Monday, December 13, 2010

RBC Centre, Sarnia ON

Basic Information
Team: Sarnia Sting (Ontario Hockey League)
Game: Sting vs Oshawa Genrerals-11/27/2010
Team Website: http://www.sarniasting.com/
Ticket Information: (519) 541-1717
Tourism Information: (800) 265-0316 or http://www.tourismsarnialambton.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.chok.com/
Local Newspaper: Sarnia Observer http://www.theobserver.ca/

Team History: The history of the Ontario Hockey League’s Sarnia Sting actually starts a few hundred miles away in another league. In 1969, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League granted one of its charter franchises to the city of Cornwall, ON. That team, the Cornwall Royals, won three Memorial Cups, emblematic of earning the championship over all of Canadian junior hockey. In 1981, the Royals moved to the Ontario Hockey League, and in 1992, moved to Newmarket, ON. That move would only last two years, as in 1994, NHL star Dino Ciccarelli and his brothers purchased the team and moved them to their home town of Sarnia, renaming them the Sting.

How About That Name (And Some History): One of the provisos which enabled the Ciccarelli brothers to bring the OHL to Sarnia was that a new arena was necessary. The team would play their first three seasons in the ancient Sarnia Arena, but in 1998, the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Complex was opened. In 2009, the Royal Bank of Canada purchased the naming rights, and rechristened the building the RBC Centre.

Getting There: (From the US): Take I-94 east to the Blue Water Bridge (the last exit). After crossing the bridge, follow to Highway 402 east to Highway 40 (Modeland Road South). Stay to the right on the ramp, and after crossing Modeland Rd South, go straight to Exmouth St. Follow towards London Rd. Go through the first set of traffic lights, follow around the bend to the arena. Look for the Lambton College sign on left (Note: the sign IS there, but it is definitely not well lit!!). Linda and I passed it once, and after going about a mile south, we stopped at a local PetroCanada gas station, and the helpful clerk told me what to look for!)

Nearby Airport: Sarnia Chris Hadfield Airport is approximately four miles northeast of the RBC Centre.

What To Do Before The Game: Unfortunately, my trip didn’t allow for time to explore the Sarnia area. I would recommend contacting the local tourism bureau for more information.

Where To Eat Before The Game: Going south on London Rd, there are many fast food and quick service restaurants, but Linda and I recommend bypassing those and eating at the arena (see more later).

Where To Stay: While Linda and I stayed outside Detroit for this trip, one of the Sting’s sponsors is the Holiday Inn Sarnia/Point Edward. According to the team’s website, this location offers a special Sting fan rate of C$99.00 per night. For more information, call (519) 336-4130.

Ticket Prices: Sting tickets are priced as follows: C$18.00 (adult) and C$12.50 (children 4-12)

The Good Seats: All of the 4500 or so maroon seats are comfortable and angled well, so you should get a good view no matter where you sit. In addition,
the main concourse is open to the seating area, so if you prefer to stand or are getting a dog and a beer while the puck is in play, you won’t miss any of the action.

Getting In: The main entrance foyer is along the side of the building. It’s slightly on the small side, so if you get there close to game time, you’ll be waiting in the cold. The ticket windows are on the outside of the building, so you might want to get their early so you can purchase your seat and get out of the chill (which was a problem when we visited).

Arena Food: We found that one of the areas that the RNC Centre truly shines is in its food services. While the selection might not have been particularly huge, the quality and price made up for that. Once settled in my seat, I sampled the arena’s hot dogs, and unlike the ones at the WFCU Centre in Windsor the previous night, these were something to write home about! They were larger than a normal jumbo hot dog, and were hot, tasty, and served on a sesame-seed roll. There are three concession stands, one in each corner of the arena, and although it’s just the standard arena fare, it’s really pretty well done, except for that Canadian staple, Pizza Pizza, which I can do without. In addition, one of the stands serves a French Canadian delicacy called Poutine, which, I am told are French fries covered with gravy and melted cheese. One of the Sting fans I was talking to referred to it as a “walking heart attack”, but I didn’t have the courage to try it. I also noticed that if you ordered a cup of tea, they gave you a cup of hot water and allowed you to select one of the six different varieties of tea, including Earl Grey.

Linda fell in love with the Coyote Jack’s Bar and Grill inside the arena. I will let her describe it in more detail later, but on the 90 minute drive back to Detroit, it was pretty much all she could talk about!

Here is a selection of the concession prices at the RBC Centre (all prices in Canadian Dollars):

Hot Dog: $3.57 Nachos: $4.57 Draft Beer: $5.75 Pretzel: $3.57 Large Soda (Bottled Pepsi): $3.57 Ice Cream: Various Prices Pizza Slice: $3.57 Poutine: $5.24

Soft Drinks: As mentioned above, the RBC Centre serves Pepsi products.

Souvenirs: There is a small souvenir store located in one of the
corners of the building. The store has a smaller then expected line of merchandise.

Restrooms: They are a bit on the small side, which makes for a bit of a wait between periods, but are clean and serviceable.

Mascot: Buzz the Bee

Program: Sting Game Night is a well produced black and white publication which is updated for every game. The C$2.00 magazine is packed with statistics and game stories and is worth the cost.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The RBC Centre has an eight-sided scoreboard similar in design to the one in the WFCU Centre, but not as large. Instead of having an HD video display, it has projection screens which show in-game
action. While not as advanced as Windsor’s system, “Sting Vision” has a good, clear picture and is used to its fullest. The PA voice is good, and like in Windsor, he didn’t rely on histrionics, but was a pro and let the game tell the story. The music selection was pretty good, and played at an appropriate level.

Arena Staff: Like in Windsor, the people working at the RBC Centre all were pleasant, helpful, and looked like they enjoyed what they were doing.

Arena Features: You’ve seen banners honoring retired players, but
how often do you see banner honoring a referee? Well, Sarnia has one, as they have a large banner saluting home town refereeing legend Kerry Fraser, who spend twenty years as one of the NHL’s top zebras.

Atmosphere: While it’s as “hockey-centric” as Windsor, the fans in Sarnia seem a bit friendlier. While it seemed like people were intent on the game in Windsor, the Sting fans I spoke with were more inclined to get into a conversation. I had a great time sharing hockey stories with two of the gentlemen that were sitting next to and the row above me. These quys were obviously long time and hard core fans, but were more than happy to tell me some of the history and lore of hockey in Sarnia.

Overall: The RBC Centre has its faults, but they really aren’t that noticeable on the grand scale of things. While the Windsor game was professional to the point of being somewhat sterile, the Sting game was a bit more relaxed, more home-town, and in some ways, was a more fun experience.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

WFCU Centre, Windsor ON

Basic Information
Team:
Windsor Spitfires (Ontario Hockey League)
Game: Spitfires vs Oshawa Generals-11/26/2010
Team Website: http://www.windsorspitfires.com/
Ticket Information: (519) 254-5000
Tourism Information: (800) 265-3633 or http://www.visitwindsoressex.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.am800cklw.com/
Local Newspaper: Windsor Star http://www.windsorstar.com/

Team History: The Spifires team that thrills the fans that pack the beautiful new WFCU Centre is actually the second team to maintain that proud name. The original Spitfires played in the Ontario Hockey Association from 1945-1953. After that team ceased operations, it would be 17 years before hockey came back to Windsor, but in 1971, a new Spits team joined a local Junior "A" league, and in 1975, the team joined the Ontario Hockey League, playing their games at the legendary, yet infamous Windsor Arena. The Spitfires played at the building known throughout the OHL simply as "the Barn" until December 2008, when they moved approximately ten minutes to the east and the new WFCU Centre.

