Toyota Center Event Guide – Rockets Game Day

Toyota_Center_inside

The Toyota Center gives you a great view from any point in the arena.

With basketball season beginning to take form, I figured I would touch on one of the hottest teams in the NBA; the Houston Rockets. Though we all saw Dwight Howard’s impact do nothing for the Lakers last year, Houston fans seem to all be on board with his addition to a Rockets team that is starting to look like the real deal. As the Rockets begin to bring Houston back in to playoff relevance the Toyota Center begins to reach capacity more and more these days which makes it a great topic of discussion.

Let’s start with pre-game. Unbeknownst to many Houston Texans fans, tailgating is primarily a football tradition leaving the parking lot at the Toyota Center to be just that. Instead Rockets fans are usually scouring the streets and bars near the Toyota Center in preparation of tip off. The B.U.S. is a fairly close sports bar that always seems to bring in the crowd before and after games. The B.U.S. is a moderately priced bar but is a great spot to start a Rockets or Astros game. The atmosphere is pretty laid back and calm though things can get pretty crazy when the Mavericks or Spurs come to town. If you are looking for something a little more upscale you’ve got The Grove, III Forks, and Vic & Anthony’s Steakhouse all within less than a mile of the Toyota Center.

One thing that helps the Toyota Center remain a top NBA Venue is the parking. There is a huge garage that is actually connected to the Toyota Center allowing for easy entrance and exit. Even if you miss out on the 2,500 space garage the streets are littered with more than 10,000 other spots well within walking distance to the game. If you are coming from out of town, enjoy an easy walk from any of the numerous hotels surrounding the Toyota Center. The Embassy Suites, Hilton, Four Seasons, and Holiday Inn Express are all within a block of the Toyota Center making them prime spots for your stay in Houston for a Rockets game.

The Toyota Center is up there with the biggest of NBA Venues and can hold over 18,000 basketball fans. Like most basketball arena’s the Toyota Center has an all-around great view of the court. If you’re looking to get up close and personal with the players I would recommend getting in the lower arena level where you feel like you’re on the court and get a feel for just how massive the players are. Depending on the game and section this area will usually run you anywhere from $60 to a couple hundred but guaranteed to be money well spent. Once you get up into the upper level sections your view will be hindered slightly but far from a bad seat (remember these guys are huge). The good news is you won’t pay nearly as much. Rarely will you not be able to get into one of these sections for less than $100 a seat. There are some club sections in the upper level and those will run at a little bit of a higher rate, but grabbing ticket in the 400’s of the Toyota Center is a great way to catch the Rockets play for cheap.

Some of the biggest games this season at the Toyota Center will be when the Dallas Mavericks come to H-town on December 23 and the San Antonio Spurs in January and April. The Rockets have been making moves all year in preparation for this season and it’s looking to be a special year for Houston’s basketball scene.

AT&T Stadium Event Guide – Cowboys Game Day

This stadium uses more electricity on Sundays than a small country and you’ll feel it when you’re there on game day to see the Cowboys.

My most recent NFL venture this season took me to the one and only Cowboys Stadi.… scratch that, AT&T Stadium. There was no surprise to hear that Jerry sold out the naming rights, it was bound to happen eventually, but I was surprised at just how extravagant AT&T Stadium was. I had heard countless descriptions of how jaw-dropping and amazing this stadium was but never gave them much attention until I experienced a Cowboys game at AT&T Stadium first hand. It really is one of the most monumental stadiums I have ever been in.

For starters, the stadium looks like it should be called the AT&T Spaceship as I was anxiously awaiting its departure the entire time I was there. But besides looking like a futuristic aircraft out of Star Wars, AT&T Stadium definitely puts the “luxury” in NFL. Upon entering the stadium, after making your way through a pre-game outdoor courtyard complete with stand up tables, walk-up bars, and a very large screen showing both teams warming up, the colossal size of AT&T Stadium begins to set in. I can’t even begin to describe how tiny I felt walking into the stadium because I have never been inside something that massive.

