When college football season started back in August, there was an excitement around the Arizona State University (ASU) football team.
In moving here from the Midwest, I was eager to experience college football in PAC-12 country. After attending an ASU game earlier in the season, I was told that nothing compares to the Territorial Cup game when the Sun Devils take on their in-state rivals from Tucson, the University of Arizona Wildcats.
I jumped on an eastbound train from the station at McDowell and Central Avenue and headed to Tempe to take in the action.
Mill Avenue was flooded with maroon and gold as fans took in the pregame festivities before making their way into Sun Devil Stadium. The navy blue and scarlet red was also noticeable as the visiting crowd was ready to have their voices heard as well.
The venue was packed to the brim for an intense meeting between the Sun Devils and the Wildcats but the home crowd was able to leave with a smile. The experience lived up to the hype.
From the pregame activities, to the videos on the jumbotron of Sparky walking through the Valley of the Sun to pump up the crowd, to the final snap of the football, the atmosphere was electrifying.
ASU defended their home turf and secured a 24-14 win.
After the exciting game, it felt like half of the stadium had the same destination: the light rail platform at Veterans Way and College Avenue. Of course, Valley Metro comes prepared for the big occasions. The game was expected to be a sell out so “event trains” were already geared up and ready.
According to transportation manager Ty McLeod, plans begin to take shape weeks in advance for big occasions like the Territorial Cup game to ensure that the proper amount of personnel is in place.
“Event trains are critically important given that covering events is a major aspect of how we serve the public,” McLeod said.
Fans of all ages loaded up into the event trains following the game to head home. One of those fans was Mesa Mayor John Giles, who says he takes light rail with his son to every home football game.
“It just a great way to experience the game,” Giles said. “We get a bite to eat in downtown Mesa and park our car there. We take the light rail into the games and get dropped off right in front of the stadium. It’s really the best way to do it.”
Even with trains filled from front to end, experiencing the ride home with hundreds of fellow Sun Devils is something that Giles says adds to the experience.
“It’s fun because it’s kind of like the pep rally experience, particularly when ASU wins the game,” Giles said. “Very happy, very collegial. It’s a lot of fun and it adds to the experience.”
All in all, the experience was one I’d recommend to anyone, not just sports fans. Remember, the light rail is always the easiest option of getting there and back.