Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Miami Heat 95 vs Philadelphia 76ers 119 (NBA Preseason) - October 13, 2017

Last weekend, my wife I traveled to Kansas City to visit our friend. This was not a sports trip, but as luck would have it, the NBA was holding an audition. Not a player tryout, but one for a city and arena as the league considers expansion. This rare event was enough for me to leave them for a couple of hours to check it out.

Kansas City is home to the Sprint Center, a downtown venue that is in desperate search for a regular tenant. The NHL will likely expand to 32 teams and Seattle and KC are two contenders to balance out the Western Conference. The NBA might also add two teams, and again those two towns are in the mix. So I was interested to see the inside of this venue to see how it measures up.

The arena was opened in 2007 and is the centerpiece of the Power and Light District, one of the best stadium neighborhoods out there, with over two dozen bars and several entertainment venues within a couple of blocks. The main entrance is located at 13th and Grand (above) while the picture below was taken from the backside at 15th and Oak, about a block from where I found a free parking spot on a side street. There are several lots nearby that charge quite a bit, not just for the game, but because there is so much going on around it. A new free streetcar runs along Main Street, so another option is to park a few blocks south and hop on that.

Tickets started at $7 online and when those were sold out, the next level up was $17. When you added in the rip-off fees (including a will-call charge), that jumped to $27, so I waited until game day, only to be charged $30 at the box office. Yikes. I asked for an upstairs seat, but was told there were none left, so took a seat behind the net in "Row 6". As you can see below, that is not 6 rows from the floor, but row 6 in the seating bowl. In other words, 6 rows from the ice surface should there be a hockey game. Not that I was complaining, it was a good enough seat for a meaningless game.

The shot below shows how many floor seats there are, which is normal for an arena that is used for both hockey and basketball.

I then did the lap around the concourse, which was narrow in parts as is expected for a downtown venue with a small footprint. Concessions were typical and overpriced. KC has some great restaurants, particularly of the BBQ variety, so I didn't eat here.

The floor was pretty plain, with simple lines and no advertising, surrounded by all dark grey seats.

You might notice that the upper deck is closed off, which is something that they apparently do for these exhibition games. The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild played here a couple of weeks earlier and the upper deck was closed for that as well.

Despite the upper level not having any available seating, the escalator was operating so I took it up to see what was going on. From what I could tell, some tickets had been sold for the upper deck, as there was a lineup of people waiting to exchange tickets for those in the lower deck. Whatever the case, I was not allowed to wander the upper concourse, so took a picture of the very steep seating area (again not unusual in a venue limited by downtown streets). The only other thing I noticed here were a couple of banners honouring Garth Brooks and his streak of sold out shows.

Back on the main level, I returned to my seat and decided that although the Sprint Center is the main attraction of a great downtown district, the venue itself needs a bit of work before an NHL or NBA team can call it home. I don't know if either league considers attendance for exhibition games (the Blues/Wild game drew 12,865 compared to 11,249 for this one) but given the impressive new arenas like Sacramento and Edmonton, this one is already bordering on obsolescence.

In terms of the game, the Sixers were the home team, with former Kansas Jayhawk Joel Embiid the prime attraction. Miami still has Erik Spoelstra coaching but not much else from their two championship seasons. The referees were already in midseason form, calling plenty of fouls (Hassan Whiteside had 3 fouls in the first 2:21 while guarding Embiid, leading to some humourous postgame tweets). That killed the flow and left me annoyed, but then again, I'm always annoyed at basketball games.

Anyway, the 76ers took an early lead and never looked back, dominating with a 119-95 win. Ben Simmons and J.J. Redick each had 19 points to pace Philadelphia, whose half-decade of tanking may finally be starting to pay off.



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