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Ranking the Arenas of the AHL

By Paul Baker -- May 20, 2014 9:37 AM EDT

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The American Hockey League (AHL) is the premier developmental league for the NHL, as 87 percent of all players to play in the National Hockey League this season came up through the AHL. In existence since 1936, the AHL has grown from a league with franchises located primarily in the northeastern United States and Canadian Maritimes to an association with a continent-wide footprint. The league has grown in step with the NHL, and now boasts 30 teams, each one affiliated with a team in the NHL. In total, over 6 million people attended AHL games over the course of the 2013-2014 season. We are privileged to present our rankings of the arena experience for the American Hockey League.

Our reviews are based on several categories including: food & beverage in the arena, the overall atmosphere, the neighborhood in which the arena resides, the fans, the access (including traffic, parking, restrooms, and ability to move around in the arena), overall return on investment, and a catchall category for any extras. We use the rating of our correspondent as our primary ranking, with the crowd reviews of our members as the secondary factor. In cases where there is still a tie, we have an internal discussion to determine which arena experience might be slightly better. To read any of the full reviews, just click on the name or picture for each arena.

As with all lists of this nature, there will be debate and disagreement. Frankly, that's why we love these lists. We welcome your feedback in the comments section, and encourage you to rate the arenas where you have attended a game. Without further ado, we present our rankings for the best overall arena experience in the AHL...

  1. Van Andel Arena - Home of the Grand Rapids Griffins

    For the second straight year, the Grand Rapids Griffins and Van Andel Arena claim the top spot on our list. The downtown location, with its numerous eateries and pubs and breweries is certainly part of the draw, but the team itself helps to draw West Michigander hockey fans. The Griffins are the AHL affiliate of the in-state Detroit Red Wings of the NHL. This creates the perfect hockey market for minor league play. The team is far enough away from Detroit (about 160 miles) that there is no competition at the Joe Louis Arena box office with the Wings, but the local interest is definitely steered towards the Detroit club, and fans revel in the opportunity to see the soon-to-be Red Wings.

  2. Quicken Loans Arena - Home of the Lake Erie Monsters

    Though Quicken Loans Arena is nearly 20 years old, it still feels incredibly modern, thanks to an extensive renovation in 2005, when Gilbert bought the place. With the way the seating bowls are constructed (with a lower bowl of only 14 rows, topped by a slightly taller club section) it helps to keep the upper deck in closer. This provides great sightlines from almost every angle.

  3. Wells Fargo Arena - Home of the Iowa Wild

    Wells Fargo Arena is the biggest of three different arenas that comprise the Iowa Events Center. Opened in 2005, Wells Fargo Arena is located on the banks of the Des Moines River. The arena is a multi-purpose venue and home to three sports teams as well as concerts and other events throughout the year. Wells Fargo Arena replaced Veteran’s Memorial Auditorium as the main sporting and concert venue in the Des Moines area.

  4. BMO Harris Bank Center - Home of the Rockford IceHogs

    Opened in 1981, the arena seats almost 6,000 for hockey, and is located right in the middle of downtown Rockford, an industrial city with ample building stock in the center city, but sorely in need of vision and fresh investment. Locals call the arena “The Barnyard,” although with the distinctive reddish/orange brick façade, another nickname for the arena is the “Big Orange Box.”

  5. AT&T Center - Home of the San Antonio Rampage

    Whoever put this place together knew exactly what they were doing and new arena developers should visit here to find out how to create a mixed-use facility that caters to all types of fan. For the Rampage, only half of it is open, but that should be enough to get a feel for the venue. The arena is shared by the San Antonio Spurs, and we have named the venue as the best NBA arena experience in 2013 and 2014.

  6. Dunkin Donuts Center - Home of the Providence Bruins

    The Dunkin’ Donuts Center, born in 1972 as the Providence Civic Center, is the home of the Providence Bruins hockey team and the Providence College Friars basketball team. “The Dunk” went through extensive renovations from 2006-2008. These renovations touched every aspect of the building, from creating new luxury boxes to remodeling concourses, concession stands, bathrooms, recreating the seating bowl,updating locker rooms, and training facilities. The arena was transformed from a tired facility which was starting to show its age to a modern building which can now hold its own against any mid-sized arena in the country.

  7. Ricoh Coliseum - Home of the Toronto Marlies

    Here in Toronto stands another great temple of hockey – it’s called Ricoh Coliseum, and sits on the fairgrounds of the Canadian National Exhibition on the Lake Ontario waterfront. It opened in 1921, has had a multitude of uses, and since 2003 has served as the home venue for the city’s American Hockey League (AHL) franchise, first the Toronto Roadrunners, and then the Toronto Marlies, top affiliate of the Maple Leafs. The franchise has been growing slowly and steadily in popularity, offering a reasonable pricing alternative to the high cost of attending a Toronto Maple Leafs game.

