Itinerant Fan

Talking Stick Resort Arena

The multipurpose arena that anchors the entertainment scene in so many large American markets, while by and large a more than suitable venue for any sort of event you can think of holding indoors, can sometimes give the basketball fan a bit of a short shrift. The larger dimensions needed to accommodate an ice surface for hockey translates to a smaller percentage of right-alongside-the-court seats for basketball — nothing tragic by any means, but when the arena is set up for basketball, you’ll notice a fair amount of dead space up close.

But when the arena was designed primarily with basketball in mind, you’ll see the difference right away — more intimate seating, better sight lines and even the farthest seats seem pretty close to the court. Talking Stick Resort Arena in Phoenix (once known as US Airways Center and America West Arena) is a prime example of this. Even as a fan, you’ll notice the footprint of the arena is smaller than the typical multipurpose facility, and a full lap around the concourse can be done in a jiffy. (It’s not so great if a hockey team decides later on to move in, as the poor Coyotes found out.)

The arena has served the NBA’s Suns quite well over more than 20 years of existence, and when the team is doing well, excitement over Phoenix’s original pro sports franchise is as high as ever. I visited as the Suns were fighting to stay in the playoff race, taking on the Hawks in a late-season matchup.

  •   The Approach

    The arena has a prime spot in downtown Phoenix, a block away from Chase Field in what they call the Legends Entertainment District (why it needs that name is beyond me — isn’t “downtown” enough to suggest that it’s a good place to find things to do?). Phoenix’s downtown isn’t difficult to find (just look for the tall buildings) nor difficult to navigate, with an impressive devotion to the rectangular street grid observed throughout the region. Although the area is accessible from both Interstates 10 and 17, which criss-cross each other to form a rectangle around downtown, exiting Interstate 10 at 7th Avenue (or 7th Street, which is a completely different exit and street another mile to the east — OK, so the street grid CAN be a bit confusing) and then proceeding south to Jefferson Street, then heading east a few blocks to the arena. If you use 7th Street instead, head west on Washington Street, one block north of Jefferson, to get yourself to the arena. Both 7th Avenue and 7th Street have exits off Interstate 17 as well.

    Once you’ve gotten yourself in the vicinity of the arena, parking isn’t difficult to find, but you do have options. It has its own parking structure, attached to the building’s west side, and there’s also a sizable structure across the street to the east, occupying the block between the arena and Chase Field. Drive along Jefferson and Washington streets and you’ll see plenty of parking lots being advertised, with prices ranging from $8 to $15 depending on how close you are. For this visit, I parked at CityScape, an office-slash-retail complex a block to the north, for $10 and walked over without much of an issue.

    Light rail is also a viable option if you’re coming from the suburbs — Valley Metro operates a line that passes right by the arena. Get off at 3rd/Jefferson or 3rd/Washington, depending on which direction you’re coming from. Either way, you’re walking no more than a block.

  •   The Build-Up

    Booking.com

    Downtown Phoenix is usually a lively place, especially after dark when the locals who have spent all day seeking relief from the 100-degree temps come out to enjoy the fact that it has cooled down. To that end, there are plenty of good spots to take in a bite or a sip before tipoff, all within a radius of a couple blocks. The area is usually pretty lively for Suns games and even more lively for Diamondbacks games, likely because there are just more people going to baseball games.

    Two restaurants of note for the first-time visitor to check out: Alice Cooper’stown, on Jackson and 1st streets just south of the arena, and Majerle’s Sports Grill, a block to the north on Washington and 2nd streets. The former, operated by the shock rocker (a very visible member of the Phoenix community) is your typical sports bar with bar-type food that has a solid reputation — and generous portions. The latter, owned by a beloved former Suns player, boasts much of the same qualities, so as a sports fan you likely won’t go wrong with either. But they are far from the only options in the general vicinity, which is full of restaurants and bars.

  •   The Ambiance

    Since we talked up the enhanced ability to walk the concourse and explore, you might as well do so. There’s a lot to see and sample — perhaps surprisingly so — and a more intimate space doesn’t mean there isn’t enough room to maneuver around.


    Find Talking Stick Resort Arena tix ยป

    Most people make their way in through the Casino Arizona Pavilion on the northwest side of the arena, on the inside of a large plaza that faces the street (see the photo at the top of this post). There’s also a big entrance on the east side, near an outdoor bar/patio and the set where the local Suns broadcasters do their pregame show. But once you’re inside, the arena looks like any other in terms of layout. It’s easy to see your food and drink options, which include the usual burgers, hot dogs and macrobrews, but two items in particular caught my eye: One stand that served tortas (think meat that normally would go in a taco, served instead as a sandwich), and another that served freshly fried donuts. And, well, I’m a sucker for fresh donuts — I got a two-pack that included one with purple and orange sprinkles, the colors of the Suns. I highly recommend them.

    Once you’re inside the seating bowl, the intimacy of the place shines through. I had a seat right at center court, six rows up in the upper deck, and I felt like it was the perfect vantage point — you could see every play on the court unfold in front of you. But having sat behind the baskets in a couple previous visits a long time ago, I can profess it’s the same no matter where you are. The experience is enhanced by two large video screens, one behind each basket, and a serviceable center-hung scoreboard.

    The Suns do a pretty good job with the in-game experience as well, anchored by the unique Gorilla mascot (don’t go anywhere in the break between the third and fourth quarters lest you miss the trampoline slam dunk routine the Gorilla and a few of his helpers perform every game). And on this night, the product on the court looked pretty good to the home fans … at least for three quarters. The Hawks, who came in with one of the league’s best records, rallied in the fourth quarter to knock off the home team. At least for a while, though, there was plenty to cheer about, and there was no doubt everyone in the house had a pretty good vantage point for all the action.

The Particulars

Home Teams
Phoenix Suns

Address
201 E. Jefferson St.
Phoenix, AZ 85004

Year Opened
1992

Capacity
18,422

Upcoming Events
All times local
Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns
Thursday, December 21, 2017
7:00 pm
Get tickets at SeatGeek »

Minnesota Timberwolves at Phoenix Suns
Saturday, December 23, 2017
7:00 pm
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Memphis Grizzlies at Phoenix Suns
Tuesday, December 26, 2017
7:00 pm
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The Comedy Get Down Tour with Cedric the Entertainer and D.L. Hughley and Eddie Griffin and George Lopez
Thursday, December 28, 2017
8:00 pm
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Philadelphia 76ers at Phoenix Suns
Sunday, December 31, 2017
6:00 pm
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