SANTA CRUZ -- Fans packed the 30,000-square-foot arena for the Santa Cruz Warriors' first home game -- and first home win -- Sunday.
An excited crowd of nearly 2,500 filled the stands for the team's sold-out home opener against the Bakersfield Jam. The Warriors won 93-88.
"I love the crowd and the way the community has come together," said Nicole Simson as she sat in the front row with her husband Tom sipping wine before tip-off. "It's fun that we're all rallying together for this."
The pulse and energy of the professional basketball game had the feel of a big-city attraction, and many Santa Cruz residents said they're happy to have that available near downtown in their own backyard. And through a deal fast-tracked by city officials, the Warriors are committed to stay in town for at least five years.
"We're very excited to see how it turned out," said Pedro Sierra, 40, who attended the inaugural game with his wife Lucy. "It's good for Santa Cruz."
Fans got an extra kick as the hometown rock star, James Durbin, an "American Idol" star in 2011, sang the "Star Spangled Banner" at center court before tip-off.
Mayor Hilary Bryant and former Mayor Don Lane were called to center court before the game to praise the community for supporting the team's move to Santa Cruz from its former home in North Dakota.
"Everyone knows you don't get anything built in Santa Cruz unless the community wants it," Bryant said. "Thank you,
Warriors officials say the inaugural game came together without any major glitches.
Fans found parking easily enough despite Sunday's heavy rain, and enjoyed the new squeaky-clean arena with its bright lights, loud music, and simple blue and yellow team decor.
Two concession stands offered popcorn, pizza, pretzels, hot dogs, cookies, beer, sodas and wine. Prices ranged from $3 to $7 for most items.
Pacific Cookie Co. and Marini's candy shop also offered some goodies.
Everyone at the game received a free blue T-shirt with "inaugural season" and two waves printed on the front.
Team President Jim Weyermann said the only glitch on Sunday was the malfunction of part of the scoreboard, which required a quick reloading of the scoreboard's hard drive.
"Other than that everything's been outstanding," Weyermann said. "I've rarely seen a community and a team enjoy a shotgun wedding so quickly. Tonight is just the beginning."
Markus Puhvel and his buddy James Conn scored two courtside seats when their friend Idris Nolan, a die-hard Warriors fan, had to visit his in-laws for the Christmas holiday and couldn't use his season tickets for the home opener.
"I grew up playing basketball and I follow the Warriors," Puhvel, 39, said. "It's great having a professional basketball team walking distance from your house. I'm just excited they're here."
Follow Sentinel reporter Shanna McCord on Twitter at Twitter.com/scnewsmom