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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

PayPal Park – San Jose Earthquakes

Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

PayPal Park 1123 Coleman Avenue San Jose, CA 95110 Map It

Year Opened: 2015 Capacity: 18,000


Vamos San Jose

PayPal Park is the home ground of the MLS San Jose Earthquakes. The soccer-specific venue was known as Avaya Stadium when it opened in 2015. It has gone by its current name (PayPal Park) since the start of the 2021 season.

The city has hosted soccer since 1974 with teams in various leagues. The Earthquakes started in 1996 as one of the original members of Major League Soccer. The team has won two MLS Cup titles (2001, 2003) and two Supporters’ Shields (2005, 2012).

The staff and fans make witnessing a match incredibly worthwhile as they are all friendly and helpful and seem pleased you have visited their team and stadium. One of the better matches to attend is when Los Angeles FC comes to town as there is usually a good contingency of away team visitors which makes the stadium rumble.

Food & Beverage 5

PayPal Park offers an impressive variety of food and drink choices.

A great place to find these savory and unique food choices is on the perimeter of the two-acre grassy area, called the Epi-Center Fan Zone. It sits behind the massive scoreboard. Twelve or so local food trucks line the perimeter offering a wide range of cuisine: Hot chicken sandwiches, Korean BBQ, slow smoked BBQ, tasty tacos, teriyaki and sushi, burgers and fries, kabobs and other Mediterranean goodies, and more. The trucks vary each match so peruse them all before making a choice.

The stadium has traditional concession stands under the seats offering all your stadium favorites and then some. Pretzels, peanuts, chips, Cracker Jack, hot dogs, burgers, and the like are all for sale. Unique choices include a carvery offering fresh sliced pork or turkey sandwiches, a pizza stand with specialty pizzas, and churwaffles (sweet and savory cornbread waffles).

RC Cola and 7-Up products are the soft drinks for sale. Domestic beer choices include Bud, Bud Light, and Coors. Imported and craft beers include Stella Artois, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, Sierra Nevada Tornada, and 805. Hard liquor and wine are also served. A specialty margarita stand sits on the edge of the Epi-Center Fan Zone. Plenty of concession stands sell more varieties of canned beer and hard seltzer.

Two other bars worth noting are the aptly named Scoreboard Bar which is over 310 feet, making it the largest exterior bar in North America. The Skyy Lounge is on the upper level to the left as you exit the elevator. Fans can enjoy a beverage watching the match sitting on stools in front of a drink rail in this area.

My recommendation is to try the Korean BBQ and/or the churwaffles.

Atmosphere 4

The structure is U-shaped. An enormous video scoreboard is at the top of the U. Behind the scoreboard is a popular grass area (Epi-Center Fan Zone) where local food trucks line up, entertainment is performed, and kids play. The food trucks emit amazing smells. This is the place to be before the match for activities and people-watching.

Light blue, dark blue, and grey chairs (the Earthquake’s colors) span the seating area. Interestingly, the color pattern contains the binary-coded message “GO EQ.” It IS in Silicon Valley. A fan way smarter than me figured out the code and won a trip to the 2018 World Cup Final. The seats are slightly cushioned, have cup holders, and have decent legroom between the rows.

Fans walk up a flight of stairs to get to the seating area and then up to their seats. The seating sections have 28 – 30 rows of seats. The stadium has one elevator to take fans to the top so they can walk down to the higher level rows. The very top ledge/walkway is narrow and open. This is scary for fans with acrophobia.

PayPal Park Top Level Ledge, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

The seating capacity is the lowest in MLS at 18,000, offering fans an intimate game day experience and granting every seat a good view of the match. Suites are on the lower level closest to the pitch.

It’s hard to understand the emcee and what he’s saying. I’m not quite sure if it’s the sound system, if it’s too loud, or if he’s speaking a mix of Spanish and English.

Food vendors climb the stands selling churros, cotton candy, popcorn, and other snacks.

Be sure to check the weather before heading to the match. The wind can sometimes make it a bit chilly.

Neighborhood 4

The venue is right next to the San Jose Airport. There’s some but not a whole lot to do within walking distance. Downtown San Jose, which has a ton of activities, is only 2 ½ – 3 miles southeast.

