It turns out I might have been throwing the term ‘unique’ around a bit frivolously over the past three weeks, but there’s no doubt in my mind that if there is one word to describe the state of Texas as a whole, that’s it. My final stop in the Western Conference took me to a building I got to know pretty well last season, the home of the Dallas Stars.
Dallas is a great place for sports, and I remember being surprised moving there last year, to find out just how important hockey is in Texas. Obviously, football is king, college or pro, take your pick. And with the emergence of baseball’s Rangers and Mark Cuban’s Mavericks, it’s not easy to stay relevant in “big D”. But the Stars keep on keeping on as one of the more successful sunbelt hockey franchises. They’ve managed to make hockey Texan.
For the first time on the trip, I visited one of the eight arenas I had already been to, but left with a different impression of the venue than I had going in. And in Dallas, we’re not talking about a building I had visited once eight years ago. This is a building I worked at for about 45 games just last season.
American Airlines Center is top notch.That’s all there is to it. I think 2010 Andre would have said it was a nice building…that’s about it. But 2010 Andre never took in a game at AAC as a fan. I once went to a rodeo there, but that’s another story, one that involves a monkey named Whiplash, a hard working dog and half a dozen sheep running full speed into the back of a trailer. There was still bull riding and all that good traditional rodeo stuff, but clearly that didn’t leave as deep an impression on me.
With AAC being the 25th stop on my trip, I was able to experience it after having seen what the rest of the league had to offer over the past 24 days, realizing just how much nicer it is than I had remembered. Its size and arched roof make it look a bit like an airplane hangar from outside, but the brick exterior helps keep it classy. Sticking with the “everything’s bigger in Texas” theme inside, the vaulted ceiling makes the building seem cavernous.
The concourses are intimate but spacious in their own right, and as it was kindly pointed out to me, every single eatery in the barn sells beer, so lines stay short. Add easily one of the top three largest HD video boards in the league along with two massive screens at opposite ends of the arena and a 360 degree sound system that makes it possible to program sounds that can physically travel around the arena. I would venture to bet that the “endzone boards” are nicer than about two-thirds of the league’s jumbotrons. Yep, that good.
One of its finest features is the Platinum Club level. Three stories of suites, bars, restaurants and top notch amenities make it one of the classiest sporting venues I’ve ever seen. It makes me wish I could have had access to the club level of all the other buildings.
As you may have read in a tweet, the Stars had their very own green man on Tuesday night, and while he might not have been the most active pseudo-mascot, spending the majority of the game just sitting in his seat, he did entertain on occasion. Perhaps his best attribute was his demonstration of stubbornness and dedication to the costume, as he insisted on pouring beers into his mouth through the green man suit. I can only assume it was successful, because he kept trying it and eventually the cup was empty. Good for him.
While I can’t say for sure what is most responsible, one thing is certain: when walking through American Airlines Center, you couldn’t possibly be anywhere else in the world but Texas. And I think that’s just the way Texans like it. Unique.