My view from Section 413, Row 29

My view from Section 413, Row 29

After taking in the scenery of AT&T Stadium’s extravagant entrance the hike began. Fore Warning: if you are sitting in the upper concourse wear easy walking shoes. I was headed to section 413 row 29, which I learned after getting to my seat is the second to last row from the top of the stadium. In the midst of catching my breath and wiping the sweat from my face I was greeted with one of the most amazing video screens I have ever seen. If you haven’t seen 23,040 square feet of video board than the only thing I can tell you is to go see it because it’s awesome. Back to my seats though, which were surprisingly great. Before I start ranting about how much I enjoyed my seats, let’s get the obvious out of the way. Yes they were in the “nose-bleed” section and yes almost every seat in the stadium was closer to the field, but they were far from bad seats. Having played football the better part of half of my life, I enjoy having a wide view of the game and for even the slightest football savvy fan this view allows you to actually witness the plays develop. When I saw the Texans play at Reliant Stadium earlier this season, the seats were great but every snap was somewhat of a blur because you couldn’t see anything develop. The playing speed actually appears to slow down the further away you get and at the top of the stadium I was able to see blocking schemes, routes open up and holes for the running back to maneuver through. Despite my wife not having a clue as to what I was saying, I thoroughly enjoyed the “nose-bleed” section and have recommended it to tons of people. Besides it’s hard to miss anything when the video screen in front of you spans the 20 yard lines, and it’s not like watching the game from home.

There is one pet peeve that is capable of detouring people from live events, including myself, and that’s the horrific traffic that precedes the game. While I can’t speak for Dallas as a whole (because the traffic is horrible) leaving the Cowboy’s game was pretty painless. What’s even more amazing is if you’re the type who would rather not risk getting caught in the traffic there is no need to leave at the beginning of the 4th quarter (like many Cowboy’s fans were doing even though we were beating the Rams) to avoid it. As the saying goes, “There is no party like the after party,” and it  holds true at AT&T Stadium. Instead of submerging into the stampede headed towards the parking lot, hit up the Cowboys after party in the stadium and enjoy a live band, TVs displaying the remaining games, and more beverages. Pretty solid idea if you ask me.

So to recap, if you haven’t been to AT&T Stadium to catch a game you need to. Whether it’s a Dallas Cowboys game, college football game, or college basketball game you’re in for a treat, I can promise you that. The Cowboys have yet to host Minnesota, Oakland, Green Bay and Philadelphia on their 2013 schedule and the Big 12 showdown between Texas Tech and Baylor is headed to AT&T Stadium on November 16. With the AT&T Cotton Bowl and the Final Four making their way in the AT&T Stadium in 2014 there is plenty of time to get tickets to some of the biggest college sporting events in the country.

Reliant Stadium Event Guide – Texans Game Day

Reliantstadium

This is where you want to be in Houston on Sundays

Cooler weather, fantasy leagues, brighter Mondays, later Thursdays, and a new meaning to #sundayfunday can only mean one thing — football season has arrived. I kicked off my football season at Reliant Stadium for the Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans game and what a way to start the season. Besides witnessing one of the best games of the season thus far, Texans fans know how to throw down for a football game, especially when facing their division foes. In an ironic rivalry twist, as much as Texans fans despise the Tennessee Titans, it’s the Titans they have to thank for their beloved Houston Texans franchise which only fuels this competitive fire, and it shows. But rivalries aside, Reliant Stadium is a great place to experience the NFL.

blog_texans

Houston Texans vs. Tennessee Titans from section 104 row JJ

I arrived to the Blue parking lot roughly an hour before kickoff and was shocked to see complete an utter chaos in the form of tailgating, it was awesome! When I say chaos I don’t mean a crazy R rated madhouse, I mean all ages in a completely succinct state of mind with one goal — root for the Texans. From DJs surrounded by flat screens to mini football fields in the parking lot, Houston Texans fans have  tailgating down to a science. If you are ever heading to Houston for a game I recommend an early arrival to experience what may be the greatest tailgate you ever attend.

If you have ever been to Houston than you know about the evil cloak the rest of us like to call humidity. It’s not pleasant. Thankfully the people of Houston feel the same and decided to create an indoor stadium complete with AC and retractable roof for those scarce “San Diego-like” Texas days. Though the AC was a huge plus, the atmosphere come game time was the best part. It was like the tailgate moved into the stadium without skipping a beat. I have never given more random high fives in my entire life and I’m not even a Texans fan, GO NINERS! (editor’s note: meh)

I am a huge fan of 50-yard-line seats, but it’s hard to complain about any lower level seat in Reliant Stadium. In fact the whole stadium utilizes the space well leaving few bad seats. The seats are as close to straight up as they can be which really puts the fans in the game. It was by far the loudest football game I have ever been to and you can’t help but join in with 70,000+ cheering fans. My wife and I were in the last row of section 104 just under the second level overhang. What I really liked about these seats is that they provided multiple hanging TV’s that displayed exactly what the two (non-visible) jumbo-trons at each end zone were showing. All in all I would and will make it back to many more Texans games and recommend it to all football fans.