How About That Name (And Some History): The arena has always had the name of the Windsor Family Credit Union since it's opening on December 11, 2008. In addition to being the home of the Spitfires and other events, the building also features three other ice pads and a community center for local events and usage.

Getting There: (From the Ambassador Bridge) Exit off the Bridge onto Huron Church Rd West (Rt 3). Follow Huron Church Rd to the EC Row Expressway East. Take the Expressway for approximately seven minutes, exiting on Lauzon Pkwy North. Follow Lauzon Pkwy for approximately two and a half miles to Lauzon Line/McHugh St. Follow McHugh St, and the arena will be on your right.

Nearby Airport: Windsor Airport is approximately seven miles southwest of the WFCU Centre. Detroit Metropolitan/Wayne County International Airport is 31 miles west of the arena.

What To Do Before The Game: While there are many restaurants, shops, and bars in the Windsor area, probably the most popular place to go if you want to spend some time before the game are the city’s famous casino. Caesar’s Windsor is located right near downtown, and features slots, table games, poker, and a sports book where you can place a bet on your favorite team. Caesar’s also features 758 guest rooms in their hotel, as well as several on-site restaurants, and a concert hall. For more information, call (800) 991-8888 or visit www.caesarswindsor.com. There are also other slot-machine only facilities at the Windsor Raceway and OLG Slots.

Where To Eat Before The Game: Downtown Windsor features some very good restaurants for all price ranges. I would check with the folks at the tourism bureau for their recommendations, as when we visited, we decided to eat at the arena.

Where To Stay: We stayed at a La Quinta Inn outside of Detroit for this visit, but Windsor does have locations representing most major chains.

Ticket Prices: Spits tickets are priced as follows: C$29.00 (restaurant) C$21.00 (adult), C$19.00 (students and seniors), C$15.00 (13 and under). There is a C$1.00 surcharge for tickets bought at the box office. I would highly recommend getting your tickets ahead of time, since the Spits are one of the top draws in the OHL and sell out frequently.

The Good Seats: All of the seats at the WFCU Centre are comfortable and angled well. The maroon seats completely surround the rink, and on the one end, go higher up than on the other three sides, which probably provides more noise, which is why the Spitfires choose to shoot at that end in the first and third periods.

Getting In: There are four entrances to the arena, with the box office being located at gate 2.

Arena Food: As with any new arena, the WFCU Centre has a plethora of concession stands which will suit just about any taste. Linda sampled the hamburger before the game, and according to her, the burger had an unusual taste, and that perhaps Canadian beef has a different taste. The burger was served with lettuce, tomato, and cheese. She did notice that the top part of the bun “disintegrated” once she bit into it. She was a lot happier with the popcorn, which was freshly popped at the concession stand. She remarked that “it had a light texture, with just the right amount of butter and salt”. I’m not much of a popcorn connoisseur, but I dug into the bag with gusto myself. I sampled the arena hot dogs, which weren’t bad, but weren’t the best either. The French fries, however, were hot and crisp. We also sampled a pretzel, which was filled with mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. I thought it wasn’t bad, but it cooled down in a hurry, which made it a little less palatable.

Linda also raved about the cherry cheesecake ice cream, which she said "was the best thing ever", and might have overtaken the Creamscicle ice desert at the Perdue Stadium in Salisbury, MD as her all-time favorite arena sweet treat.

The arena has it's own on-site restaurant, which gives a nice overview of the action while getting served. It is open to the public.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the WFCU Centre (all in Canadian dollars):

Hot Dog: $4.50 (jumbo dog) Hamburger: $5.75 Nachos: $4.00 Draft Beer: $8.00 (large) Pretzel: $4.00 Large Soda: $6.00 (souvenir cup sized) Ice Cream: $4.50 French Fries: $4.50

Soft Drinks: The WFCU Centre serves Pepsi products.

Souvenirs: There are two souvenir stores, called "The Crease" inside the arena. One is located outside the seating area near one of the main entrances, and the other is inside the main concourse. Both sell a fairly large line of merchandise. There are also smaller souvenir booths inside the concourse.

Restrooms: There are plenty of restroom facilities in the seating area. All are clean and in good working order.

Mascot: "Bomber", a World War II era fighter pilot, circulates in the stands leading cheers.

Program: The Spitfires Magazine, which cost C$4.00, is an impressive four color production, which as features on the players, staff, and the Spits team that won back to back Memorial Cup championships the past two seasons.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: One of the more impressive features of the WFCU Centre is it's large, state of the art scoreboard. The center hanging scoreboard is eight-sided, with four HD video screens alternating with boards which show the pertinent game information. Although it is used frequently for sponsor ads, they don't overdo or overpower you with them. The scoreboard is assisted by two smaller message boards which run along the sides of the arena above the luxury suites. The PA announcer is good, but I thought he could have been a bit more enthusiastic. He is helped by an attractive young blonde lady who serves as the emcee for the in-game promotions, which are fairly low-key as well.

Arena Staff: All the people I encountered were very helpful, outgoing, and approachable. Before my visit, I found that I needed to get a photo crediential, since picture taking is not allowed inside the arena. I got my credential (a pink wristband), and was happily snapping away, when a Spits staff member told me that I was not allowed to shoot. I showed him my wrist band, and the staffer almost fell over himself apologizing.

Arena Features: In the concourse, the Spitfires have a display case which honors their former captain Mickey Renaud, who passed away of a rare heart condition called hypertrophic cardiomyapathy on February 18, 2008. His number 18 was retired by the club the next day. On a much lighter note, one of the advertisers on the boards in the rink is one for Aren’t We Naughty, which apparently is a chain of stores which sell….ahem…adult novelties. I found this even funnier since the home of the Spits used to be well known for something called “the Windsor Ballet”. I will leave this up to your imagination.

Atmosphere: Windsor knows their hockey, and they are serious about it. Although everyone I met there was friendly, you could tell they were intense about watching the game. The in-game entertainment was subdued, and the team management “lets the game tell the story”.

Overall: The WFCU Center is, simply put, a fabulous building, the best of all of the OHL arenas that I have visited so far. Granted that it doesn’t have the intimacy or the atmosphere that the old Windsor Arena had, it is just a matter of time before it becomes just as intimidating a place for visiting teams, and builds its own history.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Cincinnati Gardens, Cincinnati OH

Basic Information
Team: Cincinnati Kings (Professional Arena Soccer League)
Game: Kings vs Detroit Waza-11/20/2010
Team Website: http://www.kingsindoor.com/
Ticket Information: (513) 349-1337 or marybeth@kingsindoor.com
Tourism Information: (859) 581-2260 or http://www.cincinnatiusa.com//
Online Broadcasts: None
Local Newspaper: Cincinnati Enquirer http://www.cincinnati.com/

Team History: A charter member of the Professional Arena Soccer League, the Cincinnati Kings indoor are now playing under their third name in three years. Previously known as 1790 Cincinnati and 1790 Cincinnati Express, the indoor team reached an agreement this fall with the United Soccer League's Cincinnati Kings to become a year-round team in which the two teams would share players and marketing opportunities.

How About That Name (And Some History): This is the first year that the Kings have played their home games at the Cincinnati Gardens, but indoor soccer is nothing new to the venerable building on the Queen City's north side. The Cincinnati Silverbacks of the NPSL played at the Gardens for two years from 1995 through 1997. The Gardens opened it's doors for the first time on February 22, 1949, and at the time was the seventh largest building in the United States. The building draws some of its lineage from Toronto's legendary Maple Leaf Gardens, as the two buildings are of similar design. Previous tenants of the Gardens included the NBA's Cincinnati Royals (now the Sacramento Kings), and minor league hockey teams named the Mohawks, the Swords, the Cylcones, and the Mighty Ducks.

