Happy Anniversary Shark Tank!

Saturday, September 7 was a fairly ho-hum day at the newly-renamed SAP Center, formerly HP Pavilion, Compaq Center, and San Jose Arena. There was an event, a mariachi festival called Vivafest. Preseason hockey wasn’t scheduled to start for two weeks, the regular season for a month.  It seemed like there wasn’t much to celebrate.

Shortly after the first puck drop on Saturday night at SAP Center

Shortly after the first puck drop on Saturday night vs. Ottawa at SAP Center

Oh, but there was. September 7, 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the opening of the arena, affectionally known as the Shark Tank (the Sharks would play their first home game on 9/30/93). Though it’s 20 years old, the place still looks nearly new and spiffy, with Sharks ownership and the San Jose Arena Authority committed to maintaining the venue to ensure its place as a premier sports and concert venue, and to keep up with rival franchises. Even though the structure is mostly precast, poured and block concrete, the glass entries and color highlights make the place feel more friendly and inviting than a largely concrete structure should. The steel cladded façade proved to be an aesthetic mistake, though it shimmers nicely at night. I joked shortly after the arena opened to some friends that the City needed to figure out a way to keep the arena in the dark all the time.

Since its opening, the Tank has hosted multiple NCAA basketball men’s regionals, the women’s Final Four, the US Gymnastics and Figure Skating Championships, pro wrestling, boxing, and MMA, and countless concerts. While in my relative youth I had reservations about the publicly-funded nature of the arena, the fact that Sharks ownership (led by the late George Gund at the time) spent a good sum of money upfront to ensure the arena would an industry leader, and the venue has held its place as a highly competitive, well-run NHL arena ever since. Unlike most other arenas, the team ran the venue themselves, parlaying that experience into the acquisition and operation of other venues in the area.

Circulation was always simpler at the Tank than at Oracle Arena thanks to wider concourses.

Circulation was always simpler at the Tank than at Oracle Arena thanks to wider concourses and a simplified layout.

SAP Center didn’t mention the moment on either its Facebook page or Twitter timeline. There was no special event. Maybe this was because the Sharks franchise celebrated its own 20-year anniversary in 2011, which would’ve made this celebration a bit much. Perhaps it’s a mark of the Hasso Plattner’s ownership. Whatever the case, San Jose should’ve celebrated the anniversary. It’s the best thing San Jose’s now shuttered Redevelopment Agency has accomplished. It’s worthy of praise, so I’ll do it here, admittedly in belated manner.

Happy Anniversary, Shark Tank! Here’s to 20 more years of great events at the arena. San Jose wouldn’t be the same without you. Take a bow.

The new SAP Center sign, installed Friday, replaced the HP Pavilion moniker.

The new SAP Center sign, installed Friday, replaced the HP Pavilion moniker.

15 thoughts on “Happy Anniversary Shark Tank!

  1. I thought it was August 1993 but I guess it was a month-later. Some of the same folks who opposed the arena now oppose a ballpark, no? Ask them if the arena is a failure and they’ll dance around that question. Amazing how MLB sees the reception the Sharks have gotten but still isn’t convinced San Jose is anything more than a minor league outpost for the Giants.

  2. The Tank is an awesome place to watch hockey. A few years ago it was listed as the 4th toughest building to play in as voted on by NHL players. Personally I like the exterior–and I think it is one of the reasons the place still looks new is because of the modern architecture. Be interesting to see how the Tank compares amenity wise to some of the newer buildings–

  3. I haven’t seen a hockey game there. But have witnessed many Arena Football games… Go SaberCats!

  4. Love our Tank! Short of a brand new arena, my wishlist for a major renovation:
    1) new center hung scoreboard that is akin to the Cowboys/AT&T Stadium.
    2) more tech/visual effects along main concourse. Facia displays and Vegas’ Fremont Street canopy come to mind.
    3) breaking up the metal facade with windows or large video screens.
    4) softening the street level with palm trees and landscaping.

  5. Circulation may be “simpler” in that there’s mostly only one concourse, but I’ve found it way more time consuming at SJ vs. Oracle, particularly between periods and at the end of games.

    As for improvements, I’d upgrade the food. Other than Unamas there’s never been anything worth eating there.

