Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Good Eating in Wheeling

by Linda Ibbett

I was impressed with the variety of concession foods available at the Wesbanco Arena in Wheeling, WV. There were three concession stands on each of the two long sides of the building. These stands served hot dogs ($2), hamburgers ($3), cheeseburgers ($3.50), French fries with cheese or chili and cheese ($4), popcorn ($2.25/$3.50), pizza ($2.25), nachos ($4.00), pretzels ($2.50), and Coke products. The condiment stand was quite well-stocked: mustard, ketchup, banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, onions, relish, chili salsa, and caramel and cinnamon apple powdered popcorn flavorings. A beverage/snack stand in one corner of the outer concourse served chai tea, hot chocolate, hot tea, coffee, flavored vanilla & caramel coffee ($2.50/$4), bottled water ($2.25), juice ($2), bottled soda ($2.75), cotton candy and 9 kinds of candy bars/candy ($1). Rounding out the concessions was a well-stocked ice cream stand with regular ice cream: chocolate, black raspberry, chocolate peanut butter, butter pecan, mint chocolate chip and cat dog (I don’t know that that was) or sugar free ice cream: cherry vanilla, butter pecan, mint chocolate chip, elk prints and chocolate peanut butter fudge ($2.50/$3.50). They also had sundae cups: moose tracks, gone fishin and pecan turtle ($2.25) and yogurt parfaits: mango peach, wild blueberry ($2.25), and ice cream sandwiches with chocolate chip cookies. They also had “Ittibitz” which are like “Dip n’ Dots” ice cream. In addition to all the available beverages, there were also water fountains in the four corners of the outer concourse and water fountains in the four corners of the inner concourse. I must say that these were among the cleanest water fountains I’ve ever seen at an arena.

I sampled a hot dog which for $2 was quite good. The bun was your regular hot dog bun, but it was surprisingly in pristine condition: it was fresh, not soggy and not at all smashed like what you get at so many sporting events. The hot dog was about ½ inch short of the bun on each side, but it was moderately plump. It had an appetizing brown color from being grilled. I’d say it was a pork hot dog; it was definitely not all beef. It had a nice slightly smokey flavor and a good consistency. The French fries provided a very large serving, enough to share. They were crispy outside and tender inside and not greasy or oversalted. The must have been very hot when we bought them because they held their heat for quite some time. I also had a “small” serving of the regular butter pecan ice cream which was a very generous sized serving and quite delicious. I would have liked to sample more of the food offerings, but I was stuffed after my hot dog, French fries and ice cream.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stanley Covaleski Regional Stadium, South Bend IN

Basic Information
Team: South Bend Silver Hawks (Midwest League)
Game: Silver Hawks vs Great Lakes-4/3/10
Ticket Information: (574) 235-9988 or http://www.silverhawks.com/
Tourism Information: (800) 519-0577 or http://www.exploresouthbend.org/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.silverhawks.com/
Local Newspaper: South Bend Tribune http://www.southbendtribune.com/

Team History: The city of South Bend has been a member of the Midwest League since 1988, when they were granted an expansion team, and begun an affiliation with the Chicago White Sox. The teamw as known as the South Bend White Sox until 1994, when they changed their name to Silver Hawks, a tribute to the Studebaker automobile, which was built in South Bend. In 1997, the Silver Hawks became the class A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. The Sox/Silver Hawks have won the MWL championship on six occasions: 1989, 1991, 1993, 1997, 2001, and 2005. South Bend almost lost their team in 2005, when a new owner was looking to purchase the team and move them to Marion, IL. However, at the last moment, Joe Kernan, a former mayor of South Bend and governor of Indiana, led a local group which purchased the team, ensuring their future in north central Indiana.

Team Affiliation: The Silver Hawks are the MWL affiliate of the San Diego Padres.

How About That Name (And Some History): The home of the Silver Hawks (commonly referred to as "the Cove"), was built in 1987, in anticipation of the city recieving their MWL franchise. It was named for Stanley Covaleski, a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, who moved to South Bend after retiring. He opened a service station in town, and would give free pitching lessons to local youth in a field behind his station for many years. Sadly, he would pass away in a local nursing home in 1984, four years before the stadium which bears his name would open.

Getting There: From the Indiana Toll Road (I-80/90): Take exit 77 (Notre Dame/South Bend) south. At the end of the exit ramp (through the toll gates), make a right onto US 31/33. Go south on US 31/33 (North Michigan St-turns into Main St at the edge of downtown) for approximately two miles. Bear right onto Main St. At Western St, turn right. Follow for three tenths of a mile, then make a left onto Taylor St, which will take you to ballpark and parking, which will be on your left.