Houston Texans Seating Chart at Reliant Stadium

Houston Texans Seating Chart at Reliant Stadium

As far as concessions are concerned, I think there is an overall agreement that from High School to NFL football all concessions are too expensive. Now that we got that out of the way, beer at Reliant was fairly moderate and it came in a bottom up glass. If you have never experience the bottom up draft, it is a cup that fills from the bottom up. IMPORTANT NOTE…if you only take one thing away from this blog let this be it, the hole at the bottom of the glass does not lock so don’t try to push it in. Your beer will end up in your lap and that’s no good for anyone involved, trust me.

To finish up, if you ever get a chance to attend a game that players from your fantasy team will be playing in, do it…and start those players. It was pretty sweet seeing Ben Tate bust out on a 60 yard run down the sideline and watching the rookie, DeAndre Hopkins, go up and grab the game winning touchdown to give me a 2-0 start in my fantasy league.

You can catch the Texans at Reliant Stadium this weekend (Sep. 29) against the Seattle Sehawks which is likely to be a great game. Houston will also be hosting some of the best quarterbacks in the league this year starting with Andrew Luck and the Colts on November 3. It’s Texans vs. Patriots and their future HOFer on December 1, and then Peyton Manning’s Broncos on December 22.

The Energy at Gexa

gexa_pavilion
A couple of weeks ago I made my second visit to the Gexa Energy Pavilion to see John Mayer. The Pavilion sits right next to the Cotton Bowl Stadium on the Texas State Fair grounds and is one of my top venues for concerts. Gexa is able to hold just over 20,000 and has one of the biggest lawns I have ever been to.

Getting There
Getting to the Gexa Energy Pavilion can be a bit exhausting due to the traffic, but the great thing about Dallas is that there are tons of shortcuts off the highway to avoid all the traffic. My wife and I were sitting in an outrageously long line at the exit for Gexa and decided to try and navigate it ourselves via smartphone. It was surprisingly simple and I recommend it to everyone going to the pavilion. Navigating around the line into the parking lot of the Gexa Energy Pavilion is something you can’t avoid, but (don’t take my word for it because I may have just gotten lucky) parking is free. I don’t know if it was a one-time deal or what but I parked in the back lot and was not charged a fee – keeping my fingers crossed that it will be the same for my next visit to the pavilion.

GexaEnergyPavilion-newGAPit500

Gexa Energy Pavilion Seating Chart

Where to Sit
For both the John Mayer show and my first visit, which was a Lil Wayne concert back when the pavilion was named the Smirnoff Music Centre, I had lawn seats. Though the sections offer great seating (literally every seat has a fantastic view) the Lawn is one of the best lawns I have sat in. It is a bit steeper than most lawns, allowing for a clearer view over anyone who sits in front of you. There are a few spots where your view could get blocked by the pillars holding the pavilion roof, but other than that most of the lawn offers a great seat for any show. Obviously the closer the better, but with two screens on both sides of the stage, you’re really not going to miss much in the back. I was sitting on the left side of the stage for the JM concert and had a great line of sight the whole time and was able to get the shot below during “Gravity”. My lawn seats for the Lil Wayne show slowly turned into section 202 seats as the section was nowhere near filled and the staff was pretty cool about letting us move into them once Weezy had been on for 20 or 30 minutes.

jm_gexa2

John Mayer at Gexa Energy Pavilion

Sound Quality
The sound at Gexa is phenomenal and the crowd is extremely energetic, no pun intended. I don’t know if it was because of Mayer or if it’s just a Gexa Energy Pavilion thing but the crowd was really into it which only made JM that much better. The guy was ten folds better than when I saw him in 2010 (yes the show I proposed at) but the Frank Erwin crowd was nowhere near as excited as the Gexa crowd. Knowing I planned to write this post after the show, I decided to move around a bit and see what the sound quality was like all over the pavilion.

If you can find a spot where the sound has imperfections let me know because I couldn’t find any. Literally every spot gets the same outlandishly clear sound that makes a live show so unforgettably good.