An Element Hotel (Marriott brand) is right across the street. A shopping center is on the other side of the stadium and offers The Smoking Pig (BBQ and beer), In-N-Out (fast food burgers), Chipotle (fast food Mexican), and Starbucks. Other recommended choices further away are BJ’s Brewery, Henry’s World Famous Hi-Life, and The Farmer’s Union (gastropub). Floodcraft Brewery (in a Whole Foods Marketplace) and Uproar Brewery are good spots for craft beer. Several other breweries are also nearby.

Plenty of tourist attractions abound for the visiting or local fan. Some points of interest in San Jose include the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo, the Children’s Discovery Museum, San Jose State University, Winchester Mystery House, and the Tech Museum of Innovation.

Other sports you may be able to visit during soccer season are the San Jose Sharks (NHL), San Jose Barracuda (AHL), San Jose Giants (MiLB), or any one of the San Jose University Spartans sports. Stephen Schott Stadium, home of the Santa Clara Broncos baseball, is on the other side of the train tracks just behind PayPal Park as are their basketball and softball stadiums.

Fans 3

Though it appears the seating is empty, many fans remain on the lawn area. An average of 13,300 fans per game attended in the 2022 season. Attendance is not quite back to the pre-pandemic numbers yet.

The Earthquakes have two supporters’ groups; each group sits behind each goal post. The San Jose Ultras have loudly and proudly supported the team since 2003. The Seismic Union, formed in 2021, is the supporters’ group that occupies the north side of the stadium. The groups wave flags, bang drums, sing songs, stand up and cheer on the team for the entire 90 minutes. Because of the distance to the airport and the safety of the arriving and departing flights, pyrotechnics are not allowed.

All fans and staff are extremely friendly and welcoming. It’s quite easy to strike up a conversation and chat about the team and the stadium.

Access 4

Getting to PayPal Park is very easy via car, plane, or bus. It is off Interstate 880 and Coleman Ave. Parking is available on the northwest side of the stadium. Click here for directions and parking instructions.

Free LuxBus shuttles are available to and from the matches, picking up and dropping off at downtown Market Street and St John (near San Pedro Square). If coming from the airport, take VTA bus 60 (south towards Winchester) to Coleman and Earthquakes Way. It’s free from the airport, costs $2.50 to get back, and exact change is required.

The parking lots open three hours before the match. The box office opens two hours before and the gates open one and a half hours before the match. Getting through security is quick and easy. A minor item, but I wish they had benches or a place to sit while waiting for the gates to open. Clear stadium-sized (14” x 6” x 14”) bags are allowed. A Clear security line is at the main entrance.

Once through the main gate, the entrance opens up and the Epi-Center Fan Zone is to your left. The downstairs concourse is plenty wide and is where the restrooms reside. Except for the Skyy Lounge, neither concessions nor restrooms are on the second level.

Return on Investment 3

Supporter’s tickets are around $27. The ticket prices go up to $147 or so for field club seats. Parking is $25 and up. It seems high to me, but it is California, and it is Silicon Valley. My seat was in the upper corner for $37. It is a smaller MLS venue, so every seat has a decent view.

Getting group tickets (10+) or season tickets will reduce the price.

The food, beer, and soda prices are comparable with other major league venues in the Bay Area.

The game day experience is an enjoyable one; the fans and staff are great to chat with. It is a good investment for your sports entertainment.

Extras 4

A few other items are worth noting.

Watching planes actually taking off and landing from your seat is unique.

For the 2022 season, the Earthquakes organization provided a Beer and Cheer offer to full-benefit supporters season ticket holders. This offer allowed those fans a free beer, soda, or water at the Scoreboard Bar or the Skyy Lounge each game. The club plans on extending the Ultras section down to the field level for future seasons. It’s nice to see the Earthquakes show appreciation for their passionate support.

The seat pattern is worth mentioning again. It includes three different shades of blue/gray as well as a smattering of red seats to pay homage to the club’s 70s and 80s NASL history. And, the pattern containing the binary-coded message “GO EQ” is a one-of-a-kind feature.

Finally, a “Heritage Drum” sits on the edge of the Epi-Center Fan Zone. At the time of its construction in 2019, it was the largest drum in professional sports. The club used it during the 2019 season.

PayPal Park Heritage Drum, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Final Thoughts

Witnessing a match at PayPal Park is certainly unique. The seat pattern coloring, the Epi-Center Fan Zone and food trucks, the exceptional staff, easy access, and the intimate setting all help make attending a match here an enjoyable evening out.

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