The SBC Center is a brand new building, having opened in October of this year, and is the
home of the NBA San Antonio Spurs, the expansion San Antonio Rampage of the AHL
(imagine - the American Hockey League in San Antonio!), and will also house San Antonio's
new WNBA team come 2003, as soon as the Mayflower trucks arrive from Orlando (legend
has it that the phones were disconnected and trucks left Orlando in the dead of night,
leaving shocked and bewildered women's hoops fans in Orlando wondering what
happened to their beloved Miracle... but we digress!). For the Spurs, this is their third
permanent home, having played previously in the Hemisfair Arena, which has since been
demolished, and the Alamodome, primarily a football stadium located downtown.
Getting to the venue
The SBC Center is tucked away on the east side of the city, and getting there pretty much
means taking I-10 or I-35, which run from downtown, east until you hit the Houston St exit.
There are also exits off the I-410 loop east of the venue. Lots of directional signage to take
you to the arena. There are a number of two and four lane highways crisscrossing the area,
but it gets a bit congested here, both before and after the game, and the Spurs recommend
that you "chart your course", so to speak, by checking out the roadmaps to the venue on
their website. Each road has a path to a dedicated lot, which are color coded and have
different prices depending on proximity to the building. Costs for general parking run from
$8-$15. Satellite parking away from the property is virtually non-existent.
Outside the venue
This is one of the very few disappointments of this arena. Even though the building is in
the city, it really is located in the middle of nowhere. Lots of vacant land, and developed
properties represent a hodge podge of mixed use zoning with no real thought to urban
planning. Also not enough attention was given to road infrastructure, and though we came
early and left late, we could see the potential for some real traffic snarls. The arena itself is
surrounded by freshly paved parking lots. On the west side is the Freeman Coliseum,
which is a very old building but apparently still used for certain events, and on the north
side are rows and rows of corrals and storage buildings that house the San Antonio
Livestock Exposition. The building itself is pretty sharp and imposing compared to its
surroundings, sleek and modern with metallic silver and bright red brick walls, and glass
accents making up the facade. In addition, there is a gated patio area between the Center
and the Freeman Coliseum where patrons can gather and enjoy food, drink (and a smoke)
in outside surroundings.
The arena and concourses
There is much to describe in this arena, which offers a myriad of seating, dining and
entertainment options. The main concourse is at ground level, which means that the
playing surface is dug down well below street level. The main concourse offers a splendid
cornucopia of color and design. In the main entrance is a white star shaped mosaic design
interwoven into the black polished tile floor. At this entrance are showcases displaying
Spurs memorabilia, some of which goes back to their ABA days, and many of the artifacts
were donated by local fans. Secondly, the Spurs gave a lot of attention to art... murals and
paintings with a cowboy and southwest flair adorn the concourse here. The sideline
concourses here are called "The Mercado", and bear a resemblance to city streets in a
Mexican village, complete with strings of colored lights hanging along the ceiling. Feels
just like a fiesta! Lots of glass here and views to the outside, and in one nook hangs a
dramatic blue neon sculpture shaped in the Spurs team logo. The upper concourse, easily
accessible via escalators on the north and south sides, is just as nice... again lots of
attention to color, "Mercado" style lights strung along the ceiling, and a really neat fan
game area called "Fan Fiesta". Located in the west end zone, this high ceilinged area
offers a wide range of interactive games, three point hoops, and things to do for adults and
kids. This area also has a view of the seating bowl, and is easily visible from just about any
point in the arena.
The seating bowl
This is a three level facility, with lower, suite and upper levels. The lower level is further
divided along the sidelines, with 12 suites boxed off along each sideline, about 13 rows up,
and the lowest seats are considered "charter seats", among the most expensive in the
building. Special note here about the suite level - in the west end zone one can find the
Terrace Club restaurant, a premium club offering full bar service and an elaborate pregame
buffet. The first row of tables and a seating rail offer service with a view of the playing
surface, and for these spots tickets are actually sold. Adjoining the Terrace Club in each
corner are two "Party Zone" suites. These seats are sectioned off from the 100 level and
offer their own private bar and lounge. These seats are the most popular in the building
and are sold out on a season ticket basis.
All seats are colored black... yes black. Interesting choice of colors, but scattered among
the black seats are the occasional red, yellow, green, orange and purple chair. The effect is
best noticed when the bowl is empty, and is designed this way to give the appearance of
scattered confetti. The modern and futuristic center scoreboard is a four sided video
board, crowned above by an eight sided color dot matrix board. Digital LED boards wrap
around the balcony sidelines and corners, accompanied by a one-color dot matrix boards in
each end zone, offering basic game information.
Great selection of food here, and the concession stands bear local themes such as "River
City Grill", "Bexar County Barbecue", and no venue in Texas is complete without
"Whataburger". We have to mention the "Headlines" sports bar on the 100 level. This area
is sponsored by the San Antonio News-Express and is a complete newspaper themed
restaurant, offering a grill and bar service, displays of memorable front pages on the
marquees, laminated tabletops with more newspaper headlines, and digital news and
sports tickers. There is an adjoining outdoor patio with a pleasant area nestled between
the arena and the Freeman Coliseum.