Nearest Airport: South Bend Regional Airport is approximately five miles northwest of Covaleski Stadium.

Where To Go Before The Game: While South Bend is known primarily as the home of the University of Notre Dame, there are many more sites to visit while in town, as South Bend is also the home of the College Football Hall of Fame, the South Bend Chocolate Museum, and the Studebaker National Museum.

The College Football Hall of Fame is located in downtown South Bend, and features not only a hall of enshrinees, but also has a multimedia welcome featuring the atmosphere of a college game day, as well as exhibits telling the story of the game that enthralls America on fall Saturdays. The South Bend Chocolate Museum features the history of everyone's favorite candy, displaying chocolate-related memorabilia, as well as a factory tour in which people can watch the production of South Bend Chocolate related products. The Studebaker National Museum is dedicated to the long and distinguished history of the local auto manufacturer as well as featuring the area's distinguished manufacturing past. For more information on any of these attractions, contact the South Bend/Mishawaka Convention and Visitors Bureau at the website or telephone number listed above.

Where To Eat Before The Game: I stayed in Mishawaka for this trip, which is just north east of South Bend. In the area I stayed at, there were many different restaurant choices, from Ruth's Chris Steak House to Culver's Butterurgers and Frozen Custard (which I highly recommend).

Where To Stay: I stayed at the Red Roof in Mishawaka, which was approximately fifteen minutes from the ballpark.

Tickets: Silver Hawks tickets are priced as follows: $8.00 (box seats) and $6.00 (bleachers).

Parking: Onsite parking at "the Cove" is a reasonable $4.00.

The Good Seats: Covaleski Stadium is designed in the traditional "wishbone" design, with the majority of the permanent seating starting at the foul poles and bending around home plate. The sections from the bases to home plate are chair backs and the remaining permanent seating is bleacher-type with backs. There is a party deck in right field, and berm seating in left field.

Getting In: The main entrance is located behind home plate, which also has the box office. The box office is located just off the front entrance, which alleviates traffic jams near the entrance.

Stadium Food: "The Cove" has several concession stands located in the main concourse area, serving most of the standard ballpark fare. These stands are supplimented by portable stands serving Papa Murphys pizza, sausages, Dippin' Dots, tacos, and cheese steaks. My typical ballpark meal of two hot dogs and a order of french fries cost $10.50. I found the hot dogs to be fairly good, but were a rather disconcerting yellow/beige color! Condoments offered included ketchup, yellow mustard, onion, and relish.

Soft Drinks: "The Cove" features Pepsi products.

Souvenirs: The Silver Hawks' souvenir store is located on the first base concourse, and features an average line of team logo items.

Restrooms: They are located on the main concourse, and are clean and well stocked.

Mascot: "Swoop", an animated Silver Hawk.

Scoreboard/Stadium Voice: The stadium features two scoreboards: the main board which is located in center field, and an auxiliary board located in left. The main board displays the standard game information, and has a good quality video screen. The left field matrix board is used exclusively for displaying sponsor adverts.

Game Staff: All of the Silver Hawks staff that I encountered were extremely helpful and welcoming. Everyone seemed to have a smile on their face and a friendly disposition.

Stadium Features: Plaques honoring the athletic legends of the area are mounted along the inner wall of the main concourse.

Atmosphere: My experiences at "the Cove" were nothing but positive. Although the stadium is 22 years old, team staff take pride in making the park look sparkling for everyone who enters. Another nice thing to me was that everyone seemed like they were having fun and had time to chat with an our of towner.

Overall: Covaleski Stadium, while it may not have the bells and whistles of some of the newer parks in the league, does its job well, and I would highly recommend paying a visit.

Monday, April 5, 2010

WesBanco Arena, Wheeling WV

Basic Information:
Team: Wheeling Nailers (ECHL)
Game: Nailers vs Cincinnati Cyclones-4/3/2010
Team Website: http://www.wheelingnailers.com/
Ticket Information: (304) 234-GOAL or (877) NAIL-TIX
Tourism Information: http://www.wheelingcvb.com/ or (800) 828-3097
Online Broadcasts: http://www.wkwkfm.com/

Team History: Having just completed their eighteenth season in the "Friendly City", the Wheeling Nailers are one of the oldest franchises in mid-level minor league hockey. The Nailers' story started back in 1981, when they were the Winston-Salem Thujnderbirds of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League. The T-Birds played in Winston-Salem until 1992, when they moved north to Wheeling. Prior to the 1996-97 season, the T-Birds became the Nailers, in honor of Wheeling's hitory of nail manufacturing. The Nailers won the ECHL's first Kelly Cup playoff championship and have won the Brabham Cup, symbolizing the ECHL's regular season title on three occasions.