  6. Deff change up the facade like Tony said. Right now it looks too cold. Like a square tuna can without a label. But I still love the old girl! Seen everything there from Sharks, to Warriors, Prince to Royal Rumble.. Best thing ever to happen to DTSJ

  7. IMHO, San Jose Arena has always lacked character comparing it to Oracle. Other than more luxury suites and a more consistent fan base, architecturally it feels like the The Summit in Houston or the old Orlando Arena. Still an excellent place to watch a hockey game though, and the Sharks probably has the best fan base in the Bay Area.

  8. Brian, you must not get to the Tank much–Una Mas was gone last season. They’ve revamped all the food offerings:


    I’m good with the choices: Amici’s, Willy’s, Togo’s Hot Pastrami, Gordon Biersch chicken and garlic fries, the Chicago dog…all will do if I’m eating there. The beer selection is where they desperately need improvement.

  9. That’s right, it wasn’t Unamas but some other place that made nachos just like Unamas. Otherwise, the Tank is like a bad restaurant that’s burned me too many times. Yeah, it might be OK now but I’m not going to risk it.

  10. Bay Metro, can you expand upon the “character” comment. I am not asking factiously, I have been to many arenas and, honestly, I find all of them to be devoid of character and none to be appreciably better than the next.
    .
    My favorite events that I have witnessed within arenas have mostly been at Arco Arena, and that place is a pit, ha. It just so happens that I watched a tremendous Saturday afternoon tilt between the Lakers and Kings (Chris Webber/Vlade Divacs era) at Arco and saw Pearl Jam on their Yield tour (the band felt like it had a new energy ont hat tour and Arco was the best show I saw them play outside of an EPIC concert at Spartan Stadium that lasted 4 hours).
    .
    Oracle for a Warriors game, especially last season, is awesome. But it has more to do with the crowd and the game than the building. Same goes for every Sharks game I have ever been too. The Warriors and Sharks just have really amazing fans.
    .
    I guess, it’s like all arenas feel like a suburban office complex to me, whereas baseball stadiums have a unique flair and charm (regardless of the event or fans).

  11. Jeff, I’ve actually notices over the years that there are subtle quirks that can really differentiate arenas from each other. For instance the Tank has its one huge concourse that does overall facilitate flow and gives the place a more unified feel to it, but at the same time she’s also a fairly sterile feeling arena due to the simple concrete and metal sheeting construction. That said she’s also a fairly open feeling place which I’ve always appreciated.

    With Oracle the redone old girl feels a tad bit fancier than SJ but also darker and more constricted due to the low ceilings in small concourses and very low lighting. That feeling carries over into the arena itself with the downward sloping concrete ceiling that seems almost inexplicable in its ability to stay up. Seats in Oakland also feel smaller and rows narrower than SJ.

    Then take Honda Center in Anaheim which takes the concourse division for levels another notch up having 4 different concourse levels. They are pristine and beautiful marble. They’re also more open and better flowing then Oakland but not quite as much as SJ (but some of that is made up with having 4 of them so flow isn’t impeded as much). But then Anaheim has a failing its the rows. As a 6’1″ male it is impossible for me to sit in a seat in Anaheim w/o my legs at a 45 degree spread minimum. The rows are ridiculously narrow.

    Arco was mentioned above and is as close to a lifeless arena design wise as you can get as it literally looks like an office building and is largely unimpressive or distinctive inside.

    Then there’s Staples Center which is currently the most stylish arena inside and out in CA but also the most class divided in opposition to SJ’s more egalitarian design. In LA the have nots are baseball stadium high above the floor.

    So arenas have character both in and out, but it’s not slap you in the face obvious like baseball. Rather its more in subtle design cues like a football stadium.

  12. Getting sports venues of any type built in the Bay Area is a pain in the dick, so I’m glad to see this kind of longevity. I hope San Jose can squeeze another 20 out of the this place.

  13. @Jeffrey,

    Thanks for your question. I guess by “character”, I mean SJ Arena (IMO, of course) doesn’t feel very different to me than many other arenas (past & present). When driving by or walking in I don’t totally feel like I’m encountering a totally new or unique experience. This is totally not a diss to SJ Arena. It’s in a great location and is home to one of the best crowds in all of sports. But as I said earlier, it just seems akin to the likes of arenas such as the Delta Center (Salt Lake City) or The Summit in Houston. SJ Arena’s bowl seating is also sort of reminiscent of the old Orlando and Miami Arenas. I guess it kind of makes sense seeing as all these arenas (with the exception of The Summit, of course) were built around the same time.