The main team store is simply called the "Fan Store" and offers merchandise for the Spurs,
the Rampage and even some neat stuff for the San Antonio Livestock Exposition (we are in
Texas folks!). Nice design for the team store, as the doors are designed like gates to a
corral. Colorful Mexican blankets add to the nice displays in the store's windows. All well
There is a great deal of attention given here to club and premium seating. We mentioned
the box suites and the charter seats along the 100 level sideline, and these seatholders
have access to a charter level concourse below the main concourse. This area is called the
Spurs Club, with its own private lounge, and each of the box suites have their own private
suite underneath the seating area as well. These suites have their own living room with
plasma monitor, large dining/conference table and are ideally suited towards business
entertainment. The second level concourse is the suite level, and suites ring most of the
second level of the building save for the west end zone. Of course, here is the Terrace
Club restaurant, open to any premium seat holders.
The greatest moment in San Antonio sports history occurred just three years ago, when the
Spurs swept Peter's beloved Knicks to win the NBA World title. That banner dominates the
rafters, along with one companion banner listing the team's divisional titles. The Spurs
have retired the numbers of three of their greatest with banners honoring James Silas,
Johnny Moore, and of course "The Iceman" George Gervin.
Two small notes: we're certain that as soon as David Robinson plays his final game this
season his jersey will immediately join those three, and two, rumor has it that Peter was
also nicknamed "The Iceman" during his days as a competitive ballplayer....however it
probably had something to do his ice-cold shooting touch rather than having ice cold veins
that could do that signature finger roll!
We want to send a BIG thank you to the San Antonio Spurs, namely to Sean Bowers, Vincent
Hearn and Rebecca Caven. This was our 29th and final NBA venue, and the Spurs made
sure that our visit here would be a memorable one. Upon arrival, Sean greeted us at the
will call window with a parking pass and souvenir bags for each of us. After taking some
outside shots, Sean and Vincent gave us the VIP tour of the entire building. We were then
left at the Terrace Club, where Rebecca treated us to a terrific meal (the desserts here
were soooooo totally Texas sized we could not finish them!).
After dinner we were escorted to the playing surface, and we were invited to participate in
the player introductions, and got to high five the Spurs starters as they ran out onto the
court. Awesome or what?!!! Later in the game, we were given an introduction on the video
For our milestone final NBA venue, we got such nice treatment and want to send our
appreciation to the folks at the Spurs for making this day so special for us. We will never
forget you guys!
Slam dunks, assists, fouls
Foul... Do you follow the NBA? Interested in an out of town score? Well head straight home
after the game and tune into Sportscenter, because fat chance of finding a scrolling out of
town scoreboard anywhere at the SBC Center. Cmon guys! Gazillions spent on state of art
scoreboards and video boards, yet can't you find a spot to display the NBA scores?
Slam dunk - to Pete's cousin Tricia Wertz and her husband Ken, for opening their home to
us during our visit and accompanying us to the festivities and Spurs game. Thank you for
your warm hospitality!
Assist - reminiscent of the old Sabres "Mad Hatters", the "Baseline Bums" pretty much
dominate one section in the east end zone and do so much to get the crowds here jacked
Assist - (flashback to '99) "Sprewell shoots....and misses! The Spurs have won! The Spurs
are the NBA Champions!!!!" Poor Peter, for the second straight night he has to look at a
banner celebrating an NBA title won at the expense of his beloved Knicks. Not to worry
Peter! The Knicks are on a fast track to the NBA lottery again this season so you won't have
to deal with this again anytime soon!
Slam dunk - The USRT karma is at it again as the Spurs beat the Lakers by a 95-88 count.
Steve Jackson was en fuego for the Spurs, as he nailed 8 of 10 from behind the arc after the
Spurs overcame a pitiful first quarter shooting performace to get the W. A couple of
useless USRT karma stats here as the home clubs have won the last nine NBA games and
17 of the past 19 dating back to the beginning of the 2000-01 season. Also, the Lakers are 0
for 3 in our presence. Message to Staples Center, especially the Lakers - never, never,
EVER disrespect the presence of the roadtrippers in your building.
The SBC Center is an outstanding building, because such great attention was made to
design and decor that is representative of this real Texas community. The exterior
architecture is futuristic and pleasing to the eye. There is a wide variety of seating options
in all price ranges, and dining and entertainment choices to enhance the game day
experience. San Antonio fans have responded in kind with a strong season ticket base and
large and enthusiastic crowds (this game vs the Lakers was sold out early, and these fans
had their game faces on). For an NBA venue this place works nicely, and folks around the
AHL from cities such as St. John's and Syracuse probably set foot in here and wonder if
they have died and gone to Heaven! And again, the hospitality and friendliness of folks
from Texas is unmatched anywhere... visitors are always made to feel welcome. The one
fault, and a big one at that, is the location and surroundings of the adjoining neighborhood.
Building this arena downtown, (the Alamodome site would be ideal) would have added so
much to the arena experience. Nonetheless, we rank this NBA experience among the top
ones, and we would be happy to come back here anytime!
Food and team store 8
Scoreboard and electronics 8
Fan support 8
Location and neighborhood 3
Banners and history 6
In game entertainment 8
Concourses/fan comfort 8
Bonus: 4 for USRT read carpet treatment