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  • Richard Smith

McKale Memorial Center – Arizona Wildcats

Photos by Richard Smith, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86

McKale Memorial Center

1 National Championship Dr

Tucson, AZ 85721

Year Opened: 1973 Capacity: 14,655


Bear Down at McKale

The Arizona Wildcats men's basketball team is a nationally prominent program that calls the McKale Center home. Technically the McKale Memorial Center, the venue hosts men’s and women’s basketball for the University of Arizona, as well as volleyball and gymnastics. There are also many offices located throughout the venue for various Wildcats athletics.

McKale Center opened in 1973 as a replacement for the Bear Down Gymnasium. Bear Down is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was the “Adams College” gym in the 1984 blockbuster film Revenge of the Nerds.

McKale Center was named after J. F. “Pop” McKale, who was the Arizona athletic director from 1914 to 1957. The court itself at McKale Center bears the name “Lute and Bobbi Olson Court” after the legendary Arizona head coach and his late wife.

There was a recent renovation to McKale that included the installation of the center-court scoreboard, two LED banners along each sideline, new seating and concessions areas, and relocation of bathrooms to the exterior concourse.

McKale Center is the second-largest arena in the Pac-12 conference after Utah's Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City. Arizona gets larger attendance than the Utah venue and has a long streak of leading its conference in attendance in conference history.

Food & Beverage 4

The food and beverage score is higher than one would initially think. There are not much food stands in the renovated venue, but the ones that are there off a great variety of food options, including many alcoholic options.

Owing to its southwest location, McKale Center has many options such as Burros and Sonoran Dogs. Prices are fairly good, especially for the high caliber of the venue.

Atmosphere 5

The University of Arizona is serious about basketball. No matter the successes (or downfalls) of other sports, basketball is the king at this Tucson school. McKale Center is packed with students and local fans for all games.

The ZonaZoo is the boisterous student section along the north baseline. Students line up before the game for a good spot in this section. There will be many chants and screams from this section during the game. There is also a good pep band and cheerleaders to enhance the noise.

The fans do stand at the start of each half until a basket is made.

Although the venue is not the newest one out there, the renovations have made sure that the McKale Center is a perfect, modern venue for high-end basketball. The scoreboard and other displays are what this level of play should have.

The venue is pretty interesting in terms of accessing the seating bowl. There is not one main entrance but a series of tunnels and hallways, often through office areas, to get you inside the venue.

Neighborhood 4

Tucson, Arizona is the second largest city in Arizona as well as the county seat of Pima County. In the metro area over one million people live.

McKale Center is located on the southeastern corner of the campus near Arizona Stadium, home of the university’s football team.

There are many restaurant options near the venue. You can’t go wrong with places such as Frog & Firkin, No Anchovies, Gentle Ben’s Brewing, or Dirtbags.

If you want to venture away from campus we also recommend Mercado San Agustin and the MSA Annex. In that area, Seis Kitchen is a great Mexican restaurant and Beaut Burger is a great Vegan burger restaurant. Burgers at Beaut are so good, you may not even realize it is not real meat.

The Aloft Tucson University is a hotel very close to the McKale Center. We can also recommend the Loews Ventana Canyon resort if you want to go a bit higher end.

Fans 4

McKale Center is filled for every game. Basketball is a big deal in Tucson. The student section will be loud and crazy, while the older fans will more likely cheer in a more orderly manner.

Access 3

Being located on a crowded urban college campus, parking will be a bit difficult. There are many lots and garages, all at varying price levels. Please plan and either buy parking ahead of time or be very aware of your parking options before heading to the game.

There is a good public transportation option in Tucson's Sun Link Streetcar system that stops very close to campus. A good option is to park at the Mercado San Agustin mentioned above and take that option to the game.

Return on Investment 3

With the basketball team being such a big deal, prices will tend to be high. Dynamic pricing is used, so you will have to research carefully the particular game you wish to attend.


Extras 4

The unique and varied entrances to the seating bowl are an extra all on their own, but it also offers a fan a way to check out the various displays of past team successes for all the programs that play in the McKale Center.

Try to check out Arizona’s Hall of Champions and the Lute Olson statue and display.

The varied food offerings, especially southwestern items, are a nice touch.

The external concourse, added during recent renovations, allows a nice meeting spot for fans.

Final Thoughts

The University of Arizona Wildcats is a well-known basketball program and the McKale Center is a great venue for a high level of play.

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