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Top Ten: Sports Venues

“Sports do not build character, they reveal it.” ~Heywood Broun

Arizona has many excellent venues in which to experience your favorite spectator sports, from baseball to basketball and football to hockey, as well as auto racing and golf. Several state-of-the-art stadiums have been built within the last few years. They offer fans a chance to cheer for their team in a world-class facility.

1. University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale – This brand new stadium is the home of the Arizona Cardinals. The University of Phoenix, a for-profit university specializing in adult education, acquired the naming rights for the Cardinals Stadium shortly after it opened on August 1, 2006. An architectural icon for the region, this stadium was named by Business Week as one of the ten “most impressive” sports facilities in the world due to its retractable roof and roll-in natural grass playing field. The stadium’s air-conditioning made it possible for the Cardinals to play at home on the opening weekend of the NFL season for the first time since moving to Arizona in 1988. Award-winning architect Peter Eisenman designed the facility, which is said to resemble a barrel cactus with a coiled rattlesnake around it, although many people think it looks more like a flying saucer or space ship. The University of Phoenix Stadium hosted Super Bowl XLII in 2008, and it also hosts the Fiesta Bowl.

2. Chase Field (formerly Bank One Ballpark), Phoenix – This baseball stadium opened in 1998 as the home of Arizona’s first Major League Baseball team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. It was only the second MLB stadium at the time to have a retractable roof. It was also the first ballpark to feature natural grass in a retractable roof stadium. It’s located across the street from the US Airways Center in downtown Phoenix.

3. US Airways Center (formerly America West Arena), Phoenix – Construction of this arena began in 1988, after Phoenix Suns owner Jerry Colangelo envisioned a need for a new playing facility. For 24 years, the Suns had played at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum, built in 1965 on the Arizona State Fairgrounds. (The Coliseum’s unique saddle-shaped, tension-cable roof, supporting over 1000 precast concrete panels, was considered innovative architectural engineering at the time.) The modern US Airways center is home of the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, the AFL’s Arizona Rattlers, and the ECHL’s Phoenix Roadrunners. Located in downtown Phoenix across the street from Chase Field, it has been designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride.

4. Arena (formerly Glendale Arena), Glendale – Home to the Phoenix Coyotes of the National Hockey League, the Arena sits across the street from University of Phoenix Stadium. The Coyotes moved from the America West Arena (now the US Airways Center) to this arena in late 2003.

5. Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe – Sun Devil Stadium, Frank Kush Field (named in honor of former ASU football coach Frank Kush) is an outdoor football stadium located on the campus of Arizona State University. This college football facility became an NFL stadium in 1988, when the St. Louis Cardinals moved west to Arizona and became the Phoenix Cardinals (renamed the Arizona Cardinals in 1994). Sun Devil Stadium hosted the Fiesta Bowl from 1971-2006, and it hosted Super Bowl XXX in 1996. In 2006, the Cardinals moved to the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, but ASU continues to use Sun Devil Stadium.

6. Arizona Stadium, Tucson – This outdoor football stadium is located on the campus of the University of Arizona, set in the beautiful Santa Catalina Mountains. It has been the home field of the Arizona Wildcats football team since 1928. In 1931, they played their first football game under lights. The stadium originally had a seating capacity of just 7,000, but it has been expanded many times over the years. Today, Arizona Stadium has a seating capacity of over 57,000.

7. J. Lawrence Walkup Skydome, Flagstaff – The Skydome on the campus of Northern Arizona University is one of the most unique venues in college athletics. The indoor multi-purpose stadium has been the home of NAU football, basketball, and indoor track and field since 1977. The Skydome is named after J. Lawrence Walkup, president of NAU from 1958 to 1979. For its first six years, the Walkup Skydome was the world’s largest clear-span timber dome structure of its kind in the world. The roof consists of a spherical framework of triangles connected by patented hubs. One and a half million board feet of Southern Yellow Pine went into the construction of the wood roof. The Skydome is located at an elevation of 7,000 feet above sea level, second only to Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium. The Skydome is currently undergoing renovation and will be closed from December 2010 until August 2011.

8. Peoria Stadium and Sports Complex, Peoria – Built in 1994, this was the first Major League Baseball spring training facility in the country to be shared by two teams – the Seattle Mariners and San Diego Padres. Both teams utilize the Peoria Sports Complex all year round for player development. The Peoria Sports Complex is comprised of the main stadium and twelve practice fields which are also used for local adult, college, high school and youth baseball games. Additional spring training fields include: Camelback Ranch, Tempe Diablo Stadium, Goodyear Ballpark, HoHoKam Stadium, Maryvale Baseball Park, Phoenix Municipal Stadium, Scottsdale Stadium, Surprise Stadium, Hi Corbett Field, and Tucson Electric Park. Opening in Spring 2011 is the Cactus League’s newest and finest major league baseball spring training facility – the Salt River Fields at Talking Stick – the first one in the nation to be built on Indian land.

9. Phoenix International Raceway, Avondale – Built in 1964 with the goal of being the western home of open wheel racing, this raceway is currently owned and operated by International Speedway Corporation. The PIR’s paved asphalt one-mile, low-banked D-shaped tri-oval was carved out of the Estrella Mountains giving the racetrack an incredibly picturesque backdrop. Because the track was built at the foot of a mountain, it had to be designed around its geographic location. Thus there is a curve in the middle of the backstretch which is situated between turns two and three. This curve is a rather unique feature and is commonly known as “the dogleg.” Drivers like Mario Andretti, A.J. Foyt, Parnelli Jones and the Unsers soon came to love the unique bend in the backstretch. The dogleg also allowed the designers to incorporate a drag strip into the overall design of the track. But it wasn’t until 1988, when NASCAR’s Cup Series racing came to PIR, that auto racing in Phoenix really became a major sporting attraction for the Valley of the Sun. The PIR currently hosts two NASCAR race weekends annually, in February and November. PIR has also hosted the Indycar Series and other racing events. The terraced hillsides adjacent to the track offer a unique vantage point from which to watch races. “Monument Hill” located alongside turns 3 and 4 is a favorite among race fans because of its view as well as the lower ticket prices. This spot is also significant because at the top of this hill lies a USGS bench marker known as Gila and Salt River Meridian, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Long before the PIR existed, this was the original land survey point for all of what would one day become the state of Arizona.

10. The Phoenix Open, Scottsdale – Held at the Tournament Players Club (TPC) of Scottsdale around the last weekend in January, the Phoenix Open is the largest-attended golf tournament in the world. TPC Scottsdale is Arizona’s only PGA Tour facility; it was named “one of America’s best courses” by Golfweek Magazine, and one of the “Top 50 Golf Resort Destinations in the World” by Condé Nast Traveler. The tournament was originally called the Arizona Open, but was known for most of its history as the Phoenix Open until the investment bank, Friedman Billings Ramsey, became its title sponsor in October 2003. Known as the FBR Open from 2004 through 2009, it is now called The Waste Management Phoenix Open.


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