Getting There: From I-75: Go south on I-75, and get off at exit 9 (Paddock Rd/Seymour Ave). At top of ramp, make a left onto Paddock Rd. Take Paddock Rd for a quarter mile, then make a left onto Seymour Ave. Follow Seymour Ave for approximately a mile and a half. The Gardens will be on your left.

Nearby Airport: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is approximately 35 miles south of the Cincinnati Gardens.

What To Do Before The Game: One of my all-time favorite museums to visit is the Cincinnati Museum Center, located in the old Union Station rail terminal. Located just on the northern fringe of downtown Cincinnati, the classic "Art Deco" terminal now hosts four seperate attractions: the Cincinnati History Museum, the Duke Energy Childrens Museum, the Museum of Natural History and Science, and the Omnimax Theater. The Omnimax Theater is particularly enthralling, as it's 5 story high screen is set into the building's domed roof, which gives stunning views of the IMAX presentations. For more information on Museum Center events, call (800) 733-2077 or visit http://www.cincymuseum.org/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There isn't much in the area around the Gardens, and to be honest, it really isn't in the best of areas. I recommend finding a restaurant nearer to your hotel.

Where To Stay: On this trip, the girls and I stayed at the La Quinta Inn in Sharonville. Located off of I-75 approximately 15 minutes north of the Gardens, the La Quinta is convenient, fairly inexpensive (we paid about $75.00 for a room with two beds), boasts an indoor swimming pool, free continental breakfast, and is near several restaurants. For more information, visit http://www.lq.com/ or call (800) SLEEP-LQ.

Ticket Prices: Kings tickets are priced as follows: $12.00 (adult) and $10.00 (youth and college students w/ID).

Parking: There is parking on either side of the Gardens, and an auxiliary lot across Seymour Ave. Since I didn't pay to park, I'm not sure what they charge to park in the Gardens' lots.

The Good Seats: The Gardens has seating on all four ends, but the majority of the seating is along the sidelines. The seating along the sides is double decked, and the old-fashioned wood slat seats are angled well enough to give everyone a good view. The seating on the ends stops about twenty feet above the field level. You can still get a good view on the ends, but if the action is down on your end, you have to hunch over a little to see it.

Getting In: The main lobby is the only entrance, and also is the location of the box office.


Arena Food: Since I was a bit occupied on the Waza bench (see photo), I will rely on Linda and Joan's impressions on the grub at the Gardens. According to the girls, they weren't that impressed with the cheeseburger that they bought, saying that it tasted like a soyburger that you might get in a school lunch line. Linda was much happier with the bratwurst, as it was fully bun sized, with a mild taste. She said it would have been better if it was grilled and not boiled, but it was still acceptable. She also approved of the pork link sausage, which she said was "spicy, hot, and very tasty".


There were two concession stands open, one on each side. There is a bar in one corner of the arena, near the entrance, which serves beer and mixed drinks. It's decorated with many hockey pucks of teams that played for and against the teams that visited the Queen City


Here are some of the prices from the Cincinnati Gardens' concession stands:

Hot Dog: $3.50 Hamburger: $3.50 (with cheese) Nachos: $3.50 (add $1.50 for a side order of extra cheese) Pretzel: $3.50 Bottle Soda: $2.00 Pizza Slice: $3.00

Soft Drinks: Pepsi products are sold at the Gardens.

Souvenirs: I didn't see any merchandise sold, but the girls said there was a small stand in the main concourse.

Restrooms: There are restrooms located on the ends of the arena opposite of the main entrance. They are rather old, but in good order.

Mascot: There is a mascot, a Kings' staffer that is wearing a cape, a "Burger King" mask, and carrying a scepter. He is nameless, but does a fairly good job circulating in the stands.

Program: A free roster card.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: There is a large, centerhanging scoreboard (which a staffer told me was bought from Louisville's Freedom Hall several years back). It was not in use during the Kings game, but there was a smaller scoreboard mounted above one of the goals, which gave basic game information. The Kings also have a large screen which shows crystal clear images of the game action. The PA voice is pretty good, and the music is OK as well.

Arena Staff: Limited, but fairly helpful.

Arena Features: One of the nicer features of the Gardens is the "Legends of the Gardens" exhibit. Opened in 1999, in honor of the building's fiftieth anniversary, the large exhibit shows many pieces of memorablilia from the events and teams that called the Cincinnati Gardens home.

Atmosphere: Although there was only about 600 people in attendance, there was a decent atmosphere at the game. The people there knew soccer, and were very into the game. I've been there for Cyclones hockey games in the past, and when the team drew a big crowd (which was often), the Gardens was a rocking place!

Overall: The Cincinnati Gardens, which has just past it's sixtieth birthday, has something that many of the newer buildings don't have...character. It's one of those places where you can imagine what it was like to see a sporting event many years ago. Whether it's a long time home for the Kings is up for debate, the Gardens is still a viable venue and a hidden jewel for Cincy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena, Jamestown NY

Basic Information
Team: Jamestown Jets (Greater Metro Hockey League)
Game: Jets vs Elliot Lakes Bobcats-10/23/10
Team Website: http://www.jamestownjets.com/
Ticket Information: (716) 484-8167
Tourism Information: (866) 908-4569 or http://www.tourchautauqua.com/
Online Broadcasts: None
Local Newspaper: Jamestown Post-Journal http://www.post-journal.com/

Team History: Now in their third season of play, the Jamestown Jets are in their first year as a member of the Greater Metro Hockey League, a "Junior A" league (made up mostly of players between 17 and 20 years old), which is based in the Greater Toronto area. The Jets are the only non-Canadian team in the league. In their first season of play, the Jets won the Southern Division regualr season title in the United Junior Hockey League.

How About That Name (And Some History): The Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena is the premier indoor sporting venue in New York's picturesque "Southern Tier". Located in downtown Jamestown, the JSBIA also serves as a community ice recreation center, as it has the 1,900 seat Time Warner Cable Arena and the Monster Energy Arena, a smaller ice pad used for figure skating and local youth hockey. The JSBIA has hosted professional ice hockey on and off since 2003, and has also hosted professional wrestling, concerts, and at the end of December, will host games as a part of Western New York's hosting of the 2011 World Junior Hockey Championships.

Getting There: From I-86: exit at Exit 12 (NYS Route 60-North Main St). Follow Rt 60 south into downtown Jamestown. Make a right onto West 3rd St. The arena is at the intersection of W 3rd and Jefferson St.

Nearby Airport: The two largest airports in the area, Buffalo/Niagara Falls and Erie International, are both less than ninety minutes from Jamestown.

What To Do Before The Game: A short walk from the JSBIA is the Lucy and Desi Museum, a museum dedicated to the "first couple of 1960's comedy". Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. Jamestown is the hometown of Lucille Ball, and the museum features memorabilia, exhibits, and interactive displays honoring the redhead, and also has the Desilu playhouse, which screens classic episodes of "I Love Lucy" as well as some of her other television classic moments. For more information, call (877) LUCYFAN or visit http://www.lucy-desi.com/desi.com/.

A half an hour east of Jamestown on I-86 is the Seneca Allegany Casino. The impressive facility, one of several owned by the native Amerrican Seneca Nation, has a luxury hotel with over 200 rooms, a spa, and meeting facilities. The casino has over 2,000 slot machines of many denominations, table games, and several top-quality restaurants. For more information, visit http://www.senecaalleganycasino.com/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: In the area of the hotel we stayed at, there wasn't a lot nearby. I would suggest checking with your favorite hotel for dining possibilities.

