Monday, March 14, 2011

US Bank Arena, Cincinnati OH

Basic Information
Team: Cincinnati Cyclones (ECHL)
Game: Cyclones vs Toledo Walleye-3/5/2011
Team Website: http://www.cycloneshockey.com/
Ticket Information: (513) 421-PUCK
Tourism Information: (859) 581-2260 or http://www.cincinnatiusa.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.radiomaxfm.com/
Local Newspaper: Cincinnati Enquirer http://www.enquirer.com/

Team Historyy: The story of the Cincinnati Cyclones has been an interesting one to say the least. The team started out in the ECHL in 1990, where they played for two seasons at the Cincinnati Gardens. After the 1991-92 season, the Cyclones ECHL team was sold to interests in Birmingham, AL, and after the ECHL team moved, Cylcones ownership recieved an expansion franchise in the International Hockey League, where the team played until the end of the 2000-01 season, then the league and the 'Clones ceased operations. During the fall of 2001, a new Cyclones started play, after the Miami Matadors moved up north prior to the start of the season. This incarnation of the team lasted just three seasons. In 2006, the Cyclones returned, under new, local ownership. This team has been the most successful of all the previous franchises, winning the ECHL's Kelly Cup in two of the league's past three seasons.

Team Affiliation: The Cyclones are the ECHL affiliate of the NHL's Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators.

How About That Name (And Some History): Opened in 1975, the arena currently known as the US Bank Arena has been known by several different names. Originally known as the Riverfront Coliseum, it was originally the home of the WHA's Cincinnati Stingers. In 1979, the building recieved some sad publicity when eleven fans of The Who were killed in a stampede for prime seats at the band's concert on December 3rd of that year. The arena recieved a major renovation in 1997, which included a new scoreboard, new seating, redesigned concourses, and a new name, The Crown. The building was also known as the Firstar Center, and is now known as the US Bank Arena.

On The Town: With a population of just under three hundred thousand, Cincinnati is known as the "Queen City" of the Ohio River. Founded in 1788, the settlement of Losantiville was started by two land speculators, John Cleves Symmes and Robert Patterson. However, that name had a short lifespan, as in 1790, the governor of the Northwest Territory (which what would become the state of Ohio was a part), renamed the settlement Cincinnati, after the Society of the Cincinnati, which the governor was a member. It's location on the Ohio River made it an important port, linking the east with the growing westward expansion, and by 1850, Cincinnati was now a bustling city of 115,000. In 1869, the city was the home of the first professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings. Ten years later, Proctor and Gamble, based in Cincinnati, started to market Ivory Soap, one of the first national brands of that product.

Getting There: From southbound I-75, exit at Second St. Follow Second St and make a slight right to Broadway St. The arena will be on your right.

Nearby Airport: Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport is approximately fifteen miles west of the US Bank Arena.

What To Do Before The Game: Located right next to the US Bank Arena is the Great American Ballpark, the splendid new home of the Cincinnati Reds. While the Reds only use the field from April until October, you can get a taste of the history and lore of America's first professional baseball team at the Reds Hall of Fame and Museum, which is located next to the ballpark. The museum, opened in 2000, features not only a place to honor the greatest players to ply their trade in a Reds uniform, it also gives visitors a taste of what being a Reds fan is all about. The Museum includes a theater designed similar to the outfield bleachers at old Crosley Field, but also has a "man cave" decorated in Reds memorabilia, an exhibit where you can take a few throws to see how fast your fast ball is, as well as an area dedicated to the legendary "Big Red Machine" teams of the seventies. For more information, visit http://www.reds.com/.

Where To Eat Before The Game: If you stayed north of Cincinnati as the girls and I did for this trip, you really ought to try out the Pappadeaux's restaurant. Located in the Springdale neighborhood off I-275 and Route 4, One of a series of Cajun-themed restaurants, Linda and Joan both recommend the Pappadeaux's platter, which (according to them) includes: friend and stuffed shrimp, fried catfish, devilled crab, blue crab cakes, and fried crawfish. The girls both say that this is definitely big enough for two people. For more information, call (513) 671-4473.

Where To Stay: As in our last trip to Cincy, we stayed at the La Quinta in Sharonville. Located off of I-75 approximately 15 minutes north of the Gardens, the La Quinta is convenient, fairly inexpensive (we paid about $65.00 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: Cyclones tickets are priced at $26.50 (front row) and $13.00 (remainder of the arena).

Parking: There is a large garage under the Arena which also services Great American Ball Park. Parking there for the Cyclones costs $10.00.

The Good Seats: The 'Clones sell only the lower deck and some seating in the upper level of the arena, so all seats are fairly near the action.

Getting In: The box office and main entrance to the arena is in the rear of the building. The box office is located on the exterior of the arena, and the main entrance is about fifty feet away. This is fine except when the weather is inclement, and there is a wait to get your ticket.

