The HP Pavilion at San Jose opened in 1993, and is the home to the San Jose Sharks, the
San Jose Sabre Cats of the Arena Football League and the San Jose Stealth of the National
Lacrosse League. Located on the fringes of downtown San Jose, this sparkling facility has
also been the home to an NCAA mens basketball regionals, NCAA womens basketball final 4
in 1999, 1996 US Figure Skating Championships, the NBA's Golden State Warriors for a
season, and the NHL All Star Game in 1997.
Getting to the venue
Finding the arena is easy... by car all signs off of I-280 or I-680 point to the arena with easy
directional signage. Public transportation also serves the building, with Caltrain rail lines
and the VTA light rail system providing access to the venue. Parking lots immediately
adjacent to the arena are reserved for season ticket and pass holders, and the closest
surface lots start at $15. By the time you get three blocks away $5 lots are a plenty. Be
forewarned that some of the parking meters prohibit parking during arena events, so watch
carefully if you are trying to snare a free spot on the street.
Outside the venue
The building itself is a perfect showcase as a symbol of this area's vibrant high technology
industry. The outside of the arena has a shiny stainless steel silver facade, and each of the
entrances is a magnificent glass pyramid which soars above the top of the building itself.
Approaching the building at night the glow of lights from inside the arena serves as a
beacon for visitors and fans arriving.
The downtown area of San Jose is clean and bustling... an entertainment area near
downtown called SoFa boasts a variety of clubs, shops and restaurants. Closerby is San
Pedro Square, a three block area with plenty of eateries and nightclubs. Easy to find just
walk down Santa Clara Blvd. But little of this is right next to the venue - while the adjoining
buildings and parkland are clean and spotless, the neighborhood immediately abutting the
arena lacks any soul or character. A few restaurants, souvenir shops, or even street
vendors selling hot dogs or souvenirs would have added to the ambience, but none were
to be found.
Once you set foot in the building, you are instantly overwhelmed by the sweeping high
cathedral type entry pavilion. A grand staircase leads you to the single concourse, and
above hangs a huge emblem of the city's seal and colorful banners of the Sharks. As we
walked the concourse, we kind of got the feeling that we had been here before, and
eventually came to the realization that Cleveland's Gund Arena looked strikingly similar to
this venue, from the sparkling clean terrazzo tile floors to the multiclored neon sculptures,
and the concession facades with soft backlit lighting. Later we learned that the Gund family
owns the Sharks and the Cavaliers, and no doubt when Cleveland's Gateway Project went
up they culled ideas for their venue from this Arena.
This is probably the best single concourse facility that we have visited. The reason we say
this is that the building itself is square, and the rink and arena bowl are laid out diagonally.
This configuration allows for a great deal of public space, and navigating around the facility
is simple. Besides being spacious and wide, the concourses are clean and colorful, and in
several locations there are mezzanine style seating areas where fans can sit and have a
bite or a drink and people watch on the concourse below.
There is a Tied House Brew Pub and a Round Table pizza stand, two eateries with local
connections. California turkey wraps, sushi, mexican food and a host of desserts including
Krispy Kreme's add to the diverse and delicious fare here. The team store is on the ground
floor directly on your left when walking in the main entrance pavilion.
The lower 100 level seats on the sidelines are designated as premium seats, and
seatholders have exclusive access to a ground level concourse which wraps around 3/4 of
the arena bowl. In this concourse are several bar areas, a carvery and a pasta bar, regular
concessions stands, a full service restaurant called George's Arena Grill serving a pregame
buffet, and plenty of seating areas. The club concourse is beautifully carpeted and the walls
showcase every player who has ever worn a Sharks uniform, as well as photos of
headliners and entertainers who have appeared at the arena. Again, the design of the club
concourse is similar to the club level at Cleveland's Gund Arena.
The arena bowl itself is very pleasing to the eye - all seats are cushioned and are colored
light and dark grey. There are suites ringing the building above the 100 level and another
ring above the upper level. At the top of the upper level there is an area called the
"penthouse" which can be rented out for groups of 50-200 people. The scoreboard is your
typical 8 sided jumbotron with one color dot matrix information boards. There are ad panels
above the scoreboard as well as ringing the balcony, but they are fixed and not changeable.
Obviously technologies have gone way forward since this building was opened.
These guys get it!!!!! Nobody has retired yet, and they have but one division title, which
hangs up in the rafters and that is it.
Hat tricks, assists, penalties...
Hat trick ...The San Jose Sharks go a long way to making the hockey experience a great one,
and the fans here eat it up. A few minutes before the game, the team mascot, "S.J. Sharkie",
comes out on the ice and jumps up on the glass to get the crowd fired up. While they show
previous highlights on the jumbotron and a light show on the ice, the PA plays some great
music while the mascot gets everybody clapping. To top it all off, the home team skates out
on the ice through a giant sharks mouth, complete with glowing eyes and lots of fog. What a
Extra point .... when the Sharks score a goal, the PA system plays the renowned arena
anthem "Rock and Roll Part II(the "hey" song)" and here the fans get into it with more
enthusiasm than in most places.
Hat trick ... to Sharks goaltender Steve Shields. On our first visit goalie Yevgeni Nabokov
was ineffective, so beginning in the second period Shields took over in net. Steve has had
a rough go of it this season and this game was no different - he let four in and the Sharks
went down to defeat, 6-1, sending the fans home disappointed. We are BIG Steve Shields
fans - we still remember him hoisting the Calder Cup over his head for the Rochester
Amerks in '96, and the job he did stonewalling the Ottawa Sens in the '97 playoffs when all
seemed lost. Steve, you will always have a warm place in our hearts!
Extra point ....while the Sharks were hammered by the Canucks in our first visit, the
outcome was just the opposite for our return as Nabokov was a wall in net leading to a 5-0
Sharks victory over the Phoenix Coyotes.
Penalty ... They played "Oh Canada" and the accompanying video on the scoreboard was 30
seconds worth of shots of Niagara Falls - the AMERICAN falls. View from above, view from
below, Goat Island, full view. It was hilarious. Hey guys, if you want to show off Niagara Falls
with the anthem, at least show something from the Canadian side - maybe the Casino, a wax
museum or a chinese restaurant! Seriously though, they should be able to come up with a
video which showcases some of Canada's treasures - the CN Tower, Parliament Hill, the
charm of Old Montreal, the wharf in Vancouver.
Assist ... The San Jose Sports Hall of Fame is a series of bronze plaques and busts which
ring the main concourse. All very nicely presented!
This is a clean, sleek and modern arena in a sparkling and dynamic city. San Jose fans have
embraced their Sharks, and the team enjoys broad support from the entire San Francisco
bay area, giving them regional appeal. While the venue itself has been eclipsed by many of
the newer NHL arenas that have since opened, here in San Jose they have a venue that is
very fan friendly, comfortable and functional. It is high time that they consider a major
technological upgrade of their scoreboard and perhaps installation of surround ribbon
boards. Being the tech capital of the world, the wizards here should be able to come up with
something cutting edge and state of the art. All in all, a pleasant hockey experience and city
experience and a place where we'd be glad to come back.
Fan Support 5.5
Concourses/fan comfort 9
Bonus: Neon sculptures 1: USRT assist 2
at San Jose, and
at San Jose