Where To Stay: Linda and I stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Falconer, approximately ten minutes from the arena. Like most Red Roofs, the rooms are clean, comfortable, and relatively inexpensive. For more information, call (800) THE-ROOF or visit http://www.redroof.com/.

Ticket Prices: Jets tickets are prices as follows: $7.00 (adult), $6.00 (seniors), and $5.00 (children). There is a one dollar per seat fee if you purchase the tickets over the internet.

Parking: There are several small lots in the vicinity of the arena. We parked in a lot belonging to a local office building across the street, and it seemed to be open for free parking on Sundays.

The Good Seats: Since the arena holds only two thousand or so, every seat is near the ice. The lower bowl has six rows of seating, so you feel like you're right on the bench. The JSBIA has an upper level on one side of the arena, which also gives a good panorama of all the action. All of the seats had cup holders.

One thing that Linda and I noticed was that the closeness of our seats to the team benches had one unfortunate setback. There was a severe "locker room" aroma coming from the visiting team's bench. JSBIA grand poobah (and long time crony) Mike Ferguson informed me that the cause of that was probably due to the fact that the Elliot Lakes Bobcats played a game the night before, and after busing to the arena, probably didn't wash the mixture of sweat, blood, and God only knows what else before the morning's festivities!

Getting In: The large, airy lobby at the Arena also hosts the ticket counter as well as an area for skate rental!

Arena Foos: The JSBIA, despite it's size, has a fairly substantial concession menu. The arena's small restaurant/concession stand, called the Champion's Cafe, has an enclosed seating area where people can watch the events on either ice pad in climate controlled comfort.

Due to the fact that the arena also serves as a community center,the Champion's Cafe serves several breakfast items (cereal, danish, breakfast pizzas), and is also open for lunch on non-event days.

Here is a sampling of concession prices at the JSBIA:

Hot Dog: $3.75 (including french fries) Hamburger: $3.75 Pretzel: $2.50 Large Soda: $2.00 French Fries: $2.00 Personal Pizza: $4.00

Some of the more unique items served include grilled cheese, "Uncrustables" Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwiches, and churros.

Soft Drinks: Pepsi is served at the JSBIA.

Souvenirs: There was a small table on the main concourse selling sweatshirts, sweatpants, and "Chuck a Pucks", but that was it. There is a pro shop adjacent to the lobby which sells hockey equipment.

Restrooms: There are restrooms located on the end of the arena opposite to the main entrance. Although they are small, they are spotlessly clean. There is another set of restrooms across from the pro shop.

Mascot: None

Program: None

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: There is a small, but adequate centerhanging scoreboard, which gives the basic game information. The PA announcer really didn't have a lot to do, as there were almost no advertising to be read and since there were perhaps 150 people in the building, there wasn't a lot of reason to get a crowd so small fired up. The game music leaned towards techno-dance music.

Arena Staff: There were no ushers to be seen, but everyone else at the JSBIA was friendly and welcoming.

Arena Features: Around the main concourse is a rubberized walking track, which gives the arena another clever use on non-event days. The track is measured, and eight laps of the concourse equals one mile.

Atmosphere: Sadly, almost none. The game started at 11AM (yes, you read that right) since the visitors had to be back in Ontario in time to get back to their housing billets. With that being said, you had to realize that it was going to be a "dog" date, attendance wise. The 150 or so were mostly friends and family of the players and people who strolled in after their morning church visit. However, I think that since the acoustics in the arena are pretty good, if they can get a decent crowd in, it would be a pretty lively place. Fortunately for the Jets, the Sunday morning dates are limited.

Overall: In my opinion, the Jamestown Savings Bank Ice Arena is a prototype of what a small community arena should be like. It has a good location, excellent facilities, and infrastructure, and a dedicated staff. I would like to make a return visit when there is an event with a larger crowd in attendance so I can give the JSBIA a more accurate rating. However, in the aspects that I noticed on this trip, it more than measures up.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pepsi Coliseum, Indianapolis IN

Team: Indiana Ice (United States Hockey League)
Game: Ice vs Cedar Rapids Rough Riders-10/16/2010
Team Website: http://www.indianaice.com/
Ticket Information: (317) 925-4ICE or http://www.indianaice.com/
Tourism Information: (800) 556-INDY or http://www.visitindy.com/
Online Broadcasts: None
Local Newspaper: Indianapolis Star http://www.indystar.com/

Team History: The Indiana Ice joined the United States Hockey League in 2004 when the Danville (IL) Wings moved to the Pepsi Coliseum. The USHL is a "tier one" developmental hockey league which features players 16-20 years of age. The USHL team replaced the Indianapolis Ice, who played in the International Hockey League and the Central Hockey Leagues from 1998 through 2004.

How About That Name (And Some History): The Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds was built in 1939, replacing a building that was built which was built in 1907. The Coliseum was the original home of the Indiana Pacers, who played there from 1967 until 1974, when they moved into the downtown Market Square Arena. The Coliseum was also the site of a speech by future President John F Kennedy in 196o, and has seen such divergent entertainment acts such as Arthur Godfrey, Perry Como, the Beatles, The Who, and the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Pepsi-Cola took the naming rights to the Coliseum in 1998.

Getting There: From I-70 West-Exit at Keystone Ave (Exit 85B). Go north on Keystone Ave to 38th St. Make a left onto 38th St, and follow to Fairgrounds.

Nearby Airport: Indianapolis International Airport is approximately 25 miles southwest of Pepsi Coliseum.

What To Do Before The Game: Probably the most famous product coming out of Indianapolis is the little five hundred mile race which happens every Memorial Day weekend. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest sporting venue in the world, where between a quarter million and three hundred thousand race fans watch some of the fastest cars in the world jockey for three-plus hours to win the Borg-Warner Trophy, the symbol of the winner of the Indianapolis 500. At the racetrack, the IMS's Hall of Fame and Museum shows the history of the race and the great drivers and cars that made the Indy 500 the spectacle that it is today. Visitors can also take a one lap tour of the track (at a significantly lower speed than the 200 MPH that the Indy car drivers would), and see the famous yard of bricks at the start/finish line, which gives the track it's unofficial nickname, "The Brickyard". For more information, call (317) 492-6784 or visit http://www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There really isn't a lot in the area around the Fairgrounds in terms of restaurants, and the area really isn't the best, so you might want to check with your hotel for places to dine.

Where To Stay: I stayed at a Red Roof Inn approximately 20 minutes southeast of the Coliseum. If you would prefer to stay somewhere closer, Indy has hotels from virtually every chain and price point, so check with your favorite.

Ticket Prices: Ice tickets are priced as follows: $20.00 (glass), $18.00 (Price Level 1), $10.00 (Price Level 2).

Parking: Parking is plentiful at the Fairgrounds, and for Ice games, costs $3.00.

The Good Seats: Virtually all of the seats at the Coliseum are along the sidelines between the faceoff circles. For most games, the seating behind the goals is tarped off, which in some ways isn't a bad thing since the configuration of the seating area has a large space between the end boards and the first row of seats.

Getting In: There is one large entrance on the north side of the Coliseum. This area also is where the box office and will call are located.

Arena Food: The Coliseum is smack dab in the middle of the Indiana State Fairgrounds, so "State Fair" type food is the word of the day. The main concourse has more than a few concession stands offering many different types of food choices, with everything from Chester's Chicken to corn dogs to funnel cakes to the "hogburger" (which apparently is a hamburger made from pulled pork instead of ground beef). One of the more unusual offerings was sold at the funnel cake/ice cream stand...deep fried Snickers bars! If I was more of a peanut fan, I would have had to try one just for the novelty factor.