Arena Food: For an arena of it's size, the US Bank Arena has the appropriate number of concession stands. In addition to the standard arena fare, the US Bank Arena features stands with local favorites such as Skyline Chili, Donato's Pizza, and City Barbecue. As I was feeling kind of under the weather on this trip, I only sampled the arena's hot dog on this evening. It was larger than the normal hot dog, and while being pre-made, it was fairly warm when served. The taste left a little to be desired however.

Here is a sampling of the concession prices at the US Bank Arena:

Hot Dog: $3.75 Nachos: $5.25 Draft Beer: $6.50 Pretzel: $3.50 Large Soda: $4.50 Ice Cream: $4.75 French Fries: $3.25 Pizza Slice: $3.50

Soft Drinks: The US Bank Arena pours RC Cola and Seven Up products.

Souvenirs: There is one main souvenir counter on the concourse near the main entrance, which sells a normal sized line of Cyclones souvenirs.

Restrooms: The US Bank Arena boasts an appropriate number of mens and womens restrooms, all of which appear to be fairly clean and in good working order.

Mascot: Apparently, the Cyclones do have a mascot (an anthromorphic tornado-creature), but the only appearance he made this evening was in between the first and second periods, where he/she/it tossed out t-shirts.

Dance Team: None

Program: The Cyclones hand a free roster card to all fans.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: The US Bank Arena has a large, four-sided, center hanging scoreboard which has both an area for game information and a video screen on each side. While the game information area works well, the video screens are of a poor quality, producing a washed out and distorted picture. A team staff member mentioned to me that team ownership is looking into replacing the scoreboard in the near future. The Cyclones' PA announcer, "Wildman" Walker, has been a part of the Cyclones since their early days at the Gardens. He has a good, solid delivery, and enthusiastic when the situation calls for it. The music played at the game needed some severe work, as it leaned towards Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, and other pre-teen favorites.

Arena Staff: They were there, and that is about all I can say about them.

Atmosphere: While the Cyclones do have a long-time loyal following, the game I attended was very kid-heavy, as the team gave out t-shirts to all of the little darlings that attended. For the most part, they were fairly well behaved.

Arena Features: Along the upper level of the arena, the Cyclones have their retired numbers. One of those numbers, interestingly enough, is that of Cincinnat Reds legend Pete Rose. I guess since that he is still persona non grata in the baseball world, he can still be remembered at a facility not far from where he plyed his trade as one of baseball's all time great players.

Overall Rating: There is no doubt that the US Bank Arena is an excellent facility for hockey. However, there was something missing, something that I couldn't put my finger on. However, this should not deter you if you're in the area and are looking for a pleasant, stress free night on the town in Cincinnati.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Allen County War Memorial Coliseum, Fort Wayne IN

Basic Information
Team: Fort Wayne Comets (Central Hockey League)
Game: Komets vs Evansville IceMen-2/26/2011
Team Website: http://www.komets.com/
Ticket Information: (260) 483-1111
Tourism Information: (800) 767-7752 or http://www.visitfortwayne.com/
Online Broadcasts: http://www.komets.com/
Local Newspaper: Fort Wayne Journal Gazette http://www.journalgazette.com/

Team History: The Fort Wayne Komets are one of the longest-lived franchises in American minor pro hockey. The K's got their start in 1952, when they joined the International Hockey League, playing in the then-brand new Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. They became one of the most powerful franchises in the IHL, winning the Turner Cup four times, and drawing large crowds to the Coliseum. However, despite all the success, there was a short time where there was no hockey in Fort Wayne. In the summer of 1990, the original Komets franchise was sold and moved to Albany, NY. But, just when it appeared that all was lost, the owners of the Flint IHL team sold their club to the Franke family, who moved it to the Bluff City, and the Komets legend was reborn. When the IHL folded after the 1999 season, the Komets moved to the United Hockey League, and when the UHL merged with the Central Hockey League in 2010, the K's moved to the CHL.

Team Affiliation: The Komets are the CHL affiliate of the NHL's Columbus Blue Jackets.

How About That Name (And Some History): The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum was originally built in 1952 at a cost of three million dollars in Johnny Appleseed Park, a recreation area on the north side of Fort Wayne. Originally seating just over eight thousand, the Coliseum was not only the home of the Komets, but from 1952 to 1957, was the home of the NBA's Fort Wayne Pistons, who would eventually move on to greater glory as the Detroit Pistons. In 2001, the Coliseum underwent a major renovation, which added almost three thousand seats to the main arena, which involved raising the building's roof forty feet. In addition the Coliseum boasts a 100,000 square foot expo center as a part of the facility.

On The Town: Located in north central Indiana, Fort Wayne is the second largest city in the state of Indiana, with a population of just over 253,000. Named after Revolutionary War general "Mad" Anthony Wayne, Fort Wayne was originally the last in a series of forts built by the United States Army near the Miami indian village of Kekieonga in 1794. After the completion of the Erie and Wabash canals in the early part of the ninetenth century, Fort Wayne began to thrive as immigrants came seeking the good, unsettled land of Indiana, and the area grew. In 1982, the city was the victim of a major flood, as over nine thousand residents were forced to evacuate, and over two thousand structures were damaged. After the flood, the Army Corps of Engineers built a series of levees and dikes to alleviate any further flood damage.

