Downtown Offers Plenty of World Cup Viewing/Dining Options
June 30, 2014
by James J. Jefferies
Full disclosure: the author of the article you are reading knows zero about soccer. Nada. Beyond two years of AYSO soccer in 4th and 5th grade, during which his career statistics consisted of ONE assist, and kicking a ball around the front yard tethered by an elastic rope tied to a spike, he knows nothing.
The World Cup is here again, and it’s a strange but exciting time. I like the enthusiasm, I really do. It’s a bizarre and joyful phenomenon to see so many people trucking out to the bars at 8am, rockin’ jerseys, sporting face paint and waving flags. Despite the fact that I consider the act of watching soccer at any other time of year on television to be a grueling exercise in repeatedly waiting for something almost awesome to happen, being a football/soccer hater is increasingly becoming déclassé.
At the end of the day, if there’s another excellent reason to pile into a bar with your friends and neighbors, forget about the tide of dire events going on in the world, and knock back a pint or two, then why fight it? Downtown Tucson boasts a strong case for being the absolute epicenter of World Cup fever in Southern Arizona. The following spate of major venues for game-watching are all literally within spitting distance of each other, but there are some subtleties among the choices presented here, which I’ll delve into with each place, in terms of amenities provided and the general vibe. The USMNT (which does NOT stand for US Mutant Ninja Turtles, as I was chagrined to learn) will be taking on Belgium this Tuesday at 1pm. Prime-time for an extended workday lunch, no?
The Rialto Theatre: The Rialto has been opening its doors for World Cup games the last couple of weeks, and has regularly seen impressive attendance for these games, particularly if USA or Mexico is playing. I would say of all the Downtown venues, this is probably the most family-friendly of them all. Not as wildly intense of an atmosphere, in terms of fans living or dying on every missed shot, but definitely spirited. While they do serve drinks and usually have some tasty tacos from neighbor Gio Taco, it’s probably the least ‘boozy’ of the bunch. The doors remain open for the duration of the game, and so if you need a little bit of fresh air or to just get away from the noise for a moment, you can easily do so. Also quite cool inside, thanks to The Rialto’s powerful rock concert-grade air conditioning and big electric fan array.
Playground: Since its inception, Playground has always welcomed fans of all sporting stripes with open arms, being a fantastic spot to watch games of intense local interest. During game time, it transforms into a frenzied space, given the gargantuan size of the screens that dominate the west wall and low ceiling hung with wooden playground swings. People here come to play, if you follow my drift. There’s even an additional viewing space on the top floor, for when the anticipated turnout is going to be really huge. Plenty of excellent drinks and pub fare to be had.
If the concept of your favorite team losing is too much to bear, a thought emotionally synonymous with all life on this Earth instantaneously stopping and exploding, this is probably your joint. Playground sits right at the corner of 5th Avenue and Congress.
Hi-Fi: Hi-Fi Kitchen and Cocktails is the absolute newest kid on the block, occupying the space directly across from The Cadence and Gio Taco. You could almost call it the middle ground between The Rialto and Playground, as it has a wide array of cocktails and food available, but is a bit more on the relaxed side, given the seating that extends into an open-air patio. The bevy of available screens for viewing World Cup matches is definitely impressive, and the built-in Centro parking garage makes it convenient for those arriving westbound from Broadway (which applies to all the above venues given the close proximity).
Thunder Canyon Brewery: A Tucson-based brew pub and restaurant, with an extremely varied menu featuring burgers, chicken strips, salads, sandwiches, and special game day offerings during Arizona football season. They will be open when USA takes on Belgium at 1pm this Tuesday, and is probably the best bet if you have a large group of hungry people who want to watch the game. The Downtown TCB location is right at the corner of Broadway and Herbert.
World of Beer: WoB is also open daily at 9am, which makes it prime territory for early morning World Cup watching. It also has, hands down, the largest selection of beers in the area, everything from stouts, lagers, ciders, & sours, with well over 100 varieties on tap and bottled. So if throwing down a righteous pint is the most critical aspect of your viewing experience, this is probably your absolute best bet. With plenty of screens on a relatively spacious patio, WoB sits next to Gio Taco at 4th Avenue and Congress. Information on parking for all venues is available here.