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NLL Arena Experience Rankings, 2014 Edition

By Jim Flannery -- April 21, 2014 8:26 AM EDT


Since Stadium Journey released its rankings of the nine arena experiences in the National Lacrosse League in 2013, one of the teams has relocated (the Washington Stealth moved to Vancouver for the 2014 season). As a result, it is time to revise the list and see how all the locations are looking now.

We evaluate the stadium experience by looking at the food and beverages available at the facility, as well as the overall atmosphere, the neighborhood, the fans, access, return on investment and any extra features the stadium has to offer. Our primary tiebreaker is “crowd reviews” as submitted by our members.

Of note is that no arena in the NLL scored worse than a 3.1 out of five, with an average score of 3.8, reaffirming (in my humble opinion) that indoor lacrosse is the best spectator sport ever invented.

So without further ado, here are the rankings of the current NLL arenas.

  1. Xcel Energy Center - Home of the Minnesota Swarm

    As the home of the Minnesota Wild, the Xcel Energy Center ranked seventh overall on our 2013 list of best stadium experiences in the U.S. and Canada.

    Further down the page it is also listed as sixth on the “Best of Other Great Venues” as home of the Minnesota Swarm, the only NLL franchise represented on the list. Although the team has never been at the top of the standings, they continue to provide the best overall product in the league—fantastic atmosphere with great fans in an excellent, easy to access neighborhood. Did we mention the ticket prices are incredible as well?

  2. First Niagara Center - Home of the Buffalo Bandits

    Since the Buffalo Bandits have been in the NLL, they have been among the best-attended teams in the league, with crowds of 15,000 or more most nights. That continues to be the case today, with the Bandits consistently in the top two for attendance with the Colorado Mammoth year in and year out. Their loyal and vocal following have been faithful since the Bandits won championships in their first two years of existence (1992-1993). These days, with NLL all-time scoring leader John Tavares still going strong, the atmosphere is still top notch and expectations remain high.

  3. Langley Events Centre - Home of the Vancouver Stealth

    While the Stealth resided in Everett, WA, they made the Champion’s Cup game three times in four years, including a win in 2010. In spite of all this success, the team wasn’t able to fill the stands, remaining at the very bottom of attendance figures in the NLL throughout their stay. They’ve now moved north of the border to Vancouver and are playing in the Langley Events Centre in a hotbed of lacrosse fandom. Although this hasn’t translated into bigger crowds in the cozy, 5,200-seat arena, it has moved the franchise from last on this list in 2013 to a third-place position now with very good food and beverage options, a great atmosphere and outstanding fans who love their game.

  4. Air Canada Centre - Home of the Toronto Rock

    The Toronto Rock are tied with the Philadelphia Wings for most championships in NLL history with six. They are one of the winningest franchises in league history and remain one of the better attended teams as a result, although the number of fans in the stands has tailed off in more recent years. Their home, the Air Canada Centre, is situated near the harbour front in downtown Toronto, putting it in a fantastic location for pre- and post-game entertainment. But the main event is inside, where comfortable seats and excellent sight lines combine with an entertaining presentation on the floor for a great experience.

  5. Wells Fargo Center - Home of the Philadelphia Wings

    Only two franchises still exist from the founding four members of the NLL and the Philadelphia Wings are one of them (the other is the Colorado Mammoth, who started out as the Baltimore Thunder). In that time, they’ve won six championships, tied for the most in league history with the Toronto Rock. Most of that time has been spent at the Wells Fargo Center, which they share with the NHL’s Flyers and the NBA’s 76ers. Only the lower bowl of the arena is used for Wings games, but the Philly fans are every bit as lively as one might expect for a crowd in that city. Food and beverages at Wells Fargo is considered to be outstanding with a wide selection of options for the fans.

  6. Pepsi Center - Home of the Colorado Mammoth

    Consistently in the top two in the NLL for attendance, the Pepsi Center offers an excellent game day presentation for local lacrosse fans. The fans are loud and proud, with many bringing along cow bells to add to the boisterous nature of the crowd. The Mammoth put on a good show for those fans with smoke, fire, dancers, music and a good announcer to pump up the audience. The team’s 2006 championship banner is displayed in the rafters along with their three division championship banners and the franchise’s two retired jersey numbers for fan favorite Brian Langtry and Gary Gait, generally considered to be the best lacrosse player ever.

  7. Scotiabank Saddledome - Home of the Calgary Roughnecks

    The Calgary Roughnecks have only missed the NLL playoffs once in team history (in their inaugural season) and have earned two Champion’s Cups, making them one of the most successful professional sports franchises in the city’s history. They’ve spent their entire time in the NLL playing at the Scotiabank Saddledome. Drawing 10,000-11,000 fans on a typical night, the loyal fans produce some good crowd noise, getting the place fired up. One of the real bonuses at the Saddledome is the amount of history here, with the concourse walls lined with pictures and memorabilia from years past while championship banners for the Roughnecks, Flames and Hitmen are on display above the playing surface.

  8. Rexall Place - Home of the Edmonton Rush

    Rexall Place is best known as the long-time home of the Edmonton Oilers of the NHL, but it is also the home of the Oil Kings of the WHL and the Rush of the NLL. Although work is now underway on a replacement for Rexall Place in downtown Edmonton, the current facility still adequately meets the needs of its residents. The Rush generally fill the stadium to about half capacity and, although this detracts somewhat from the overall atmosphere in the place, the fans in attendance are enthusiastic and engaged. With the team’s recent success and budding young superstars like Mark Matthews, Aaron Bold and Curtis Knight, things could continue to get bigger and better for the Rush in the next few years.

  9. Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial - Home of the Rochester Knighthawks

    One might think that the game experience when going to watch a team that has won the Champion’s Cup twice in a row (2012-2013) would be more entertaining. Still, it wouldn’t exactly be called a bad experience either. The team, which has been around since 1995, has now won four championships and those banners, along with banners for the team’s retired numbers, are on display in Blue Cross Arena. The fans are a plus for games, showing up in teams jerseys as well as following them around to away games.


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