Itinerant Fan

State Farm Stadium

Ever since the Arizona Cardinals erected what looks like a big ol’ spaceship in the desert in 2006, State Farm Stadium — known for the first 12 years of its existence as University of Phoenix Stadium before a sponsorship change in 2018 — has been the site of big games and memorable moments in both the pro and college game.

It’s already hosted two Super Bowls, which happen to be two of the most exciting games in recent NFL history, and the stadium has shown a remarkable knack for being home of high-stakes thrills: Through 2015, every NFL playoff game held there, including the aforementioned Super Bowls, was decided by seven points or less.

Don’t forget college football — the annual Fiesta Bowl is also held at the stadium and has been the site of several recent memorable college football moments.

The stadium has some drawbacks, mainly its location, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that State Farm Stadium has quickly become a must-visit destination for football fans — pro and college alike. 

  •   The Approach

    State Farm Stadium is not in Phoenix itself but in the western suburb of Glendale, and for the first-time visitor it helps to have a little bit of knowledge of the layout of the Valley of the Sun.

    Generally, it’s Phoenix’s eastern suburbs (Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa and the like) that are more well-populated and well-known to outsiders, so if that’s your starting point, know that getting over to Glendale can be a bit of a challenge — one that locals who live in the East Valley are often reluctant to take on.

    The biggest challenge in getting to the stadium is that only one freeway runs near it: Loop 101. Not surprisingly, this route gets super-crowded on gamedays, especially traveling north the seven or so miles from Interstate 10 — you can see the stadium in the distance from the interchange from I-10 but the crawl of traffic can make it seem much farther away.

    Once you do get close, though, your best bets for exiting if you’re looking for a cash lot are at Camelback Road or Glendale Avenue — the closest exit to the stadium, Bethany Home Road, provides access mainly to permit lots for season-ticket holders. The most popular cash parking option is the adjacent Westgate Entertainment District, located just north of the stadium, where spaces are available for $10 (as of the 2017 season). For more on parking, click here.

    If you don’t have a car, your only other options are taking a taxi or rideshare. The Phoenix area’s Valley Light Rail doesn’t run to Glendale; the official taxi and rideshare pickup point is south of the stadium and Bethany Home Road, but cars can also be hailed at the Westgate as well as the handful of hotels nearby.

  •   The Build-Up

    If you haven’t come to the stadium prepared to tailgate, then your best option is to hang out at the Westgate center, where a sizable number of food and entertainment options await. A lot of fans do this, of course, which means many of the restaurants and shops can reach jam-packed status hours before gametime. You can see a restaurant guide here.

    There are also outlet stores adjacent to Westgate, and more shopping across Glendale Avenue. Also nearby is Gila River Arena, home of the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, and while it’s rare for the arena to schedule an event on the same day as a Cardinals or college football game, it’s worth checking out the schedule to see what might be happening there.

  •   The Ambiance

    Once upon a time, the Arizona Cardinals played their home games at Sun Devil Stadium, a perfectly serviceable football venue on the Arizona State University campus that had only one notable handicap — not having a roof, a giant mister, a Montgomery Burns-style sun blocker or any other means of keeping the temperature inside the bowl below 100 degrees. This meant that the Cardinals could not host games in September unless they were played after dark, and since there were only two available slots for night games in the NFL each week at the time, it meant the Cardinals began nearly every season having to play at least three of their first four games on the road. That was surely blamed for why the Cardinals couldn’t put together winning seasons, though other factors received some blame, too, and the franchise’s losing ways was never an Arizona-specific problem anyway.

    Walk into State Farm Stadium and you’ll feel immediately why this stadium has been such a boon to the Cardinals. Yes, I’m talking about that blast of air conditioning that hits you when you pass through the doors, and if you don’t think it’s all that great, then you must’ve been lucky enough to attend a late-season game.

    The thing is, you have to work to get to that point — unless you’re a VIP parking in the closest lots, you’re looking at a bit of a walk to get to the outer perimeter of the stadium. If you get there within an hour of game time, you’re waiting 10 minutes or longer to get through the security check, which is all the outer perimeter is for. Once you’re in, you still have to find a gate, and there wasn’t one anywhere near the security check we passed through.

    Then, when you go through the turnstiles and within the stadium walls (surprisingly enough, the metal exterior that you see from a distance is, for all intents and purposes, just decoration because all it really gives you is shade), you’re still not greeted by air conditioning until you reach the double sets of doors leading into the concourse. And if your seats are in the upper deck like ours were, you’re still looking at a 5-minute trip up the escalators before you can experience the joy of air conditioning.

    OK, enough about the heat — once you get inside, the stadium is quite impressive, and quite beautiful. Even if you didn’t know that the roof was retractable and the playing field can slide in and out of the stadium, you’d still have to marvel at the engineering. The sight lines are tremendous wherever you are, even standing on the upper concourse (and that’s where a surprisingly large number of people took in the game anyway — there are plenty of prime SRO spots behind both end zones).

    The best compliment we can give to the stadium is that it’s huge, but doesn’t feel huge. Certainly not 70,000-plus huge. It actually feels more like a large convention hall, the best of which feel vibrant when there’s a great number of people but never crammed. The aforementioned SRO space in the end zones means a great majority of the seats are along the sidelines. Ladies and gentlemen, they did a terrific job with this stadium.

    The concessions offerings were pretty standard for a football stadium, though there seemed to be a large number of barbecue stands around. Like many venues, State Farm has worked to diversify its culinary offerings in recent years, offering items such as chicken and waffles, churro donuts and giant burgers.

Center map
Traffic
Bicycling
Transit

The Particulars

Home Teams
Arizona Cardinals

Address
1 West Cardinals Drive
Glendale, AZ 85305

Year Opened
2006

Capacity
63,400

Upcoming Events
All times local
Oakland Raiders at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, November 18, 2018
2:05 pm
Get tickets at SeatGeek »

Detroit Lions at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, December 9, 2018
2:25 pm
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Los Angeles Rams at Arizona Cardinals
Sunday, December 23, 2018
2:05 pm
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Playstation Fiesta Bowl
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
11:00 am
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AMA Supercross
Saturday, January 12, 2019
6:30 pm
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