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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Tucson Arena – Arizona Wildcats

Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.43

Tucson Arena 260 S Church Ave Tucson, AZ 85701

Year Opened: 1971 Capacity: 6,521


Bear Down Rise Up

The Arizona Wildcats hockey team (University of Arizona) plays their home games at Tucson Arena.  The Wildcats share the arena with the Tucson Roadrunners of the AHL (American Hockey League) and the Tucson Sugar Skulls (IFL – Indoor Football League). 


The Arizona Wildcats are in the ACHA (American Collegiate Hockey Association) as part of Men’s D1 in the WCHL (Western Collegiate Hockey League) conference.  The team hoisted back-to-back WCHL championship banners in the 2018 – 2019 and 2019 – 2020 seasons.  You wouldn’t believe it based on how they played the day of Stadium Journey’s visit in late 2023. 

Arizona Wildcats History Display, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Built in 1971, Tucson Arena, part of the Tucson Convention Center, was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2015.  Updated features within the last few years include:


·       Small ribbon boards on each side of the video board

·       Video boards on the back side of the camera wells

·       Loge boxes (used for Roadrunner hockey)

·       An upgraded plaza area outside

·       New parking garages

·       Additional party areas (again, used for the Roadrunners)  


Before 1979, the team was a student-run sports club.  From 1979 – 2011, the team became the Arizona IceCats.  It was a founding member of the ACHA.  In 2011, the University of Arizona took over the administration and changed the name to the Wildcats. 

Food & Beverage 2

Only one of the two permanent concession stands is open for a Wildcats game. Only a few portable stands are operational.  This suits the lower attendance crowd. 

It’s enough to get you by if you’re hungry.


Choices include macho nachos, regular nachos, hot dogs, pretzels ($7 - $12), and snacks like chips and candy.  Other munchies include kettle corn ($5), cotton candy ($5), and lemonade. A well-needed coffee/expresso cart is on one concourse, which sells a variety of coffee, expresso, chai, lattes, and more.


Pepsi products are the soda of choice ($5/$6), and beer and alcoholic beverages are offered ($8 - $18).   One big downside… staff at a table on the outer concourse require showing ID to get a drinking age verified wristband, certainly not uncommon and much smoother than pulling out ID at a drink cart.

The table attendees insist on putting the band on the right wrist even if a paying visitor wants it on their left.  There’s no debate, not even a question asking whether it’s a medical need.  This response demonstrates awful customer service, which the Arizona Wildcats or the Tucson Arena game day operations need to revisit.

Atmosphere 3

Seating is U-shaped with rows of seats on three sides; the concourse is above the seating area, and the game is in view the entire time when walking the concourse.   The best seats are on the sidelines, and I’d recommend the second level to get a better look at the whole ice surface.   The seats are tight, have cupholders on the sides of the seats, and there’s enough legroom.


The arena does not have a center-hung scoreboard.  Instead, a video scoreboard is on the top end of the U, while a standard stat board is on the wall above the bottom of the U.  Neither shows the shots on goal stat.  They do announce the shots on goal after the end of each period.  The PA announcer does a fantastic job.  His voice is clear and understandable.


The arena temperature is freezing.  Be sure to wear and bring extra layers including a hat, gloves, a scarf, and a blanket. The ceiling at the top of the U proudly hangs the two WCHL championship banners and two retired Wildcat jerseys. There’s minimal indication that the Arizona Wildcats play at Tucson Arena.  The arena is all about the Tucson Roadrunners.


Pregame, the video board shows a nice interview with Coach Chad Berman. The video staff displays a fantastic Bear Down intro before the start of the game.  Between periods, the video board shows pre-recorded player interviews, and there’s a Chuck-a-Puck contest at every game where the winner gets something, like a free meal at Rudy’s Bar-B-Q (a sponsor). 


Arizona Wildcats Banners, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey


Honestly, the play of the game I saw on this visit was ghastly.  Passes didn’t connect.  Wildcats’ players couldn’t clear the zone.  The players were not aware of where the other players were positioned on the ice.  The opposing team scored short-handed goals against them.   They have had great teams.  As of this writing, their record is 8 – 10, so I guess they just had a very bad day when we visited.


