Monday, February 1, 2010

Canton Civic Center, Canton OH

Basic Information
Team: Ohio Vortex (Professional Arena Soccer League)
Game: Vortex vs St. Louis Illusion-1/9/10
Team Website: http://www.ohiovortex.org/
Ticket Information: (330) 354-7778
Tourism Information: (800) 552-6051 or http://www.visitcantonstark.com/
Internet Broadcasts: none

Team History: The Ohio Vortex joined the Professional Arena Soccer League in September 2009, when former professional indoor soccer goalkeeper Nick Bogdan announced that he would be bringing indoor soccer back to Canton for the first time since March 1996. Due to scheduling issues, the team played it's first three "home" games in Cleveland before finally playing their first game in the Hall of Fame city on January 2, 2010.

How About That Name (And Some History): The Canton Civic Center was opened in 1951, and was renovated into its current configuration in 1975. The Civic Center has hosted high school basketball, wrestling, indoor football, and from 1984 to 1996, was the home of the Canton Invaders of the National Professional Soccer League. The Invaders five of the league's first six championships.

Getting There: From Cleveland: Take 1-77 South to the 13th St exit (this is also the exit for the Pro Football Hall of Fame). At the bottom of the ramp, make a left (there is a sign directing you to the Civic Center). Proceed onto 12th St NW for approximately a mile and a half, until reaching Market Ave. Make a right onto Market Ave, and the Civic Center will be on your right hand side.

Nearby Airport: Akron-Canton Airport is less than ten miles from the Civic Center.

Where to Go Before The Game: The Pro Football Hall of Fame is probably the most well-known tourist attraction in the Canton area. Located not far from where the meeting place where the National Football League was held, the Pro Football Hall of Fame features areas of interest which will entertain just about any pro football fan. In addition to the enshrinement area, where the busts of all the members of the Hall of Fame are placed, there is an area with artifacts from the history of the game, information on all 32 NFL teams, a new area which features the "Pro Football Experience:", a 360 degree theater which literally puts you right in the middle of all facets of the game. For more information, call (330) 456-8207 or visit http://www.profootballhof.com/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: Other than the Wendy's immediately adjacent to the Civic Center, food options are extremely limited in the area. Your best bet might be to head up to the Belden Village shopping mall, which is just north of the exit for the Civic Center on I-77. There are several chain restaurants in and around the mall, so youre bound to find something that fits your palate.

Where To Stay: Lodging in the downtown area is limited, so your best bet would be to find a hotel to your liking in the area north of downtown, where there are several properties of different chains.

Tickets: Vortex tickets are $13.00 and $11.00.

Parking: There is a large parking structure attached to the Civic Center which would be your first choice to leave your car, since the area around the Civic Center isn't exactly the best, especially at night. Parking at the Civic Center costs $5.00.

The Good Seats: Since the Civic Center seats just over 3,600, all of the seats are good ones. Much of the first row of seating is back from and above the playing field, so obstructed views are at a minimum.

Getting In: The main entrance to the Civic Center is also where the box office is located. It wasn't too well organized, as there was a decent walk up crowd milling about as well as some groups getting their tickets.

Arena Food: Very basic with a limited supply. There are three food stands at the Civic Center, but only two were open. Two hot dogs, a Pepsi, and a pretel cost $12.oo.

Restrooms: Mens and Womens restrooms are located in the main concourse on both sides of the building. They are clean and fairly well kept up.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The Civic Center has a small, center hanging scoreboard which gives the basic game information. The Vortex's public address announcer, simply put, didn't have a clue. He obviously never watched an indoor soccer game before, so the information that he gave to the crowd was sporadic at best, ie. not announcing penalties, assists, the time of the goal, etc. In addition, he butchered some of the names of the visiting team.

Game Staff: Well, they were there....other than that, I didn't see them do much.

Souvenirs: There was one table with a small line of Vortex merchandise in the main concourse behind the east goal.

Atmosphere: I wasn't sure what to expect. As I had mentioned, it had been fourteen years since a soccer ball was kicked at the corner of 13th and Market, so I didn't know how well the team would draw. The game I attended drew about six hundred, which contained a few diehard members of the old Canton Invaders Fan Club. They knew the game, and did as much as they could to rile up the crowd, but most of the rest were soccer kids and their parents, who seemed to be more interested in getting a free t-shirt or some other swag from the game sponsor.

Overall: Honestly, I was quite detached from the game. More than a few times, I caught myself looking at the Civic Center press box, which I called my home when I worked for the Invaders in 1995 and 1996. As bad as the season went, the CCC had some great memories for me.

As for the Vortex, in my eyes, the jury is still out. While on the pitch, the Vortex is a young, scrappy team, the club needs help producing and promoting the team in Canton. I can only hope that season two brings better things for the team.