I sampled a meatball sandwich from the pizza stand for my main meal at the game. For $5.00, I recieved an 8" sandwich served on a fresh roll. It wasn't the best sandwich I ever had, but was certainly not the worst, and for five dollars, I didn't find the price to be too unreasonable.

Here is a sampling of the food prices at the Pepsi Coliseum:

Hot Dog: $4.00 Hamburger: $6.00 Nachos: $5.00 Draft Beer: $5.00 Pretzel: $4.00 Large Soda: $4.50 Ice Cream: $4.00 Pizza: $5.00

There were beer carts in the main concourse as well as two stands serving mixed drinks.

Soft Drinks: As you might assume, Pepsi products are served at the Pepsi Coliseum.

Souvenirs: There is a moderately sized team store on the main concourse selling an average sized line of Ice gear. There is also a hockey pro shop which sells skates and other hockey equipment. This is due to the fact that the Coliseum is also used for public skating as well as youth hockey.

Restrooms: There are two sets of restrooms at the ends of the building. The mens room was quite large and, although the fixtures are rather old, the facility itself is quite clean.

Mascot: Bigfoot, a large blue and white "abominable snowman" creature. Bigfoot was one of the best mascots I have seen in some time, as he was a fixture in the stands during the game, circulating and interacting with the fans. At the beginning of the second period, there was an extended delay as some of the glass came loose near the penalty boxes. Bigfoot entertained the crowd by dancing to some classic "disco" and "new wave" hits.....and doing a good job of it!

Program: "Ice Illustrated" costs $2.00.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Coliseum has two small scoreboards hanging off the front of the press boxes at center ice. Both of these display just the basic game information. The team also has a large projection screen high above the east end of the arena. The picture on the screen is fairly clear and crisp, even when the main arena lights are on. The screen gets substantial use, as it shows the in-game action, as well as advertisements and promotions.

The public address announcer was OK, but could have been a bit more enthusiastic. The team has a decent amount of "arena rock", which is interspersed with a REAL LIVE ORGANIST! It was nice to hear something other than "Spongebob Squarepants" or some of the current Top 40 dreck. As I was remarking to a member of the Ice staff, it made me think back to the days when I was younger and all you would hear at a sporting event was music generated on the keyboard generated by legendary names like Eddie Layton, Jane Jarvis, Paul Cartier, Nancy Faust, and Frank Pellico.

Arena Staff: Everyone seemed to have a smile on their faces and a friendly, welcoming attitude.

Atmosphere: It was a shame that there was only a thousand people or so at the game I attended, because I'm sure with the acoustics of this fine old hockey barn, if they had another thousand or two there, the place would have certainly rocked. Granted that the game against the Rough Riders wasn't exactly of Stanley Cup quality, but it seemed awfully subdued. I'm sure that if the Ice were winning, it would have been more raucous.

Overall: If you attend an Ice game at the Coliuseum, it would be very easy to close your eyes and imagine yourself there thirty or forty years ago. Not a hell of a lot has changed, and I think that is a good thing. An Ice staffer remarked to me that the kids are more used to the more modern arenas that aren't as dark or have more things to do. If a kid really wants to know what the game was like back then, they ought to attend an Ice game. It would be like going back in time. The Pepsi Coliseum is well kept up, has good facilities, and a pleasant staff, all of which combine to make a positive night out.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tullio Arena, Erie PA

Basic Information
Team: Erie Otters (Ontario Hockey League)
Game: Otters vs Saginaw Spirit-9/25/2010
Team Website: http://www.ottershockey.com/
Ticket Information: (814) 455-7779
Tourism Information: (800) 524-ERIE or http://www.visiteriepa.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.ottershockey.com/
Local Newspaper: Erie Times-News http://www.goerie.com/

Team History: Now in their fifteenth season in the Ontario Hockey League, the Erie Otters have become one of the strongest teams in all of Junior A hockey. The Otters arrived in Erie in 1996, when the Niagara Falls (Ontario) Thunder made the move to the northwestern Pennsylvania town. Prior to the Otters arrival, the city was the home of the Erie Blades, who played in several different minor hockey leagues in the mid to late seventies, and the Erie Panthers, who played in the ECHL. The Otters won the Robertson Cup, the OHL's championship trophy in 2002, making them only the second American OHL team to hoist the title.

How About That Name (And Some History): The Tullio Arena is named for Louis J. Tullio, a former mayor of Erie. The arena, built in 1983, is a part of the Erie Civic Center, which also includes the Warner Theater and Jerry Uht Park, the home of the Erie Seawolves minor league baseball team. Arena management is looking into a major renovation of the arena, which would include an increased seating capacity, a new suite level, more office space, and other additions. The renovation plan is a part of the team's bid to host the 2014 Memorial Cup, the Canadian Hockey League's national championship. Tullio Arena is also the home of the Erie Storm indoor football team, the Erie Bayhawks of the NBA's developmental league, and this spring will host the 2011 NCAA Women's Hockey Championships.

Getting There: From I-90: Exit at Perry Hwy (Exit 27). Go north on Perry Hwy for approximately four miles (note: Perry Hwy turns into Rt 505/Glenwood Park Ave. Simply stay on the road going north-use the main entrance for the Erie Zoo as a landmark). Glenwood Park Ave comes to an end at State St. At the light, go north on State St. Follow State St. to E 8th St. Make a right on E 8th St, and the arena will be at the intersection of E 8th and French St.

Nearby Airport: Erie International Airport is approximately seven miles southwest of Tullio Arena.

What To Do Before The Game: I can recommend two choices if you've got a few hours to kill in Erie prior to your game. First is the Presque Isle Downs and Casino, which is located south of Erie just south of I-90 on Perry Hwy (Exit 27). The casino, opened in 2007 as a part of the Presque Isle Downs horse racing facility, features over two thousand slot machines, table games, as well as several dining choices. For more information, call (866) ERIE-FUN or visit http://www.presqueisledowns.com/. If gaming isn't your...game, might I suggest the Erie Maritime Museum, located near downtown Erie. The museum tells the story of the early days of Erie, and it's history as a shipbuilding and shipping port. It also gives visitors a look at how important Erie was in the War of 1812. It is also the home of the Flagship Niagara, a recreation of a 19th century sailing vessel. The Niagara has made several trips to "Tall Ships" events in the US and Canada, and is recognized by the US Coast Guard as a registered training vessel. For more info, call (814) 452-2744 or visit http://www.flagshipniagara.org/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: Since it is convenient to I-90, I usually send people who are heading to Erie to find a restaurant of their choice right off the highway on Peach St. There are many different choices, including Bob Evans, Country Buffet, Steak and Shake, Applebee's, and Quaker Stake and Lube, but my favorite is Boston's. Boston's is an upscale "family" sports bar, which serves some excellent Italian food and hand tossed pizzas at agreeable prices.

Where To Stay: Right off Perry Hwy, there is a La Quinta and a Red Roof Inn, but if you are heading to Erie during the summer months, you will be charged seriously high prices, due to Erie's closeness to Presque Isle State Park. However, those same rooms during the winter can be had for more civilized prices.

Ticket Prices: Otters tickets are priced as follows: $13.50 (platinum), $11.50 (gold), and $9.50 (children). There is a two dollar surcharge per ticket purchased at the box office on game day.

Parking: There are several public lots within a walking distance of the arena. I parked at the Civic Center's on-site parking lot for $4.00.

The Good Seats: Virtually all of the seating at the Tullio Arena is located along the sidelines, with only a few rows of seating behind one of the goals. The far end of the rink goes right up to the back wall of the building, with no seating on the floor level. However, there are a row of suites built into the wall, which look virtually straight down onto the goal.