Neighborhood 4

Visiting Tucson is a treat.  It is not as commercialized as the Phoenix area, and it maintains much of its natural beauty by not building and destroying its land and natural settings and landscape.

The arena is downtown near El Presidio Park, the old county courthouse, and the Pima County courthouse.  Several museums are within walking distance, including the Children’s Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Art.  Or, if it’s a pleasant fall day, walk the Turquoise Trail, a historical walking tour of downtown Tucson. 

A good place for a pregame dinner within walking distance (1/2 mile) of the arena is the El Charro Café.  Other places include The HUB (ice cream, food, and drinks), Miss Saigon Downtown (Vietnamese), or Empire Pizza & Pub (New York-style pizza).

Tucson offers several breweries near the arena.  Barrio Brewing, Pueblo Vida Brewing Company, and Iron John’s might be worth a visit if craft breweries are your thing.

Not walking distance but worth visiting when in the Tucson area are the Mission San Xavier del Bac (founded in 1692), the Saguaro National Park (home to the nation’s largest and most abundant cacti), or taking a drive up to the top of A Mountain (Sentinel Peak) for a beautiful view.  

The biggest event in Tucson is the Gem and Mineral Show at the end of Jan / beginning of Feb each year.

One hotel, Double Tree by Hilton Tucson Downtown Convention Center, is right next to the hotel,  but it’s pricey.  We recommend Hotel McCoy about 2.5 miles from the arena.  It is a reasonably priced hotel and has all sorts of nifty items.

Other sports to see during hockey season include the Tucson Roadrunners (AHL), and the Arizona Wildcats (University of Arizona) football, basketball, and baseball teams. 

Fans 1

Not a whole lot of fans show up for Wildcats games.  Crowds are much larger when rival ASU comes to town. Those in attendance groan, moan, and applaud at the appropriate times.

Access 3

Currently, quite a bit of construction is in process around the area. Click here for a parking map.  Visitors first enter a wide outer concourse which contains the ID check table. Then, they enter the inner concourse through additional glass doors.

Parking is available right next to the arena for $10, which is ludicrous for club hockey. Other lots and garages a little further away run $3 - $5. Street parking is available a few blocks away for free.  Tucson has a Sun Link Streetcar service (a light rail) that drops fans off just a few blocks from the arena, which is an alternative option to get to Tucson Arena for a game. The nearest airport is Tucson International Airport, about 8 miles south of the arena.  Tucson is about a two-hour drive from Phoenix. 


Upon entering the arena, fans must go through a metal detector and security check.  Backpacks and large bags are not allowed. Standard sports clear bags (14” x 16”) are permitted, though security does ask you to open everything inside your bag (but does not provide a table to place your bag while trying to maneuver this).  I’m not quite sure the reason for the clear bag if they’re going to make you take out and open everything anyway.  Security procedures at arenas always baffle me. Doors open 60 min before puck drop.  

Fans enter at the top of the concourse and head down to the seating areas. The seating areas provide handrails in the middle of the steps. Sufficient wheelchair-accessible seating is on the top of the seating bowl with good views of the action on the ice.  Once inside, walking the concourse is easy as few fans attend Wildcats hockey games.

Tucson Arena Corner View, Photo by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Well-kept and clean bathrooms are at each end of the U and downstairs at the bottom end of the U. 

Return on Investment 3

Be sure to check promos on their website.  And ask about them when purchasing tickets at the ticket office.  The Wildcats offer Kids Day, Senior Day, Bogo Tickets, and more.


Tickets generally run $13; games against ASU (Arizona State University) are $18. Seniors, kids, and the military get in for $7.  The first 200 students with a CatCard (University of Arizona identification card) get in for free.  Tickets are general admission.


Concession prices are what is expected for an AHL-first arena.  Parking in the garage is astronomical for club hockey.  The best games to attend are against ASU, as there’s some heated competition during those.

Extras 1

Be sure to pick up a single-page roster sheet of both teams when entering the rink. 

Final Thoughts

Tucson, AZ is a fantastic city to visit.  The Arizona Wildcats hockey club has had great success in previous years.   If in the area in the fall/winter, check their schedule to see if you can attend a game.

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