Monday, March 4, 2013

Tournament Time!

This post is a big bucket o' good stuff to make your Tournament experience better, including on-site scouting by Wally Mersereau who spent hours checking out the Seattle Center for us last weekend!

The Bracket and Schedule

The official bracket with teams and times is here (scroll down). Note there was a late change in times! Sometime last weekend they inverted the Friday and Saturday schedules. This is current:

  • Cal plays its first game at noon Friday.
  • Stanford plays its first game at 6pm on Friday.
  • Assuming both advance, Cal plays at 6pm Saturday, and
  • Stanford plays at 8:30pm Saturday.

Late-breaking news: The Stanford basketball office is sponsoring a get-together at The Spectator, a sports bar at 529 Queen Anne Ave., just West of Key Arena, on Friday at 4pm.

Arrival: Ride the Light Rail to Town

If your hotel is in downtown Seattle or close to Seattle Center, you can ride direct from SeaTac on the Sound Transit Light Rail (click for map and info). So you needn't get a rental car at all, or at least not until you want to go sightseeing Saturday morning. Wally writes:

Seattle has a good public transit system and it's a bargain. The best bargain of all is to take the light rail line from the Seattle-Tacoma airport to downtown. This costs $2.75 for most riders, but those of a certain age pay only 75 cents. 75 cents! Imagine that! The airport line ends about 30 minutes later at the Westlake Station on Pine Street, next to the Monorail that for another $2 will take you to Seattle Center. For seniors the Monorail costs $1!

There's a bit of a trick to finding the best way to get to the light rail station at Seattle-Tacoma airport. Here are the steps for ease and comfort:

Go to the ticket counter level of the airport. Go to the north end, past the United counters to the Air Canada counter. Opposite the Air Canada counter will be an escalator down to Skybridge 6 to the parking garage. Going to Skybridge 6 will keep you inside the warm airport terminal as long as possible.

Cross Skybridge 6 and follow the signs to Link Light Rail. This takes you quite a long way through an unattractive part of the garage. But it's the shortest and quickest path to the light rail station.

Buy your ticket from a vending machine on the lower level of the light rail station. There are no vending machines on the upper level platform. The machines take credit cards or bills and they give change. After getting your ticket go up the escalator to the platform from which trains leave frequently. You don't have to do anything with your ticket, just have it with you for inspection. Inspections are rare.

More on the Seattle Transit system: "Buses are $2.25 to $3, depending on length of trip and time of day. Seniors can ride any time, anywhere on the bus for 75 cents. You do need the exact fare. And if you use Seattle's public transit you don't have to pay to park. That's the greatest bargain of all."

Around the Seattle Center

The Seattle Center is the site of a number of interesting attractions besides the Key Arena. Click this link for a nice printable map of the center showing its various buildings and especially the location of parking. There are several other things worth noting:

  • Free wi-fi is available in many buildings and open spaces (but it's not clear if that includes Key Arena).
  • Tournament weekend the Center is also hosting the International Gem and Mineral Show. This may create some competition for parking.
  • At the always-interesting Experience Music Project, the featured exhibit is The Art of Video Games, along with several other exhibits.
  • This is coordinated with "Video Arcade: a hands-on gaming experience" at the next door Interactive Media Museum.
  • The Chihuly Garden is a permanent exhibit of the monumental glass sculptures of Dale Chihuly, some outdoors and some in a handsome glass house.
  • There are also two IMAX theaters, currently showing "Flight of the Butterflies in 3D", "Hubble 3D", and "The Last Reef 3D".
  • There's the Pacific Science Center with a number of exhibits.

Eating Places

The Center also has a food hall in the Armory building of which Wally writes:

The Armory name comes from the origins of this building which was constructed in 1939 as a military facility, housing artillery and tanks. It was modified into a shopping complex for the 1962 World's Fair. It was most recently spruced up in 2011.

It's a food court with a Starbucks, a Subway, a kebab place, a pizza place, a meat & veggie pie place, a couple of sandwich shops, a glazed nut stand, Seattle Fudge and some salad spots. A cursory look indicated, except for Starbuck's and Subway, it's probably no better than mediocre and the Starbucks and Subway might be below average. This is the most convenient eating location for the tournament except for concessions within Key Arena. It's the equivalent of being one block away. It is open Sun-Thurs 11 am to 6 pm and Fri-Sat 11 am to 8 pm.

Across from the monorail station and facing it is Collections Cafe in the Chihuly Glass building. It looks decent and has a modest cost menu for lunch and dinner. It also has wine. It's the most convenient place to Key Arena other than the Armory. It opens daily at 11:30 and closes at 7 pm Sunday-Thursday and at 8 pm on Friday and Saturday. It offers a very convenient location and is a bit upscale from the Armory food court.

Nearby but outside Seattle Center are many more eating places.

On Mercer between Warren and Queen Anne are: two Thai restaurants, a pizza place, Obasan--Japanese, Caffe Zingaro (coffee, tea and delectables). And the most high-end restaurant I found on my stroll: ten mercer. ten mercer is open for full dinner from 4:30 to midnight, 7 nights a week. It looked like a first class place. It's a white tablecloth restaurant. Not a bar.

Dick's is on the corner of Queen Anne and Republican west of Key Arena. It has only burgers and ice cream. Sort of a strange combination. The building looks sort of like a small Denny's. Dick's is open daily from 10:30 am to 2 am. It had a fair number of customers just before 5 pm.

On the opposite side of the Center is Tilikum Place Cafe at 407 Cedar St. with lots of Yelp raves for its "excellent" service and "inventive" menu.


There's a certain satisfaction in going to Seattle and not drinking Starbuck's coffee, and there are terrific coffee shops all around the Seattle Center. Off the NW corner, a four-block walk from the Key Arena brings you to the highly-regarded Caffe Ladro at 600 Queen Anne Ave. Slightly closer at 525 Queen Anne is Uptown Espresso "home of the velvet foam". (Both are near the restaurants Wally mentioned.)

At the opposite, SE corner of the Center, stand with your back to the Space Needle facing Broad Street and you are looking toward Forza Coffee Company at 100 4th Ave. North, again with lots of good reviews. These are only a few of the attractive-sounding places that you can find on this Google map of "coffee near Seattle Center"

Where to Hang Out

Before and after games it's natural to want to sit in a pub, have a drink and talk. We asked Wally to look at a couple of candidate establishments and his vote goes to McHugh's:

"McHugh's is in the center of a diversified eating and drinking area with many other establishments within two blocks and most within one block. So anyone headed to McHugh's will have a lot of other choices. They can indulge a whim for something different after pausing at McHugh's or stop in at McHugh's after eating elsewhere."

McHugh's is about two blocks from the West side of Key Arena. Turn right for two blocks on 1st Ave. North, then left on Mercer.

And Yet More To Do

Here are even more things to do on Saturday and Sunday:

  • The Seattle Great Wheel is a ginormous ferris wheel on the downtown waterfront, open Saturday and Sunday at 10am.
  • Seattle Art Museum, at this time featuring "Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough: The Treasures of Kenwood House, London" and other things, open at 10am Saturday and Sunday.
  • The Olympic Sculpture Park, provided the weather is clement, is open daily.
  • Here is a dynamic list of events happening March 7-11 in Seattle. You can filter it by type and location, but just scrolling the default list brings up lots of intriguing things to go and see. Anyone for a matinee of "The Music Man" Sunday before the championship game?


  1. Great travel tips, Dave and Wally. The Lite Rail from the airport is particularly good news!

  2. You guys are great, as usual!