Getting In: There is one main entrance, which is also the location of the box office. The arena lobby isn't particularly spacious, so getting in can be an adventure.

Arena Food: Sad to say, after a large delicious dinner at Boston's, I really didn't have much room left to sample the concession offerings at Tullio Arena on this trip. There are two main concession stands under each of the main stands, as well as one "beer only" stand on each side as well. The food service people were friendly enough, but they weren't the fastest I've ever seen.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the arena:

Hot Dog: $3.00 Cheeseburger: $4.00 Nachos: $4.00 Draft Beer: $4.75 Pretzel: $2.75 Large Soda: $3.75 Ice Cream (Dippin Dots): $5.00 French Fries: $3.00 Pizza: $3.00

Soft Drinks: Coca-Cola products are served at Tullio Arena.

Souvenirs: There are two souvenir booths, set up on opposite corners of the main concourse. Each sells a fairly large line of merchandise.

Restrooms: Sad to say, these are one of the areas at Tullio Arena that are in desperate need of the promised renovations. There are one mens and one womens on each side of the concourse. The mens rooms are small, not the cleanest, and in between periods, there is a line which gives an almost interminable wait.

Mascot: Shooter the Otter

Program: "Home Ice" magazine costs $3.00.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: A recent renovation brought a new scoreboard with video capability to Tullio Arena. The four-sided scoreboard features a small area which displays the pertinent game information and a projection-type video board system. Despite not exactly the "state of the art", the video screen has a very clear picture and is almost always in use. One thing that made me laugh before the game was the announcement that replays of "disputed" goals would not be shown. With the very hockey-knowledgeable crowd, I could see why not getting the home fans riled up would be a good idea!

The PA was not as loud or as enthusiastic as I would have liked, and there was not a lot of music played during the game.

Arena Staff: Friendly enough, but kind of laid back EXCEPT when you want to take a picture. Then they are all over you! I had to show my media credential several times to the locals to get around the "no photos" commandment in the arena.

Atmosphere: Erie fans know good hockey, and since my visit occurred on opening night, there was a sense of excitement to see what this year's team would look like. However, this was tinged with a bit of sorrow, as they would also retire the number of Vinny Scott, an Otter player who died in a car accident last spring. The Otters held a touching and very classy ceremony in which they brought together Vinny's parents, his host family, his fiancee (who he met in Erie), and other members of his immediate family for a memorial.

Overall: While Tullio Arena is less than thirty years old, in a lot of ways, it has an "old soul". It has all the ingredients of an old time cracker-box hockey barn which was the place to be on a Saturday night. While Tullio Arena has some shortcomings, it's a loud and intense place to be on a hockey night in Erie.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Me vs Food #2-Simply Crepes...Simply Delicious

My limited prior crepe experience consisted of a decent blueberry and whipped cream crepe at Le Buffet at Paris Casino in Las Vegas and a skimply and unsatisfying fresh mozzarella and chicken crepe for lunch at a local food court in Cleveland.

When I saw the "Simply Crepes" stand at the Rochester Rhinos game (run my a local crepe restaurant), I was a little apprehensive. There were a large number of choices including dessert crepes, sandwich crepes and salad crepes. I settled on a $6.00 "fresh strawberry" crepe.

As I watched them build it, I realized that this was going to be anything but a skimpy disappointment! They started with a large crepe, some sort of sauce and some sweet crumbly substance, fresh sliced strawberries, a large amount of whipped cream, 2 scoops of very frozen vanilla ice cream, wrapped it up, topped it with strawberry syrup, whipped cream and powdered sugar. Wow! Not only was it a thing of beauty, it was huge!

It was absolutely delicious and very filling. The ice cream was frozen so hard that even with the last bite I still had unmelted ice cream! I finished off by slurping down the ounce or so of melted whipped cream from the bottom of my bowl. The fresh strawberry crepe is definitely a must if you are ever at a Rhinos game!

Marina Auto Stadium, Rochester NY

Basic Information
Team: Rochester Rhinos (US Soccer Division II)
Game: Rhinos vs Miami FC Blues-8/21/2010
Team Website: http://www.rhinossoccer.com/
Ticket Information: (585) 454-5425
Tourism Information: (800) 677-7282 or http://www.visitrochester.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.sportsradio950espn.com/
Local Newspaper: Rochester Democrat and Chronicle http://www.democratandchronicle.com/

Team History: Now in their fifteenth season, the Rochester Rhinos are probably the most successful non-MLS outdoor soccer team that has come along in the last 25 years. They have won their respective league championship on three occasions, and has won the Lamar Hunt Open Cup once. After playing one year at the University of Rochester and ten years at Frontier Field, the Rhinos have been playing at their own soccer-specific stadium, Marina Auto Stadium since 2006.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened in 2006 as PaeTec Park, Marina Auto Stadium is one of the top soccer facilities in the US. Boasting a full sized artificial turf surface, a full video board, the 13,000 seat stadium has hosted both the Rhinos and the US Womens' National Team, as well as high school football and professional lacrosse.

Getting There: From the New York Thruway (I-90): Exit at I-490 east (exit 47). Take I-490 to exit 12 (Brown St). Follow Brown St to Allen St. Allen St becomes Platt St. Take Platt St to Oak St. Make a left on Oak St, and follow to stadium.

Nearby Airport: Greater Rochester International Airport is approximately seven miles southwest of Marina Auto Stadium.

What To Do Before The Game: This trip didn't afford us much time for sightseeing, so I would recommend checking with the convention and visitors bureau for ideas.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There really isn't much in the area of the stadium, so I would recommend checking with your lodging of choice as to where to eat in the area. The Red Roof Inn that we stayed at had a BW3, an Olive Garden, and a Cracker Barrel within a 5 minute drive, and a Tim Hortons and McDonalds adjacent to the hotel.

Where To Stay: We stayed at the Red Roof Inn in Henrietta, which is approximately 10-12 minutes from the stadium and downtown Rochester. It was easy to get to, had clean, comforatable rooms, and at approximatley $70.00 per night, it was acceptable for our wallets. For more information, call (800) THEROOF or visit http://www.redroof.com/.

Ticket Prices: Rhinos tickets are priced as follows: $20.00 (club), $18.00 (premium), $15.00 (midfield), $13.00 (sideline), and $10.00 (reserved end and general admission).

Parking: There are several lots within a short walk of Marina Auto Stadium. We parked across the street at a fenced in lot for $5.00 which gave us easy access in and out of the stadium, and was five minutes from I-490.

The Good Seats: Marina Auto Stadium has seating on three sides, and is double decked along one sideline. The majority of the seating are plastic chairs with backs, with bleachers behind the north goal. All of the seats give a good view of the field.

Getting In: There is one main entrance, located in the south end of the stadium. This is where the main box office is also located.

Stadium Food: Since my last trip to the home of the Rhinos in 2006, the food has been completely upgraded. For this season, they have added "a Taste of Rochester", which includes Red Osier roast beef sandwiches, Abbott's frozen custard, Nancy's fried dough, and Bill Gray's Cheeseburgers.

I decided to sample the cheeseburger, and I fell in love with the first bite. The burger was made fresh, and was garnished with white American cheese, and served on a fresh and tasty kaiser roll. It was incredibly good, and the half pound burger lasted me virtually the entire first half! The fries, like the burger, was hot and freshly made, and combined with a bottle of Coke Zero, made for a terrific meal. The total cost was $11.50, which I felt, for the quality of the food, was an acceptable price.

Linda sampled some of the stadium food, and her report will be forthcoming.