Upcoming Shows & Events
If you have never been I would definitely recommend catching one of your favorites at the Gexa Energy Pavilion. The line-up is stacked with acts like Wiz Khalifa & ASAP Rocky, Matchbox Twenty & The Goo Goo Dolls, Lil Wayne, T.I. & 2 Chaninz, Mumford & Sons, Depeche Mode, Fun., and the Honda Civic Tour featuring Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson. The 2013 line-up at Gexa also includes a festivals such as the Vans Warped Tour, Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, and the Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival with Dave Chappelle and Flight of the Concords. For more acts check out our Gexa Energy Pavilion Page and get some tickets to see your favorite act at one of my favorite venues.

Austin’s New Amphitheatre

austin360_panoramic
I covered my experiences with the Frank Erwin Center last month and found that it helped quite a few people make some decisions on seats, parking, and what to look forward to when heading to the venue. This month I am looking at Austin’s newest member to the massive family of venues, the Austin360 Amphitheater.

I was ecstatic to hear Austin was bringing in an amphitheater, and when they announced it would live right in the middle of the Circuit of the Americas F1 racing grounds and I couldn’t wait to check it out. Sometimes when you hold such high expectations for something you end up being disappointed. Let me be the first to say this is not the case for the Austin360 Amphitheater.

My first visit out to A360 was the venues debut and Kenny Chesney was taking the stage. Though I will admit $20 for parking was a bit lofty for me and the walk can get pretty far depending on the lot you have to park in, the staff goes out of their way to make up for it. First of all I have never been to an event where the traffic flows with such ease upon entering and exiting. Along with an extremely friendly traffic control staff the venue offers a free shuttle to and from the entrance (as well as an army of pedicabs).

Tower Amphitheater - Seating Chart

Seating Chart for Austin360 Amphitheater

Having seen Chesney twice before at the Erwin Center and FC Dallas Stadium I knew the show was going to be good regardless of the venue. Like I said before, the 360 Amphitheater did not disappoint. I had lawn seats and my only suggestion for this section is if you are a stickler about being in the front get there early because it fills fast. Don’t worry if you don’t get there early enough because the lawn is elevated so you won’t have to deal with me (the tall guy that stands in front of you at every show). The grass is thick and lush making for a great seat (even though most everyone in the lawn stands for the whole show) but blankets and seat-back chairs (chairs that don’t have legs) are acceptable. My most recent visit to the Austin 360 Amphitheater was at Dave Matthews Band, I didn’t sit in the lawn but noticed an additional riser with tables and a full service bar which would have been hell-a-nice at Chesney. The view from the lawn depends on where you get situated at but the sound is just as good as the front row. There are giant screens on each side of the stage and they are plenty big to satisfy your viewing needs. All in all, the lawn is a great, cheaper way to get in on a great show. I already snagged two lawn tickets to the Mumford & Sons show in June and can’t wait to get back to the amphitheater.

dmb_austin360

Dave Matthews Band at Austin360 Amphitheater

Last time I had tickets to see DMB was in 2009 at ACL, the year it poured all weekend and led me to leave before getting a chance to see one of my favorite bands. I was not about to miss Dave the second time around. My wife and I sat in the back of section 105 on row U and it was amazing. I know what you’re thinking too, it was your favorite band of course you thought it was amazing. Well you’re right but that doesn’t mean the venue didn’t have a role in my enjoyment as well. The picture at the top and to the right were both taken from my seat to give you a perspective of the view from section 105. The 100′s sections are all very similar so you can expect the same view in 101-107. The 200 section is a bit further back but still not bad and all the seats are roomy and comfortable (for amphitheater chairs).

My biggest complaint is the price of the booze. Domestic 16 oz. beers were $8-8.50 and the imports were a dollar more and after everything you spend to get into the joint nobody wants to pay that much for a beer. There is a solution though and I have seen tons of people taking advantage of it so far. They allow tailgating in the parking lot prior to the show. Tents, beer pong, washers, and corn-hole, I have seen it all out in the parking lot which is cool because the concession stand will win the battle with your wallet.

The Austin360 Amphitheater is a great place to catch a concert and I keep telling people to go check it out. With Mumford & Sons scheduled for two shows in June, Wiz Khalifa & ASAP Rocky in July, Maroon 5 & Kelly Clarkson in September, and Lil Wayne & T.I., Train, and Keith Urban in between there are plenty of good times to be had at Austin360. Check out A360′s full schedule and get tickets to your favorite artist.