...deep in the heart of North Texas, of course.
The Dallas Stars have been in Texas since 1993, but until last night, I had never attended a game, nor even set foot in American Airlines Center. (Don't get me wrong--I became a fan by the time they won the Stanley Cup in '99; in fact, I hosted the game-watching parties for my group of friends at my house. Star Wars: Episode I had recently come out, and we spent each intermission having a hellacious continuing Pod Racer tournament on the Nintendo 64--fun times!). But I'd never quite made it out to a game, either because of scheduling or the (not entirely accurate) notion that tickets were just too pricey for what I could afford at the time. So when the team ran a special that offered $15 tickets for all the games in the month of October, I had to jump at the chance.
It seems that I picked a good game for my first one, as the Stars beat the Minnesota Wild, 4-2. I missed the very first goal (which happened just 13 seconds into the game) because I couldn't get my teaching schedule and the train schedule to properly converge, but I still got there in time for a decent amount of the first period (and in fact, the Stars would score their second goal within mere minutes of my being seated).
As I said, I'd never been to the AAC before last night (though I did walk up to it on a visit to Victory Park one time), and I was quite impressed with the facility, especially compared to its predecessor, Reunion Arena. Although it's over seven years old now, it still looks sparkling and new. They've done a clever thing, advertising-wise, by having a lighted center ring that can host a variety of corporate logos and also be used to generate crowd excitement, announcing things like goals, power plays and so on. The seats were comfortable, and the sound was loud and clear.
As for the atmosphere of the game itself--the best word to describe things would be "rowdy," in a good way. The PA announcer may have been a bit over-the-top (in a Michael Buffer sort of way), but otherwise, they did a fine job of stirring up interest, using lights and music to get the crowd riled up. There's a lot of time between goals in hockey, but the presentation comes off as "constant entertainment," which fits well with the current Internet/gamer generation. (The use of lights was especially effective, with that center advertising bar flashing maniacally at some points--though I wonder if it might cause Pokémon seizures in little kids.) The Stars scored some more and kept up a good defense, so my first game ended with a W.
The one thing that really surprised me was how nice our seats were, especially only being $15. I didn't expect to have to go past a guard to get to the escalator, for one thing. Also, we were right next to the luxury boxes (so much so that I could turn my head just a bit and watch the final pitch of the World Series on the TV in the suite next door), and the food was not only really good (if expensive), but servers had come through the seats before I got there. As we were leaving the concourse, I asked my friend who had gotten the tickets how much the seats usually were. His answer? $115! (I guess they did the $100-off promotion because a lot of the October games don't draw as many people as the ones later in the year.) And it turns out that there really are $15 seats in the upper, upper deck on a regular basis. I'll definitely have to remember that in the future.
All in all, a great night. I'll be back.