Here are some of the prices for the food at Marina Auto Stadium:

Hot Dog: $3.00 Nachos: $3.00 Pretzel: $5.00 Draft Beer: $5.00 Soda: $3.00 Ice Cream: $3.00

Soft Drinks: Marina Auto Stadium serves Coke products.

Souvenirs: There is a souvenir tralier located at the open end of the stadium. It has a moderate sized line of team merchandise. The tralier isn't very big, so there can be an issue getting in and out.

Restrooms: There are restrooms under both of the sideline grandstands. They are fairly clean, and of an appropriate size.

Mascot: Rex the Rhino and the Rhinoette's cheerleaders.

Program: Team yearbook costs $5.00.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: There is a large scoreboard with video screen in the south end of the stadium. The main board is supplemented by a smaller fascia board hanging off the front of the upper level in the double decked stand. The stadium's PA announcer is fair at best, and didn't add a lot to the atmosphere.

Game Staff: They were there, but didn't do a lot.

Atmosphere: To be honest, there wasn't much. The five thousand or so in attendance (the team announced over nine thousand, but there was no way there was that many in the stadium), was just there, not making a lot of noise. This was surprising given the long history of the team and it's support.

Overall: Marina Auto Stadium is a top flight soccer stadium, of this there is no doubt. However, if you're looking for a lot of passion and emotion, there really isn't a lot of that.

Me vs Food #1-The Sign Read "Bob Evans Grillin' Sausages"

I was walking around the Dayton Dragons stadium purveying the food options before the game when I saw a sign that read: "Bob Evans Grillin' Sausages". I have never had one of these before, so I walked up to the stand and ordered one and was faced with a dilemma: "Italian or Brat?" I asked the very friendly group of concession stand workers which was best. They said "They are both good!" That didn't help much! One of the ladies then said "I've been told that with the peppers & onions, people don't taste much of a difference". Another said "I like the Italian one", so I went with that. It was an excellent and nice-sized Italian sausage, hot off the grill. It was grilled just right and placed on a very good bun...better than your average bun. It was topped with onion and red and green peppers; I added yellow mustard.

I thought the cost of $4 was quite fair...I would not have been adverse to having paid $5 for it if I was at a major league park or a park in a larger city. The only thing that would have made it better would have been if the onion and peppers had been cooked differently. They seemed to be steamed, while they would have been a tastier topping if grilled in some sort of oil and with a little salt and pepper. After I finished the sandwich back at my seat, I went back to the same stand for a $3.25 bottle of diet soda.

The friendly concession stand ladies remembered me from my earlier purchase and asked me how I'd liked the sausage sandwich! I was also happy that they let you keep the bottle cap. (Some stadiums are afraid that you will turn your $3.25 beverage into a projectile if they let you keep the lid.) I topped my meal off with 2 chuerro sticks for $3.00, which was a more than fair price for the two 10 inch plus sticks, which were freshly made and hot and yummy. There were many other good offerings that I didn't room to try. This stadium is definitely a place to come and eat! Come early before the concession lines get long.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Fifth Third Field, Dayton OH

Basic Information
Team: Dayton Dragons (Midwest League)
Game: Dragons vs West Michigan Whitecaps-8/7/2010
Team Website: http://www.daytondragons.com/
Ticket Information: (937) 228-2287
Tourism Information: (800) 221-8235 or http://www.daytoncvb.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.daytondragons.com/
Local Newspaper: Dayton Daily News http://www.daytondailynews.com/

Team History: As far as I know, no team has ever been more wildly successful after relocating than the Dayton Dragons. After moving to the "Gem City" for the 2000 season, the Dragons have sold out every game in the team's history. In 2009, the Dragons averaged over 8,400 per game in a ballpark that has permanent seating for just 7,200! That average put them seventh highest in all of minor league baseball. Not only were they the top drawing team in the Midwest League and in Single-A ball, the six teams ranked above them in attendance were all Triple-A teams. They were just over a thousand a game less than the Columbus Clippers, who led the minors in attendance last season.

Team Affiliation: The Dragons are the Single-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds.

How About That Name (And Some History): Fifth Third Field was constructed in downtown Dayton specifically for the Dragons, and has been known by that name since the park's opening in April of 2000. Fifth Third Bank, a Cincinnati-based financial institution, also owns the naming rights to ballparks in Toledo and Comstock Park, MI.

Getting There: From I-75: Exit at First St. Go east on First St until you reach the stadium, which will be on the right.

Nearby Airports: Dayton International Airport is located approximately fifteen minutes north of Fifth Third Field.

What To Do Before The Game: In my article about Dayton's Hara Arena, I mentioned that I highly recommend the United States Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, which is located just north of downtown Dayton. For more information on the museum and other attractions in the area, contact the Dayton Convention and Visitors Bureau with the contact information listed above.

Where To Eat Before The Game: There isn't a lot in the immediate vicinity of the ballpark, so I would recommend heading a bit north on I-75 for a selection. The best bet would be for you to exit at Wyse Rd, and then make an immediate right onto Miller Rd, where you will find a large choice of restaurants, including Hooters, Smokey Bones, Bob Evans, Skyline Chili, and Olive Garden. This exit is located approximately ten minutes north of downtown Dayton.

Where To Stay: On this trip, Linda and I stayed at the La Quinta Inn in Tipp City, which is located just north of I-70 on I-75. While this is a little farther out than I would normally stay, the La Quinta is a good choice, as it has easy access to the major highways, large comfortable rooms, an indoor swimming pool and hot tub, a business center, and free continental breakfast. You can stay at the La Quinta for approximately $70.00 per night if you book in advance. For more information, call (937) 667-1574, (800) SLEEP-LQ, or visit http://www.lq.com/.

Ticket Prices: All Dragons tickets are priced at $15.00 with lawn seating costing $8.00. As I mentioned before, the Dragons are Dayton's "hottest tickets", so I would recommend purchasing tickets as far ahead as possible! If you want to purchase tickets over the web, the team uses Ticketmaster, so be prepared to pay the normal exhorbitant surcharges.

Parking: There is parking in all directions around Fifth Third Field. We parked at a lot directly across the street from the entrance plaza which cost $5.00.

The Good Seats: Fifth Third Field is laid out in the traditional "V" shape, with seating running from approximately two thirds of the way down the left field line, bending around home plate, and ending just short of the same place down the right field line. There is lawn seating from the end of the seating areas down both foul lines, and a large berm in right center and center field. My only complaint about the set-up is that the seats could have been sloped with a little more of a more severe angle, as Linda and I both noticed that there were more than a few occasions that you had to "dodge" the head in front of you to see the action.

Getting In: The main entrance plaza is behind home plate, which also houses the box office and souvenir store. There are satellite entrances in left and right field.

Stadium Food: There are many choices for your dining pleasure at Fifth Third Field. There are the normal ballpark standards in the main concession arenas, but in addition, there are smaller carts spread liberally throughout the concourse. The specialty cart items include: Tex-Mex favorites, sandwiches, Dippin Dots, specialty beers, and a Bob Evans area selling, amongst other items, their outstanding sausage sandwiches.

I sampled the Fifth Third Ballpark hot dog as my pre-game meal. Taste-wise, it was OK, but it was a rather unnerving color of light tan/yellow. It was boiled, and the bun was fresh. I also sampled the churros sold at the Tex-Mex stand, which were excellent.

There is a enclosed, air conditioned bar, the Fifth Third Club along the right field line.

Here's a sampling of the Dragon's concession prices:
Hot Dog: $3.25 Hamburger: $5.00 Pretzel: $4.00 Large Soda: $4.00 Draft Beer: $6.50 Nachos: $6.50 Dippin' Dots Ice Cream: $5.00

Soft Drinks: Fifth Third Field serves Pepsi products.

