The Arizona Cardinals hold bragging rights as the oldest franchise in the National
Football League, tracing its roots all the way back to 1898. But incredibly, the team has
never had a sports venue to call its very own. Until now.
Since moving to Arizona back in 1988, the team has shared Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe
with the Arizona State University football program. But all that changed in 2006, as the
Cardinals have opened their spanking new stadium in suburban Glendale. University of
Phoenix Stadium is now the exclusive home of the Arizona Cardinals, and what a
showplace it is.
Getting to the venue
Simply put, this is a stadium reachable by car or other means of transportation only. It is
located in Glendale along Loop 101, a freeway which circles the entire metro area. For
now, the stadium is surrounded by mostly vacant tracts of land, and clearly marked
roadways direct you to the stadium and the proper lot. Here’s the first heads up – almost
all parking lots here require a pre-purchased parking pass, which is color and letter
coded and signage will direct you to your lot. Cash parking is in the dreaded “Lot H”, far
far away north of the stadium and a shuttle ride necessary.. Advice to the single ticket
buyer – check out eBay or Craigslist and buy a parking pass in advance.
Outside the venue
This area of Glendale is developing rapidly, as is most of the Greater Phoenix area, but
for now much of the surrounding area is empty acreage, with subdivisions and other
construction going on off in the distance. Jobing.com Arena, home of the NHL Phoenix
Coyotes is next door to the north, and the finishing touches are being put on a mixed use
residential, retail and entertainment center called “Westgate”. When open for business, a
plethora of restaurants and bars will be open to cater to visiting fans in a splendid and
The other bit of news is that the Arizona Cardinals fans are developing quite the tailgate
scene outside the stadium. “Sportsman’s Park” on the west side of the stadium seems
to be the center of a lot of the action, and here is where you will find “The Great Lawn”,
complete with a stage offering pre game entertainment. Fans can set up their canopies
and decorations, and the team awards a prize for the best tailgate based on originality of
décor, culinary presentation and fan spirit.
As word of this new venue continues to grow and spread, Arizona Cardinals fans should
rightfully take their place among the NFL’s best tailgaters. For now they are definitely
Architecture and seating bowl
University of Phoenix Stadium has earned worldwide acclaim for its forward looking
architecture, and rightfully so. The silver steel colored edifice looks like a flower blooming
in the desert from afar. It is unlike any other of its peer venues in the NFL. The roof
supports two huge panels which can retract in about 12 minutes. In another unique
feature, the entire playing surface can slide to the outside like a huge drawer. Not only
can the team tend to the playing surface on non game days and keep it in superb shape,
but this also allows the facility to be used for a myriad of other non football events.
The seating capacity for football is just over 64,000 seats, and sandwiched in between
the main and terrace level are two levels of premium seating which run from corner to
corner on each side. The open end zones each have a wide public gathering and viewing
area from the main concourse, and the south end zone has a “Budweiser Red Zone”
area on the ground level for a pre game buffet open to all fans with a separate ticket.
Hovering over the north end zone is a great pictorial mural of the Cardinals through their
history and reminding all that this is the NFL’s eldest franchise.
The most stunning feature of the seating bowl is the roof, with its breathtaking design
and superb engineering. A massive mural adorns the north end zone with the team logo
and black and white photos of the team’s great moments.
The concourses here are somewhat drab and lifeless – occasional splashes of red with
plenty of grey concrete. They should take a lesson from Westgate next door – add more
color and pizazz to the décor here. There are escalator towers on three sides of the
building to go from lower to upper level. Elevators and an additional two private
escalators are reserved for premium ticket holders.
Despite being a brand new stadium, lower level corridors here get congested fast, with
choke points at the corners as well. The open end zones are plenty roomy however.
There is a view of the playing surface and seating bowl from both the main and terrace
The major video board hangs in the south Red Zone, with a secondary video board at the
opposite end. LED ribbon boards straddle the balcony along the sidelines. The
electronics here are adequate, but unspectacular.
Here’s no surprise – very good and varied food items offered here, albeit on the pricey
side. The concession stands all have their own theme – Gridiron Grill offering the
standard fare (the AZ Grande hot dog topped with cheese and chili at $6.75 is tops! Make
sure you grab a fork). PizzAZ offers personal pan pizzas southwest style; Mr. B’s BBQ
brisket and pulled pork; Grande Roja and Touchdown Tortilla offering the local southwest
favorites. Portable kiosks offer specialty items such as wings, carved bombers and
The main team store is on the main concourse on the east side of the stadium, with
plenty of merchandise kiosks scattered throughout the rest of the building.
In addition, there are Guest Services stands everywhere. The team has plenty of
personnel on hand to assist fans, and they actively solicit fan input – good and bad from
Banners, Retired Numbers
As part of the opening of this stadium, the Cardinals unveiled their “Ring of Honor”,
straddling the entire balcony, showcasing the franchise’s icons throughout their history
not only in Arizona, but to their days in St. Louis and Chicago as well. On this day, former
Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman, who gave up his lucrative football career to join the Army
Rangers and perished in Afghanistan, was added to the Ring, which also includes
former owner Charles Bidwill, Coach Jimmy Conzelman, and players Dan Dierdorf,
Paddy Driscoll, Marshall Goldberg, Dick “Night Train” Lane, Ollie Matson, Ernie Nevers,
Charley Trippi and Larry Wilson.
