Communal experiences in San Antonio


These are the good days, or at least the hopeful ones. The lockout is all but over (fingers crossed) and everyone is undefeated. Even the Cavs. There are so many things to look forward to with the upcoming season, not the least of which are the experiences we as fans get with watching and attending NBA games.

Over at TrueHoop, our good friend Kevin Arnovitz wrote yesterday about several of his tips for attending NBA games. Things like seeing the the floor from different vantage points in the arena, random bets and going sans smartphone. He also had another tip about taking public transportation to the arena, to soak up the atmosphere with other fans.

Sports is still a communal civic outing in many cities, but in a lot of places it’s becoming less so. Hopping the subway in New York, BART in the bay, the T in Boston or light rail in Salt Lake will remind you that cities and the commonalities of the people who live in them matter. In an era when modern convenience has provided us with a lot more solitude, it’s fun to reacquaint yourself with that idea, even if it adds a few minutes to your trip.

San Antonio, and Texas in general, is pretty weak when it comes to mass transit. Every city has the bus, in San Antonio it’s VIA, but that’s not always the best option from going from home to arena. Otherwise, you’re stuck carpooling with friends at best.

But I have one memory from my childhood of that common experience fans get from making the voyage to and from the game together. When the Spurs played at the Alamodome, as bad of a venue for basketball as it was, many fans essentially hiked to the game from an offsite parking lot. I remember the walk from the lots near the Institute of Texan Cultures, dodging traffic on the access road and then walking under the highway on the way to the Dome. That trek from the parking lot to the Alamodome was the closest thing Spurs fan had to a city-wide carpool.

The trips back were even better, assuming the Spurs won that is. Fans filed out of the arena at full throat, with chants of “Go Spurs Go” and, if it was playoff time, “M-V-P.” There was also the fan-favorite “Lakers suck” chant that encouraged an enthusiastic crowd no matter the opponent. I went to several playoff games against the Utah Jazz when a chorus of “Lakers suck” went out and reverberated loudly from the underside of the highway. It was a short trip, but it was something.

These days the AT&T Center doesn’t have that same feeling. There’s a nice, clean courtyard area out front of the arena that encourages fans to hang out and mingle, as does the bar and patio near the club level, but the courtyard is usually filled with radio stations and other companies hawking products or encouraging sign-ups.

The organic experiences that broke out of that hike from the cheap parking area to the Dome have all but disappeared.

  • Mac

    Yeah, I’ve always wished the ATT center had been built were the dome is, or hemisphere, somewhere downtown. At the current arena Its all about getting straight in the car, sitting in traffic and listening on the radio. Not the best experience. During the dome days, we’d take a shuttle full of fans to the parking lot out at Santikos Northwest 14. The ATT center is awesome inside though!

  • DorieStreet

    Even now there are venues a quarter mile and less from the Alamodome for Spurs fans to congregate pre- and post- game:  Sunset Station, Ringside Sports Bar, Tucker’s Kozy Korner, Spaghetti Warehouse, plus the places back at the River Center and along the Walk. I would assume the longtime hotels and new establishments built in the last few years have restaurants and/or bars adjoining their lobbies.

    Why not have a ‘retro / throwback arena’ night or two (3,4. 5 perhaps?) where the Alamodome can host games when the marquee teams come to town; it would allow fans who normally cannot pay to see the Spurs live an opportunity to do so—and against the league’s best players/biggest stars.

  • DorieStreet

    TYPO–see the Spurs IN PERSON

  • DorieStreet

    TYPO–see the Spurs IN PERSON

  • Mom :-)

    Nice memory Big Guy. Those were fun days.

  • Ray Briggs II

    Oh man I can relate to this post. Some of my most fond memories were parking across from the Alamodome with my Dad at the parking lot for the Tower of Americas. It was cheap and it was almost always half empty. The walk to the game with my Dad arguing over how good the Spurs were and what moves they should make were great. The walk back with all the fans chanting and telling visiting fans to ‘Go home’ was even better.

    And the AT&T center doesn’t capture that completely. But nothing beats the walk back after a Spurs win with my daughter on my shoulders yelling ‘Go Spurs Go’ until the crowd starts to chant along with her. It will never quite be the Alamodome or Hemisphere again but it’s still pretty good.

    Plus it is much easier to get in and out of and now that I am the Dad driving my kids I can appreciate that.

  • titletown99030507d

    Posted this on another thread – Ryan Richards Injured again!
    Just searched the web and finally found something on Ryan Richards. He’s injured again! Hard to translate that site but they didn’t say what he injured only that he was out injured. I notice the box scores on the Lugano Tigers for the recent games and he wasn’t even listed. Crap! He’s been out since Nov. 26 2011 recently and they are due to play again on Dec 2nd tomorrow. Hope his name is on the box score after tomorrow. I was hoping the FO was going to buy out his contract with the Lugano Tigers and bring him down here to camp or D-League but I don’t know now. Bad mojo.

  • Craig Thomas

    I remember 2009 getting into it with a Mavs fan after the game 2 blowout. Yelling something derogatory about Mark Cuban and Dirk apparently was not taken too kindly to by the Mavs fan. As we walked towards the parking lot past the “Rodeo” area of the AT&T Center, I could feeling the attention and the crowd swelling as our argument became louder. Eventually, a huge Spurs fan (6’5″ or taller!) came and broke us up and my friends and I broke off from the crowd so the we didn’t get involved with the cops. I feel like the AT&T Center has some grit, especially if you ride the VIA bus to the game with some of the Baseline Bum fans. They are the best to get an impression of what to look out for and what to look forward to before the game. While I’ve only been to 3 or 4 other NBA arenas, I think the AT&T Center has a good mix of appearance and grit. Now only if I could say the same about our defense…

  • andy

    i have a few memories of games at the alamodome, but the feelings of community were chief among them.

    despite the texan aversion to it, the availibility and ease of public transport is fantastic for sporting events. i remember traveling via subway to get to beijing olympics sites and meeting people from all manner of nations on the way. even if not cheering for the same team/country, there’s an organic energy and excitement that is tough to manufacture in a site. it’d be nice to see it in san antonio, but i think freeway culture is prohibitive.