Souvenirs: There is a large store located in the main concourse to the left of the main entrance. This store has a good line of souvenir items, but I found the prices to be on the high side. There is also a smaller store located in the outfield.

Restrooms: There are restrooms located on each side of the main concourse, which are clean and in good working order.

Mascots: A male (Heater) and female (Gem) dragon.

Game Program: "Play Ball" is free and is handed to fans as they enter the stadium.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: One of the signature features of Fifth Third Field is the large scoreboard in left center field. One of the largest in the minors, it has a large, high quality video screen, a main game information center, and two large dragons that snort smoke when the home team hits a home run. The video board was utilized very well, including showing in-game action. In addition, there were video boards on the right field fences, which gave helpful lineup information. The stadium sound system was very good, the PA announcer was professional, and the music was typical "stadium rock".

Game Staff: There were a lot of them. They all smiled, but seemed to be all business.

Atmosphere: The best way to describe it was that it was a major league production in a minor league ballpark. Everything done there was done with a quality and production standard that you would find in a major league sports venue. The "Green Team" did a great job motivating the crowd, and the "Retirement Village People" were one of the most entertaining between-innings promotions I've seen in some time.

Overall: Fifth Third Field has it all, and anyone who considers themselves an aficonado of ballparks should make a visit.

Note: Due to computer issues, there are no photographs of Fifth Third Field to accompany this article.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Chicks Dig The Sports Traveler Online!!!

The Good Guy and the lovely in-game host of the Dayton Dragons, Madison
(You can also call this photo "Beauty and the Beast")

Huntington Park, Columbus OH

Basic Information
Team: Columbus Clippers (International League)
Game: Clippers vs Buffalo Bisons-6/30/2010
Team Website: http://www.clippersbaseball.com/
Ticket Information: (614) 462-2757
Tourism Information: (866) EXP-COLS or http://www.experiencecolumbus.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.clippersbaseball.com/
Local Newspaper: Columbus Dispatch http://www.dispatch.com/

Team History: Baseball has been a staple in Columbus since 1866, when a group of former soldiers returning from the Civil War brought the game back from the battlefields, and the first amateur team, the Excelsior club, was formed. Ten years later, the Columbus Buckeyes became the city’s first professional squad. Over the succeeding years, teams called the Solons, the Senators, the Red Birds, the Jets, and finally the Clippers represented Ohio’s capital city.
Since the 1930’s, the teams would play their games at Franklin County Stadium (later renamed Cooper Stadium), a large ballyard just southwest of downtown Columbus. Eventually, “the Coop” was realizing the end of its useful life, and the team planned a new state of the art home in downtown Columbus. In 2009, the dream was realized, and Huntington Park opened its doors last April.

Team Affiliation: The Clippers are in the second year of their affiliation with the Cleveland Indians.

How About That Name (And Some History): The home of the Clippers has always been called Huntington Park, named after Huntington Bank, a Columbus-based bank which has branches in six states.

Getting There: From I-71-Exit at I-670 west. Take I-670 to the Neil Ave exit. Turn left onto Neil Ave. Proceed on Neil Ave for a half mile, and the ballpark will be on your right.
Nearest Airport: Port Columbus International Airport is nine miles east of Huntington Park.

What To Do Before the Game: My trip didn’t give me a lot of time to explore, but if you want to learn more about what to do in the area, contact the Columbus Convention & Visitors Bureau at the website or phone number listed above.

Where to Eat Before the Game: Fortunately, Huntington Park is located across the street from the Nationwide Arena, which itself is the cornerstone of a bustling neighborhood, cleverly called the Arena District. Within a five to ten minute walk from the stadium is a BD’s Mongolian Grille, a Boston’s Pizza (highly recommended), a Chipotle’s, and a Buca De Beppo’s, amongst other choices.

Where To Stay: There are several high-end hotels in the Arena District. However, if your tastes (and wallet) lean a bit more towards the budget hotels, many large chains have locations on I-71 just north and south of downtown Columbus.

Tickets: Clippers tickets are priced as follows: $12.00 (box seats), $7.00 (reserved seats), $6.00 (bleachers and general admission). On game day, there is a three dollar increase in prices for reserved and box seats.

Parking: There are several parking lots around the ballpark and in the Arena District, and prices vary. I paid $5.00 to park across the street from the park in a lot adjacent to Nationwide Arena.

The Good Seats: Honestly, I don’t think there is a single bad seat in Huntington Park. The main grandstand runs from foul pole to foul pole, and there is a bleacher section as well as seating on the grass berm in left field. You can also sit in the Hall of Fame bar, located in the second floor of the building in left field. If you really want a true “birds eye” view, you can sit in the special bleacher seating located in the Roosters sports bar, located on the third floor of the outfield building. Sitting in those seats, you get a view similar to that in the apartment buildings across the street from Wrigley Field in Chic ago. A sign at the back of the bleacher section states that it’s 480 feet from home plate, and I was told that no one has ever put a homer into those seats.

Getting In: There are three main entrances, one near the center field box office, another in the left field corner, and another behind home plate.

Arena Food: One word...Outstanding! There is a large selection of food at many sales points, and is of excellent quality, and at an agreeable price. Interestingly enough, all of the companies that have their own stands at Huntington Park are all Columbus-based companies: Bob Evans, Donato's Pizza, City Barbecue, Wendy's and Tim Horton's.

The main concession stands are located on the concourse, but instead of being mounted in the wall of the park, they are large, square stands sitting in the middle of the concourse, which allows the fan to keep up with the game while waiting.

I sampled the ballpark hot dog served in a pretzel bun. I can't say enough about it. The dog was hot, grilled fresh, and served in a fresh hot bun made of pretzel bread. At $4.00, it was well worth it! If the pretzel dog wasn't enough, I picked up a pulled pork sandwich served at the City Barbecue stand located in the right field corner. There was a significant line waiting for service, and I could see why. For $5.00, the sandwich was fresh, hot, tasty, and with a delicious sweet sauce, it was a meal in itself.

Here's a sampling of the concession prices:
Hot Dog: $3.00 Hamburger: $5.00 Nachos: $4.00 Draft Beer: $6.75 Pretzel: $3.50 Large Soda: $5.00 Ice Cream: various prices French Fries: $3.50 Personal Pizza: $7.00

Soft Drinks: Huntington Park serves Pepsi products.

Souvenirs: There is a main souvenir stand in the outfield building, and smaller stands along the concourse.

Rest Rooms: Located throughout the concourse and in the left field building. All are clean and well stocked.

Mascots: The Clippers have two mascots: a seal named Lou (Lou Seal) and a pirate-garbed parrot names Crash.

Game Program: The Clippers' game program costs $2.00.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: The main scoreboard is located in right center field, and features a large hi-defintion video board, as well as two smaller "crawler" scoreboards which flash other pertinent information. Atop the main scoreboard are two smaller video boards which flash advertisements. There are two small scoreboards mounted in the main concourse showing game information, and two large pitch speed indicators. The PA announcer has a good delivery and voice.

Game Staff: Very pleasant and helpful all around.

Atmosphere: Very professional, but with the park's intimacy, you feel like you're right up close to all the action. The Clippers are one of the top drawing teams in AAA baseball, and having a park like this, you can see why.

Overall: Huntington Park was named the "2009 Ballpark of the Year" by three seperate websites, and that title is well deserved. The new home of the Clippers is probably the best Triple-A ballpark that I have ever been at, and I believe that it is a "must see" for any ballpark aficionado.