  8. Utica Memorial Auditorium - Home of the Utica Comets

    Utica welcomed the return of hockey to these parts with great fanfare. Substantial renovations were made to the Utica Memorial Auditorium, more affectionately knows as “The Aud”, with yet more work to come in the future, including the addition of suites and exterior façade enhancements. Lines formed around the block to purchase season tickets and single game tickets, and fan support has been substantial. The Utica Comets offer a superb game day experience with great fan support, and all staged at a perfect old school venue.

  9. Time Warner Cable Arena - Home of the Charlotte Checkers

    Time Warner Cable Arena is a “major-league” basketball arena, built primarily as the home of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. With an overall seating capacity over 20,000, it’s a bit oversized for minor league hockey, and that presents some issues for the experience.

  10. Times Union Center - Home of the Albany Devils

    The Times Union Center is really a professional style arena, situated right in the heart of downtown Albany. The arena holds upwards of 14,000 fans, but the entire upper level is normally curtained off, as the A-Devils average around 4,000 fans a game. Since the River Rats' great success in the mid 90's, including a Calder Cup in 1995, Albany has struggled to see a quality product on the ice, only seeing the playoffs three times since 2000. Even though the A-Devils have yet to make the playoffs in their tenure at the TU Center, they still make for a good game day experience for fans.

  11. Norfolk Scope - Home of the Norfolk Admirals

    Built smack-dab in the middle of downtown Norfolk in 1971, and used for everything from concerts to boxing matches, the Scope's main attraction for the past several years has been minor league hockey. While two indoor football teams - the Norfolk Knights and Nighthawks - have come and gone, the Admirals have ridden out three different NHL affiliations by consistently filling most of the 8,725 seats available for their games.

  12. Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial - Home of the Rochester Americans

    The War Memorial does not look like an arena that has been around for over 50 years. As part of the renovations, a large narthex was built complete with a team store and ticket windows. It is surrounded by large windows, which do a great job of allowing in that natural light, and avoids the dank, dark interior that can accompany older arenas. The narthex is actually a great place to wait INSIDE on those cold, Western New York, winter evenings before the gates open.

  13. Cox Convention Center - Home of the Oklahoma City Barons

    The American Hockey League's Oklahoma City Barons play their home games in the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City. The Cox Convention Center has a hockey capacity of over 13,000 and it has undergone a number of upgrades in the last four to five years, including a new scoreboard and new team store. Cox Convention Center opened in 1972 and also is the home of the Indoor Football League's Bricktown Brawlers.

  14. Cedar Park Center - Home of the Texas Stars

    Cedar Park Center is a beautiful facility that is hurt by its relatively remote location and parking charges. Even then, it is well worth making the trip as the Stars put on a great show with a very friendly staff who will make sure that your visit is as enjoyable as possible.

  15. XL Center - Home of the Hartford Wolf Pack

    The arena is designed beautifully for hockey, and while it does not have all the bells and whistles that local officials desire, this place is excellent for the general hockey fan. The seat pitch is steep, and even in the lower bowl, fans are right on top of the action as they sit in blue seats that are both wide and comfortable. While the 200-level seats are closed off during Wolf Pack games, there is not much separation between the lower and upper bowls, which helps to bring all seats closer to the ice. Additionally, luxury suites are perched way up at the top of the arena.

  16. Glens Falls Civic Center - Home of the Adirondack Phantoms

    After the Spectrum closed in 2009, the Philadelphia Flyers had a decision to make. They had to relocate their AHL team, the Phantoms, out of Philadelphia. They decided on moving the team to the small city of Glens Falls, in upstate New York. Glens Falls and the Glens Falls Civic Center had previously hosted the AHL's Adirondack Red Wings franchise from 1979 until 1999. The Phantoms were promptly renamed the Adirondack Phantoms, and the 2013-14 season will be their last in Glens Falls, before moving back to Pennsylvania and the Lehigh Valley.

  17. FirstOntario Centre - Home of the Hamilton Bulldogs

    For the longest time, Copps Coliseum seemed like a sub-standard arena. The exterior hearkens back to the eighties and seventies, with no use of glass, and some pretty ugly siding. It reminds you of arenas like Joe Louis Arena, which don't pass the eye test outside. Once inside, Copps is fairly decent. There is one concourse which circles the arena and allows access to both the lower and upper bowls. The concourses feature banners of "Hometown Heroes," "Bulldog Graduates," and other moments in Hamilton hockey history.

