he America West Arena, The AWA, Purple Palace, House that Jerry built, call it what you will, but call the Coyotes' new home the best arena in the NHL! In a USA Today survey of NBA players, coaches, trainers, and GMs, the AWA was voted "Best Arena" for the second consecutive year with 154 votes. Next on the list? Madison Square Garden with 20 votes.
The Coyotes entered the league as the Winnipeg Jets in 1979, and the team has yet to capture again the glory days of the early 70s, when the Jets were World Hockey League champs with Bobby Hull on their front line. This is the team's first year in Phoenix.
The 19,023-seat arena opened on June 1, 1992 and is the home of the Phoenix Suns of the NBA. It will hold 16,210 seats for hockey games. The arena has hosted the 1995 NBA All-Star game, many concerts, arena football, indoor soccer and NHL exhibition games.
From the airport, follow signs to 24th St. North to Washington St. Left to First Ave. Left on Jefferson St. The arena is two blocks up on the right hand side.
America West Arena history
* First regular-season game: October 10, 1996 win over the San Jose Sharks 4-1
* First goal: October 10, 1996 by Chris King at 19:34 of the first period
October 10, 1996 - By Tony Cooper, San Francisco Chronicle
The Phoenix Coyotes, the NHL's lates foray away from cold climes and into the Sun Belt, make their home debut tonight at America West Arena against the San Jose Sharks. Like Anaheim, Tampa Bay, Florida, Dallas and even San Jose, Phoenix is one of those franchise locations, that had a hockey fan suggested it a few years ago, he or she would have been fitted for a strait jacket. Now, these organinzations are not only existing, but thriving at the box office.
The Coyotes have already sold 12,000 season tickets, with a ceiling of 12,500, and success at the gate seems assured. This is a far cry from the days when the team was the Winnipeg Jets, and survival was a year-to-year proposition.
A name-the-team contest resulted in Coyotes being chosen, and the Coyotes' team name and logo were unveiled on April 8, 1996 (at the Hard Rock Cafe, where else?). Chief Operating Officer Shawn Hunter likes the moniker because coyotes are "quick, clever and keen."
These days, of course, the logo and merchandising end of the deal might be more important than pikcing the players. Frankly, the Coyote logo is pretty bizarre - a Southwestern-accented animal dressed as a hockey player, splashed in colors of purple, brick, dark green, sand and black. It doesn't look much like a coyote, but if the mall rats walk around wearing jerseys and T-shirts emblazoned with the logo, it will work.
"I think they're great," said Coyotes right wing Mike Gartner. "They're going to be one of the hottest-selling jerseys in the league. When you first look at this, you think, 'Wow, that's wild.' Yet, the more you look at it, the more you realize this is a very aggressive, very unique jersey.
October 14, 1996 - America West Arena wins the dubious distinction of having the most ear-splitting public-address system in the league, cranking out music that will surely turn the Coyotes beat writers' ear drums to corn-meal by midseason. Come to think of it, one visit to the building might be enough.
However, the Coyotes have come up with one clever gag, which was repeating during the San Jose Sharks visit on October 10, 1996. They've been playing a few bars of the annoying omnipresent "Macarena" tune, only to interrupt it with an announcement that "America West Arena is a Macarena free building. Patrons found Macarena dancing
will be subject to arrest."
A nice touch. One observer's suggestion for next on the banned music list: The Village People's "YMCA".
March 1997 - Chris Nichol writes: You can't see about one quarter of the ice (including the net) from sections 117 to 123 and 222 to 232. In addition, sections 119 to 121 actually hang over one end of the ice ala right field in Tiger Stadium. In closely examining the first rows of seats in these sections you can see where they literally sheared off the concrete to create retractable seating for hockey. I don't know what long range plans are for hockey in the facility, but if you go, try to avoid these sections.
Amusement Business, November 1997 - Of all the National Basketball Association arenas, this city's America West Arena is arguably one of the best from a sight-line perspective. After all, the building was designed and contructed with hoops in mind.
Hockey, on the other hand, poses some problems.
"There are sight-line issues on the north end seats, especially in the upper balcony," said America West Arena President and General Manager Bob Machen. "That is a relatively small percentage of the seats. We put in an additional video board for those people. It has a camera angle not coming off of what's going on on the other video boards so they are seeing what is happening as the puck comes toward them. We also make sure the Coyotes are at the other end of the rink for the first and third periods so they can see their home team down at the other end with no problems. The only thing that's impaired, albeit a very important part, is the goal down at their end."
The affected seats are sold at a discount and in family four packs.
The arena, which got hockey when the National Hockey League's Winnipeg Jets moved south for the 1996 season, also this season became the sixth in the league to go to a seamless glass system. Machen said it cost $250,000.
"The Coyotes are excited we did that, which we did at their request," he said. "It's a tremendous enhancement for the spectators."