    Oracle Arena has a bit more character just because in my opinion, no other Arena really looks like it. With the exception of the Inglewood Forum (which in many ways was almost identical to the original Coliseum Arena), there aren’t any other sports venues that I’m aware of that are circular with the “jewel-box” exterior Oracle has.

    Additionally Oracle was one of the first major NBA arenas built JUST for basketball, (without the extra ring of seating caused by a hockey team playing there) which I’m assuming makes the sight lines a little better. I guess it’s difficult to compare an NBA specific Arena to SJ Arena, but that seemed to be the general comparison made in the post and in some of the following comments.

    But regardless, I’m almost positive SJ Arena will have a life span at least as long as Oracle’s. I can’t see the Sharks trying to fix something that isn’t, and probable will never be broken.

  14. @Jeffrey,

    Thanks for your question. I guess by “character”, I mean SJ Arena (IMO, of course) doesn’t feel very different to me than many other arenas (past & present). When driving by or walking in I don’t totally feel like I’m encountering a totally new or unique experience. This is totally not a diss to SJ Arena. It’s in a great location and is home to one of the best crowds in all of sports. But as I said earlier, it just seems akin to the likes of arenas such as the Delta Center (Salt Lake City) or The Summit in Houston. SJ Arena’s bowl seating is also sort of reminiscent of the old Orlando and Miami Arenas. I guess it kind of makes sense seeing as all these arenas (with the exception of The Summit, of course) were built around the same time.

    Oracle Arena has a bit more character just because in my opinion, no other Arena really looks like it. With the exception of the Inglewood Forum (which in many ways was almost identical to the original Coliseum Arena), there aren’t any other sports venues that I’m aware of that are circular with the “jewel-box” exterior Oracle has.

    Additionally Oracle was one of the first major NBA arenas built JUST for basketball, (without the extra ring of seating caused by a hockey team playing there) which I’m assuming makes the sight lines a little better. I guess it’s difficult to compare an NBA specific Arena to SJ Arena, but that seemed to be the general comparison made in the post and in some of the following comments.

    But regardless, I’m almost positive SJ Arena will have a life span at least as long as Oracle’s. I can’t see the Sharks trying to fix something that isn’t, and probable will never be broken.

  15. Dan: “….at the same time she’s also a fairly sterile feeling arena due to the simple concrete and metal sheeting construction.”

    THIS is what I was talking about when speaking of what I thought was a general lack of character with SJ Arena.

    I do disagree with Arco being any more “indistinctive” than SJ Arena is. In my opinion, of all the indoor sports arenas still in use by professional sports teams in the State of California, Arco and SJ Arenas are pretty much tied, if we’re comparing apples to apples. They BOTH are square shaped, concrete buildings with VERY FEW windows or exterior ornaments. Of course, there’s the stark contrast being Oracle, which has an exterior almost exclusively made of glass.

    If I had to give my own PERSONAL ranking of the Big 5 California arenas, it would go something like this:

    #1: Honda Center – though it kinda looks like a shopping mall, it’s details and concourses make things so much more aesthetically pleasing.

    #2: Staples Center – though its bland and blindingly purple interior pales in comparison to it’s very unique and attractive exterior, it has the best location and the best pre- and post game entertainment options. Plus, who can argue with all the money that is being made with those three tiers of luxury suites?

    #3: Oracle – Its really a nice place to watch basketball and is well kept. Concourses aren’t perfect but are manageable.

    #4: SJ Arena – awesome location, awesome fans, awesome organ music! But again, I just don’t feel like the building itself is incredibly unique. IMO, it’s more of a ‘get the job done’ type Arena. (Perhaps its more bland design makes it easier – and cheaper – to upkeep?)

    #5: Arco Arena – Though its exterior isn’t any less ornamental than SJ Arena, it’s a poorly designed and cheaply built arena. When I go to games there I feel like it’s 1991 all over again. The hard plastic seats are not comfortable, the wood panelling is absolutely ridiculous, and the gold trimmed luxury suites are not at all flattering. The owners have done a horrible job of keeping the place updated (other than a new court, not a single upgrade appears to have taken place at Arco Arena), and everything else, from the 1989 video boards to the equally old and dimly lit LED signs, make Arco Arena a true relic of the past. I’m honestly surprised the place is still standing.

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