black curtain in colorful colors (or minimal clothing) and make moves an opposing shooter would surely be distracted by. It’s crazy funny and such a hoot to watch.
Getting to and around Desert Financial Arena is relatively easy and it is close to the interchange of Loop 101 and Loop 202. Take the Rural/Scottsdale exit on Loop 202. Two garages are within a block: one on Packard Dr (northeast side of the arena) and the other off E Veterans Way near S College Ave and 6th Street. Parking is $10 for a men’s basketball game.
An excellent option is to take the Valley Metro Light Rail ($4 for an all-day pass/$2 for seniors) and get off at the Veterans Way/College Ave stop. Walk a block east past Sun Devil Stadium to the arena. Easy. Uber/Lyft drop off and pick up is at the west entrance on E Veterans Way – the same side as the light rail. The box office is on the west side as well.
The City of Tempe offers free rides via their Orbit Shuttle service with stops adjacent to the Valley Metro Light Rail stop.
The nearest airport is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, about a 15 min drive to Desert Financial Arena. Fans can take the Valley Metro Light Rail directly from the airport to the arena and downtown Tempe.
Concourses are plenty wide but can still get congested at halftime during games when the crowd is at full capacity.
The clear bag policy is enforced here, as it is at all ASU sports facilities. They looked seriously at my bag but getting through security is not an issue when bringing acceptable items.
Return on Investment 3
Ticket prices range from $10 – $75 depending on team and seat location, with prices going up drastically for instate-rivals Arizona Wildcats games. Parking is $10 for games and Light Rail service is $4. It is an enjoyable game day experience so the bang for your buck is worth your sports dollar entertainment.
Arizona State University Sports Hall of Fame – Photos are affixed to the concourse walls honoring all ASU athletes who made a difference. Trophy cases adorn parts of the concourse featuring the many accolades of the ASU sports teams.
Staff – The folks at the box office, usher(s), merchandise attendants, and concession staff are all extremely pleasant and helpful. Some other sports venues should take lessons from this support team. Well done.
The curtain of Distraction – Look for them below the student section during the second half. It’s hilarious.
Prohibited Items – The current logo for ASU is a pitchfork developed by Nike in 2011. On the list of prohibited items is a pitchfork (metal, wood, plastic). Not sure how many other basketball venues can claim *that* as a prohibited item.
While football at Arizona State University is still the predominant sport, the basketball team is making a name for itself. Visiting the Desert Financial Arena is quite an entertaining afternoon or evening out so if in the Phoenix area, make an effort to check it out.