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.