Team Affilation: The Nailers are the "AA" affilate of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

How About That Name (And Some History): The WesBanco Arena was opened as the Wheeling Civic Center in April 1977, and was built at a cost of seven million dollars. In addition to serving as the home of the Nailers, the arena has hosted indoor football, high school sports, as well as many name entertainment acts like Kiss, AC/DC, Brooks and Dunn, and Blue Man Group. WesBanco Bank, a Wheeling-based bank, purchased the naming rights to the arena in 2002.

Getting There: (From I-70 eastbound): Exit I-70 at exit 1A (the first exit after crossing bridge). At the bottom of the ramp, make a slight right onto Main St. Proceed south on Main St through four traffic lights. At the fifth light, make a right onto 14th St. The arena and parking garage will be on the left.

Nearby Airport: Pittsburgh International Airport is approximately 50 miles northeast of Wheeling.

Where To Go Before The Game: If gaming is your thing, the Wheeling Island Racetrack and Casino is the place to go. Located less than ten minutes from the WesBanco Arena, Wheeling Island hosts greyhound racing five days a week, as well as a full-service casino. The casino has over two thousand slot machines, as well as most of the popular table games. Wheeling Island also has a 151 room hotel which is directly connected to the casino and theater which hosts top-flight acts on a regular basis. For more information, call (877) WHEELING or visit http://www.wheelingisland.com/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: I didn't get the chance to sample the local eateries on this trip, but on a previous trip, I visited the River City Ale Works. The restaurant/microbrewery is a short walk from the arena on Main St at the Wheeling Artisan Center. The Ale Works has a large "pub-style" menu featuring sandwiches, burgers, steaks, and seafood. To see what the Ale Works has to offer, call (304) 233-4555 or visit http://www.rivercitybanquets.com/

Where To Stay: On this trip, Linda and I stayed outside of Wheeling in St. Clairsville, OH. However, this season, the team offered several packages on their website which included an evening's stay at one of the Nailers' sponsor hotels, two tickets, and a food credit at a local restaurant. The costs for these pacakges varied from $99.00 to $159.00 per package. Whether they offer them again for 2010-11 is unsure, but I would hope that they would, as it is a great way for the team to help out-of-town fans who might not be too familiar with Wheeling.

Tickets: Nailers tickets are priced as follows: $18.00 (platinum), $16.00 (gold), $14.00 (red), $13.00 (gray), $12.00 (blue), and $10.00 (blue). These prices are for pre-sale, and there is a surcharge applied for game day purchases.

Parking: There is a large, multilevel garage adjacent to the WesBanco Arena. Parking at this garage costs $3.00.

The Good Seats: The WesBanco Arena has seating on four sides of the building, but none on the "corners". The first few rows of seating along the boards appears to be upholstered, with the remainder of the five thousand seats are hard plastic. The entire seating bowl is angled well, and the rows have an average amount of leg room.

Getting In: The main entrance is located on the north end of the building, where the box office is located.

Arena Food: WesBanco Arena has two main concession stands located on the concourse. They serve the standard arena food at what I feel are very reasonable prices (three hot dogs, an order of fries, and a bottle of diet Coke cost $10.75). Linda wrote a more detailed food report, and will be posted here shortly.

Souvenirs: The Nailers have a selection of souvenir tables in the main lobby, selling an average sized line of merchandise.

Restrooms: There are mens' and ladies' restrooms located on the main concourse. The fixtures are on the older side, but are clean, serviceable, and well stocked.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: WesBanco Arena has a simple, center-hung scoreboard, which displays the basic game information. In addition, there are smaller, auxillary scoreboards mounted on the corner walls. The Nailers also have an excellent PA announcer, a good music selection, and an excellent sound system.

Game Staff: I didn't see many members of the team staff during the game. The concession and merchandise stands are manned with college-aged staffers, and I didn't see many ushers in the seating area.

Arena Features: One of the nicer parts of the WesBanco Arena is that it also the home of the Ohio Valley Athetic Conference Sports Museum. Located in the main concourse of the arena, the museum is a series of display cases featuring memorablia from some of the greatest athletes that have come from the area, which includes NBA great John Havlicek, former Cleveland Brown legend Lou Groza, pitching brothers Phil and Joe Niekro amongst others. Another display includes football helmets from all of the area high schools.

Atmosphere: Fans in Wheeling know their hockey, and the "Nailer Nation" provides an excellent noise level in the arena when the Nailers are playing the hustling, hard-hitting hockey that the fans expect.

Overall: WesBanco Arena is a terrific arena, and when the Nailers are in town, it is a lively, enthusiastic place. While hockey mght not have been a likely fit when the team came to town, the Nailers are an integral part of the community, one that they are rightly proud of.