Getting There: From I-69 south, exit at Goshen Rd (Exit 109A). Proceed south on Goshen Rd for approximately a quarter mile to West Coliseum Blvd. Make a left onto West Coliseum Blvd, and follow for three miles. to Coliseum, which will be on your right side.

Nearby Airport: Fort Wayne International Airport is approximately 12 miles southwest of the Coliseum.

What To Do Before The Game: While not exactly in Fort Wayne proper, one of the more interesting tourist sites in the area is the Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, which is located about twenty miles north of Fort Wayne just off I-69. Located in a wonderful old art deco building which served as the flagship showroom and factory for the Auburn Automobile Company, the museum features over a hundred different automobiles made from 1894 through 1999. The building holds one of the largest collections of Austin, Cord, and Duesenberg automobiles in the world. It also includes the restored offices and design areas where those great cars were built in the 1930's. For more information, visit http://www.automobilemuseum.org/.

Where To Stay: On this trip, the girls and I stayed at the Red Roof Inn located at the intersection of Goshen Rd and West Coliseum Blvd. It has easy access to I-69 and the Coliseum, and has several fast food and other restaurant choices within a five minute drive. For more information, call (800) THEROOF or visit http://www.redroof.com/.

Ticket Prices: Komets tickets are priced as follows: $21.00 (lower arena), $18.00 (upper arena), $14.00 (Pepsi Zone upper arena), $10.00 (upper deck).

Parking: There is a large lot adjacent to the Coliseum, which handles all of the traffic into the building, which costs $4.00. One note though, on the evening I attended the Komets game, there was a WWE event going on at the Expo Hall, which according to reports, drew about four thousand. That crowd, in addition to the almost nine thousand at the K's game made traffic a bit sticky, so I would advise a little extra time for getting to the arena.

The Good Seats: I've made several trips to see the Komets at the Coliseum, and I've sat in several different sections of the arena, and I have found that all of the seats give an excellent view. On this trip, we sat in the upper level, approximately ten rows from the top of the building, and even those seats were good, giving a fine panorama of the action, as well as good access to the concession stands.

Getting In: There is a large, glassed in lobby which serves as the main entrance and the box office. Most times, things move fairly smoothly, and since the lobby/atrium is of suffecient size, there aren't too many bottlenecks. The lobby also is the lower stop for the escalators which take you to the main arena level.

Arena Food: For an arena of its size, the Coliseum does had a fairly varied food selection. There are concession stands on the main level and on the upper level, so all sections have fairly easy access to everything. On the main level, there are concession stands which sell the standard fare, as well as a seperate stand which sells more specialiazed items such as Mexican food barbecued chicken. The main level also has several beer stands, as well as smaller carts which sell, of all things, Jagermeister. Rich will not be reviewing the Jager stand, as his last experience with that spirit was, shall we say, not particularly thrilling.

I sampled the hot dogs and mozarella sticks, both purchased from the specialty stand on the main level. The sticks were fairly tasty, and the hot dogs were OK, pre-made buy relatively warm. Those two items, along with a large Pepsi cost an agreeable $14.00.

The girls enjoyed a delicious pulled pork burrito and a shredded chicken taco.

In the front of the arena level concourse, there is an ice cream stand, selling Edy's products.

Here are some of the standard concession prices at the Coliseum:

Hot Dog: $3.00 Nachos: $4.75 Draft Beer: $6.00 Pretzel: $3.75 Large Soda: $4.00 Pizza Slice: $4.00

Soft Drinks: Pepsi products are served at the Coliseum.

Souvenirs: There is a small table located at the front of the arena level concourse which sells a fair sized line of merchandise.

Restrooms: Located throughout the building, they are all clean and well stocked. The facilities on the arena level are on the older side, but still more than acceptable.

Mascot: Icy the Eagle

Dance Team: The Komets do not have a dance team, but the Jeep Komet Girls assist in promotions throughout the game.

Program: The K's full color souvenir program is updated for each game, and costs $4.00.

Scoreboard/Arena Voice: A recent addition to the Coliseum is a large, state of the art video scoreboard and fascia message board system. The video board features a large, crystal clear video system which the team uses to it's fullest. In addition, the message boards along the upper deck give pertinent game and promotional information throughout the game. The music selections are good, and played at an appropriate level. The PA voice was good, but I think could have been a bit more enthusiastic.

Arena Staff: I didn't interact with many arena or team staffers, but everyone seemed friendly and helpful.

Atmosphere: Make no mistake, Saturday nights in Fort Wayne is "Hockey Night". Having had pro hockey in the Bluff City since 1952, these people are dedicated fans who know the game. I think I saw more people there wearing K's jerseys, t-shirts, or other team gear than just about any other arena I've been to this season. As the K's skidded to a defeat after tying the game late in the second period, I could tell that the natives, while still loyal, were not particularly happy with the performance.

Overall: The War Memorial Coliseum, even after its recent renovation, still has that old-time hockey barn feeling. The passion and excitement that comes on a Saturday night for the Komets makes it a terrific night out, and a place that we will visit again.