Wednesday, March 10, 1999
Phoenix, arena to unveil plan
PHOENIX (AP) -- The city of Phoenix and America West Arena officials plan to unveil a proposal Thursday that would fix the view from up to 3,300 seats, ensuring hockey fans can see both goals.
"There will be more than 17,000 seats with unobstructed views in the arena," Sheryl Sculley, the assistant city manager, said Tuesday.
Currently, fans in 4,200 of the seats can only see one goal when the Phoenix Coyotes play there.
Shawn Hunter, president of team, said he had not seen the proposal late Tuesday and couldn't comment.
He and Coyotes owner Richard Burke have said repeatedly they are committed to moving to a new arena planned for Scottsdale. In addition to the obstructed-view seats, they have expressed concern about lease terms the Coyotes say limit the revenue they can make through suites and arena advertising.
The first phase of the city's proposal would replace about 2,000 of the seats at a cost of $10 million. A second phase could replace an additional 1,300 seats and make other improvements.
Phoenix officials said the renovations would create different seat configurations for varying sporting events. They have recommended that the changes be made even if the Coyotes move to Scottsdale.
Sculley said the plan would be paid for through the arena fund already used to make improvements at the city-owned facility.
"The Coyotes are a great team to have downtown. We want them to stay downtown. We want them to stay at America West," Sculley said. "We hope this takes care of it."
THE ULTIMATE SPORTS ROAD TRIP
By: Andrew Kulyk & Peter Farrell
November 16, 2001
|America West Arena Ranking by USRT|
|Fan Support|| 7|
|Concourses/Fan Comfort|| 3|
|Bonus: Mike Tyson Sighting|| 2|
|Bonus: The Gorilla Mascot|| 1|
|Bonus: Adjacent to Ballpark|| 2|
|Total Score|| 54|
November 17, 2001
November 9, 2006 - America West Arena, originally built as the home of the Phoenix Suns, also became the home of the Phoenix Coyotes when this franchise moved here from Winnipeg in 1996. Additionally, the building also houses Arena Football's Arizona Rattlers and the WNBA Phoenix Mercury. As we shall explain, this venue is a basketball arena; it is configured as such, and as a result does not work well for sports or events requiring a larger surface.
The arena was opened in 1992, and for the Phoenix Suns, this represented a move from the Memorial Coliseum, just north of downtown Phoenix and still standing and open for business to this day. Seating just over 19,000 for basketball, America West Arena is part of downtown's new Copper District, which also includes Bank One Ballpark, office development, housing, parking and restaurants.
Outside the Venue
Getting to the arena is pretty easy, with a well laid out interstate system looping around the downtown core and wide parkway type downtown streets everywhere. Parking here starts at $10, but drops quickly less than a block away and $5 and even $3 lots were in abundance. Meters are not monitored at night, so snag a free spot if you can, and since streets are well lit and clean, things here are pretty safe.
The arena is bound on the north side by skyscrapers, east and west by parking, including a parking ramp built right into the complex, and south is where redevelopment is underway. Directly across the street from the south entrance are two VERY cool sports bars - "Cooperstown", Alice Cooper's eatery just full of sports and music memorabilia, and "Jackson's on Third". Both places have large outdoor patios and gathering areas to enjoy the terrific Arizona weather (we say "terrific" because it is November).
The signature entrance to the venue is on the northwest side, and here is a large public plaza with the ticket and will call windows, fountains, landscaping, benches. Both the Suns and the Coyotes present elaborate pregame entertainment out here to draw fans early for the festivities. Radio stations had their booths up, vendors selling souvenirs, a live band playing music all made for a nice way to begin the evening here.
All the concourses here at the arena recently underwent a facelift, and we could still see some of the construction dust evident in nooks and crannies. With terrazzo tile flooring, walls are all backlit in a soft blue, with futuristic looking silver panels on the ceiling and silver wall accents. Section signage is done to match. There is one escalator tower to take you to the upper concourse, and inside the "main" northwest entrance is a team store and a lobby, while not huge, providing ample entrance space.
That being said, we give a major deduction to the space afforded to the upper level concourse. Once you ride the escalator to the top, you step into a corridor which is not more than three people wide. Add these tiny concession stands with only two stations each, and that makes for massive long lines for food and drink. The upper level here is not much better than the orange level at the old Aud - we can't even imagine the chaos if this place had to be evacuated in a hurry. What were the designers of this venue thinking???!
Other than the standard fare, the one stand stand that did catch our eye was the "Southwestern Grill", offering Quesadillas among other local delicacies. The large and spacious concession stands are in the the lower concourse... the design and placement of these stands upstairs was almost an afterthought... "let the people in the cheap seats eat cake!"