Very cool historical tributes, obelisk style, can be found along the concourses in each
corner of the stadium – a decade by decade timeline of the team’s history; a showcase of
area high school championship teams; a display of the construction of the stadium, a list
of players to have advanced to the NFL from Arizona colleges and universities, and team
firsts – including such ditties as being the first team to play an exhibition and a regular
season game in foreign soil. All very nicely presented.
As part of the timeline, the team’s two, yes two, NFL championships are showcased here
from the years 1925 as well as 1947, and the old timers on the south side of Chicago are
still talking about it!
Along the sidelines on the second level are 7500 club seats with access to private
entrances and carpeted concourse. This area also offers premium concession services
including private bar, an Asian stand called Azianwok/Loft Grill and a Club Buffet. The
team has installed 88 suites which they call “lofts”, again offering a unique design in
urban architecture and décor for their most exclusive patrons.
Touchdowns, extra points, fumbles…
Touchdown… to the Cardinals for their stirring and emotional tribute, as part of the
unveiling of Pat Tillman’s name and number on the Ring of Honor. Few fans left their
seats at halftime in order to watch the video and ceremony, and there wouldn’t have been
a dry eye in the place, except for…
Fumble… The game day crew totally messed up the six minute video tribute. The audio
was, well, inaudible, and the superimposed music and screeching bagpipes
overwhelmed the dialogue. It really wrecked the moment. But let’s not be too hard on
them. Later on when they did the shuffling pizza box contest, there were no glitches – the
video crew nailed it! (And for anyone who gives a damn, the pizza was under box 2.)
Touchdown… to the super friendly in game staff. No sphincter police moments on this
day. The security check was seamless, ushers eager to help, and on the way out we
were thanked for our patronage. We’ve had some ugly experiences here in Phoenix with
their other teams and were bracing for the worst with the Cardinals. To our pleasant
surprise, it was the complete opposite.
Extra Point… Near the main entrance on the northwest side is “Pat Tillman Plaza”,
centered by a very poignant statue and garden.
Fumble… The smoking areas aren’t located outside, but rather in the large north
vestibule which isn’t ventilated all that well unless there is a good breeze going outside.
Second hand smoke takes on an entirely new meaning here. Worst of all, this area
shares space with the main escalator tower to the terrace level. By the time you reach the
top of the building, you will need to set up an appointment with an oncologist.
Extra Point… Peter being the trivia geek that he is took exception to the notion that the
Cardinals played in the first pro football night game back in 1929. And with good reason,
the first pro football night game took place right down the road from his hometown in
1902 in Elmira, NY. Eh, we’ll give ‘em credit for the first NFL night game.
Fumble….to that USRT Karma, apparently we used up all of it a day prior in Tucson
during Arizona’s stunning upset of Cal. On this day the Cowboys came to the desert and
walked away with a 27-10 pasting of the Cards. At 1-8, it’s looking like another long
season for these guys.
Touchdown… and a big high five to MARK DALTON, Senior Director of Media Relations
for the Arizona Cardinals. Mark gave us a tour of the Cardinals practice facility in Tempe
earlier in the week, and set us up with awesome game tickets, parking and even pre
game field passes. Mark is inducted into the Ultimate Sports Road Trip Hall of Fame with
our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.
University of Phoenix Stadium has earned accolades from all over the place as the next
generation of stadium design. The publication Business Week has listed this venue as
one of the 10 best stadiums in the world. And indeed, the architecture is simply dazzling
and will take your breath away, both inside and outside. Secondly, a totally functioning
and practical retractable field is surely going to become a duplicated element in venues
yet to come, and this stadium can claim bragging rights as being the first to do it.
What this venue lacks, however, is trailblazing amenities in terms of concourse design,
cutting edge electronics, and other bells and whistles that have come online in recent
years in its peer venues.
For now, the fans here seem to be happy with their new digs. They have sold out the
entire season, and there is a waiting list for new season tickets. This contrasts with the
days at Sun Devil, when most games displayed huge and yawning gaps of empty seats.
Talk to the people who follow this team though, and it is not dazzling design, loft suites,
and showcase concourses that attract them here. They are desperate for a winner, and
while the team has assembled a top notch roster of marquee players and a proven head
coach, success on the field has eluded them again this season. To at long last get a
winning program on the field, here in the desert, they will have to buck the tide of their
Food and team store 8
Scoreboard and electronics 6.5
Fan Support 4
Location and neighborhood 6
Banners and History 8
In game entertainment 2
Concourses/Fan Comfort 4.5
Bonus… Tailgate scene 3; USRT red carpet treatment 4; retractable field 2, Tillman Plaza
University of Phoenix Stadium