Arizona sports are more than just lining up early for front row basketball seats and pledging to not leave football games early.
The Tucson area has about a million people and no top level major professional sports, but it loves UA athletics and there’s a lot more to do besides the usual suspects. Here’s a few:
Not too long ago the Wildcats played before depressingly small crowds at their on-campus stadium. But, in 2012 they moved to Hi Corbett Field and the program enjoyed a renaissance.
Hi Corbett, the former spring training home of the Cleveland Indians and Colorado Rockies and former home of the Triple-A Tucson Toros, is loved by locals and students alike.
Beer is sold at Hi Corbett, which was featured in the classic movie Major League and the atmosphere is lively. Arizona’s 105,131 fans in 2013 ranked 14th in the country.
Oh, and the Wildcats won the national championship in 2012.
Historically Arizona’s most successful program — eight national championships — enjoys one of the best home field advantages.
The Wildcats have won 583 games in Hillenbrand Stadium’s 20 years. They’ve led the country in attendance nine times out of those 20 years and were second in 2012 and 2013, despite this past season being a down year.
While baseball has beer and plays in a park next to the zoo and In-N-Out Burger, softball games are two innings shorter, have a mercy rule and have less pitching changes.
Hockey is actually a club sport, but Wildcat hockey is so popular that many mistake it for a varsity team.
Fueled partly by beer, the UA fans at the “Madhouse on Main Street” provide one of the best atmosphere for games other than football and men’s basketball. After Arizona goals, fans chant “He shoots, he scores, hey goalie you suck! It’s all your fault! It’s all your fault!”
Last season they had promotions every weekend, like the Teddy Bear Toss, where fans were encouraged to throw teddy bears on the ice after Arizona’s first goal. The games were filled with action, shootout wins, glass breaking and fights. The Wildcats last two games each drew over 5,000 fans and this year they host a team from Canada’s version of the NCAA.
Hockey is not included in the ZonaZoo passes, but student tickets were $5 last year and the UA offered a free shuttle to the games. The Wildcats play at the Tucson Convention Center downtown, which will get a $7.8 million facelift.
Women’s basketball plays an up-tempo style and now that they mostly play on Fridays and Sundays, hoops fans don’t have to pick between watching men’s basketball or women’s basketball anymore.
Volleyball features rallies where it isn’t unusual for players to dive all over the court or come near the fans. This creates a lot of intense moments as teams vie to win sets — it’s like each match features a bunch of the climaxes to basketball games.
Gymnastics has its intricacies; fans cheer for the other team and you have to wait like ten minutes after a meet to find out who won, but it is definitely something to watch. College gymnasts use better, more contemporary music for their floor exercises and you can sit very close to the action.
The women’s soccer team has historically struggled, but with MLS spring training, an international friendly last winter and FC Tucson all making their way down South, Tucson is quickly becoming a soccer town.