Over 19,000 seats for basketball and 16, 210 for hockey, the seating bowl is colored in Phoenix Suns purple, except for a section of grey seats ringing the top of the 100 level in the west end zone. This area was recently renovated and is now part of a "Platinum Club". A four sided dot matrix scoreboard hangs in the center. And on all four sides of the rafters hangs video boards. Along all the balconies are collages of backlit ad panels which are poorly organized and make the seating bowl look busy. Between the lower and upper levels is a private level of 88 suites.
Our major commentary here concerns the seating configuration for NHL hockey. Because of the way this arena was built, it is configured for basketball, with a tight, intimate seating configuration. To reconfigure it for hockey, they remove the lowest seats at the one end zone and push the rink out into that direction. First of all, this means that the scoreboard hangs roughly above the blue line... (soooo Blue Cross Arena in Rochester!). Second, that means that the remaining end zone/corner seats in the 100 level and those above in the 200 level become obstructed. Fans sitting there can not see anything beyond the top of the face off circle. We are not talking about a few seats here... we are talking THOUSANDS of seats, including the new "Platinum" seats which are supposed to command top dollar.
They left Winnipeg for THIS???!!!
The Coyotes have the gall to actually charge money to fans to sit there.. granted, $9 and $21, but still, we were amazed that people would be foolish enough to actually part with their cash just for the privilege of sitting inside this building to see two thirds of a hockey game.
The new "Platinum Club" is located along the west endzone, and with wider, padded, grey seats, private concourse, restaurant, and in seat waiter service, the Suns were pushing their new club heavily. A couple of thoughts - being in the end zone, these aren't the premium vantage points to watch a game from, especially an NBA game. Second, for the NHL Coyotes this "club" is useless, for the seats corresponding to this premium area are all obstructed view.
The policy for NHL games on who gets to go in the club is still fuzzy, and the day after the game, we learned that season ticket holders were grumbling that they were not given access. The $21 seat holders were denied access. Who gets in the club, who doesn't? Depends on which usher you walk by and what kind of mood he/she is in, we guess. Bottom line - this whole club seat thing is ONE BIG MESS here in Phoenix.
On The upper level balcony opposite the"club" level are the names and numbers of several of the finest players ever to wear the Sun's uniform. Some of the names (with faces) are Dick Van Arsdale, Connie Hawkins, Alvin Adams, Paul Westphal, Tom Chambers and Kevin Johnson. These names and others are bookended by signs representing the Suns' two Western Conference titles in 1976 AND 1993.
No items of note for the Coyotes/Jets. Their WHA Avco Cups must still be sitting under the watchful eyes of Queen Elizabeth II at the Winnipeg Arena. However some of the dot matrix boards do scroll occasional facts and figures concerning the Coyotes/Jets franchise.
Slam Dunks... Assists.. Fouls
Slam Dunk, errr.. "Hat Trick" - Things get a bit better from here - the Coyotes use the Coyote "howl" as a mainstay of their cheerleading, substituting the "HOWL" in the "CHARGE" theme, using songs and video clips involving howls, all done very cleverly.
Hat Trick - Following a tradition started by the fans in Winnipeg, Coyotes fans in attendance at playoff games are all dressed in WHITE. What a great way of showing solidarity with the team! Props to Coyotes fans (and Winnipeg Jets fans!).
Foul - the location of the video boards is way high up, and out of your line of vision if you are looking at replays and the playing surface at the same time. Of course, if you are one of the wretched fools who shelled out $21 for a view of a blue line and a railing, then the video boards up high suit you just fine.
Slam Dunk, errr.. "Home Run" - Sandwiched in between these two games we managed to take in baseball's Arizona Fall League Championship Game at Scottsdale Stadium. Great minor league venue, a sunny 80 degree day, and the home team Phoenix Desert Dogs plate 7 runs in the bottom of the 9th to win the game in dramatic fashion, 12-8. Thanks to Ryan Eigenbrode of Major League Baseball public relations for the press credentials!
This is a striking building from the outside - attractive back lit marquees, flood lighting, beautiful public spaces, and all downtown, but the inside left us disappointed, from the tight upper concourses, to the lack of fan amenities to the "so-so" seating bowl. We do have to give props, though, to the Phoenix fans who back their Suns, and anything run by team owner Mr. Jerry Colangelo is usually done professionally and first class!
As far as hockey goes, we are sorry to be so harsh, but with this horrific configuration we have no choice but to rate this the WORST hockey venue in the NHL. There are plans for a new arena... at first there was talk for a venue in Phoenix, and then plans were drawn for the Los Arcos project in Scottsdale. That plan fell apart, but apparently now there is talk for ground breaking soon for the Coyotes new home in Glendale. Can the Coyotes go from worst to first in terms of their venue? Get a shovel in ground, get it built, and the Ultimate Sports Road Trip will be back to check things out!