STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #11
- Location: San Jose, California
- Opened 1993
- Capacity 17,562
- Games attended: 1
- Last visited: 2020
Excluding rinks that have undergone 9-figure renovations, The Shark Tank is the second oldest arena in the NHL. When you see the place, you’ll find that hard to believe. It’s aged really well.
The outside of the arena is beautiful, with glass pyramids, a stainless steel silver façade, and palm trees; when it’s lit up at night, it’s really attractive. The entry pavilion looks like a cathedral, complete with a grand staircase. San Jose Shark fans have had it pretty good.
The seating bowl consists of a large lower bowl ending with luxury suites and a small but steep upper bowl; there’s no club level, so every seat feels like it’s right on top of the action. And even though there’s only one concourse (lower bowl patrons go up, upper bowl patrons go down), it never felt jam-packed. There’s a social lounge available to all with two custom-built bars at each end, HDTVs, and high-top tables. Concessions stands have soft backlighting and have a bit of a NoCal flare with some featured local eateries and the availability of quality (albeit pricy) California beers.
The pre-game introduction involves the lowering of a fierce-looking shark head from the rafters, adding some dry ice, blasting some classic arena rock, and having the players skate through it as they emerge from the dressing room. There’s a Spinal Tap feeling to the whole production; it’s quite “low tech” for a Silicon Valley team, but is still very cool. When the Sharks go on the power play, the music from “Jaws” is played, the player in the penalty box is “eaten” by a shark, and the fans do the shark chomp motion with their arms. And each player has his own individual goal song that range from the ridiculous to the sublime.
Unlike the SoCal rinks, I found the fans here to be louder. The building still lacks the East Coast intensity, but unless the team is having an awful season, the rink’s 17,500 seats are occupied. At my mid-week game, there was some buzz in the air.
The SAP Center is proof that an “older” rink can still feel fresh, and solidly places in the upper tier of NHL rinks.