  18. Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena - Home of the Binghamton Senators

    Walking up to the arena feels like you are back in the 1970s and that feel continues to some extent inside, thanks to the color scheme and the center-ice dot matrix scoreboard. But this is not all bad as the facility features some terrific sightlines. Each side has a large section of seating, and between the blue lines, fans get great views because seats are close and the pitch is quite steep. In fact, most seats here are good, except for the edges of the side seating as those make it difficult to see the net at times. Another plus is the low roof, which helps to increase the noise and add to what can occasionally become a great atmosphere.

  19. Giant Center - Home of the Hershey Bears

    The Giant Center is a newer arena, with ground being broken on November 8th, 2000 and seating around 10,500 for hockey. It is home to the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the Washington Capitals. The Bears are a tradition rich team with 11 Calder Cup Championships to their credit. The team, along with the Giant Center is owned by the Hershey Chocolate Company and is located at the edge of Hershey Park, essentially across the parking lot from all of the other Hershey attractions.

  20. Verizon Wireless Arena - Home of the Manchester Monarchs

    There can be no mistaking the fact that this is a minor league venue. There are frequent exhortations to "get loud" and a boisterous PA announcer who becomes particularly excited when announcing Monarchs power plays. The usual chintzy promotions often take place during stoppages in play ("if the Monarchs score in the next three minutes, everybody wins a free oil change!").

  21. Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza - Home of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins

    The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins are the AHL affiliate of the Pittsburgh Penguins. They play in the Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Park. The Arena opened in November of 1999 as the Penguins made their debut in the AHL. The arena has seating for over 8,000 people for hockey events.

  22. MassMutual Center - Home of the Springfield Falcons

    The MassMutual Center, built in 1972 as the Springfield Civic Center and remodeled in 2005, is located in downtown Springfield, Massachusetts. Attached to the arena is a convention center, which is the largest in western Massachusetts. The arena has been home to several hockey franchises in the AHL, and even hosted the Hartford Whalers for part of the 1978 season when a roof collapse at the Hartford Civic Center forced the Whalers to search for a temporary home.

  23. BMO Harris Bradley Center - Home of the Milwaukee Admirals

    If played in a small arena with slightly cheaper ticket prices, the Admirals could be a big hit in Milwaukee. The BMO Harris Bradley Center is too big for the Admirals and the experience takes a hit because of it. The food and drink options are NHL-quality, as are the passionate fans who show up each night. The problem is, not enough fans show up each night and the atmosphere lacks because of it. Despite all of this, the Admirals are worthy of a look and who knows, you may get hooked!

  24. Oncenter War Memorial Arena - Home of the Syracuse Crunch

    The War Memorial's atmosphere is where the mix of old and new is most apparent. The building's wall and concourse is lined with the faded lime green linoleum that feels like an old high school building, with nonprofit groups and sponsors manning card tables before and during the game. The vendors and ushers are all of an older crowd, having been employed for decades instead of months, leading to friendly service and name recognition for regular fans.

  25. Webster Bank Arena - Home of the Bridgeport Sound Tigers

    All the pieces are here for a great atmosphere. The new scoreboard is most impressive, and the ribbon boards around the arena are a nice touch. The on-ice crew is active, and there are plenty of in-game contests and promotions to keep the casual fan interested. There are plenty of t-shirts thrown into the stand for the kids, and the music played during play stoppages is designed for maximum crowd involvement. The Sound Tigers' mascot, Storm, patrols the arena throughout the game.

  26. DCU Center - Home of the Worcester Sharks

    Sitting right in the middle of Downtown Worcester is the DCU Center, home to the Sharks of the American Hockey League. When the building opened as The Centrum in 1981, there was no hockey on a regular basis until the expansion IceCats started in 1994. After nearly a decade in town, they moved to Peoria and in 2006, Cleveland's AHL franchise moved to Central Massachusetts. Given the right circumstances (games against rivals, Saturday Nights) it can be a fun place to watch hockey, otherwise, the building is plain and quiet.

  27. Mile One Centre - Home of the St. John's IceCaps

    The building sits in the heart of downtown St. John's, a beautiful area that's rich with culture and nightlife. Very few arenas in the world, much less the AHL, can offer both a view of the Atlantic Ocean and the greatest party street outside of Las Vegas within walking distance of the building. Mile One does.

  28. Allstate Arena - Home of the Chicago Wolves

    Despite being in a big city like Chicago, with five major league teams and all sorts of other professional sports entities competing for attention, the Chicago Wolves actually do a great job developing and nurturing their own niche of fan support and attendance. The arena is off the beaten path, things are a bit pricey, yet the franchise thrives and has their own dedicated fan base. The team has a history and a track record and some championships and tradition. It doesn't look like they'll be going anywhere else anytime soon.

  29. Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre - Home of the Abbotsford Heat

    The Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre is a modern arena that is everything a hockey fan would want with comfortable seating, excellent sightlines and an exciting atmosphere among the high points. The single-bowl building offers a little bit of everything from wide concourses, quality food and beverage selections and a premium level offering some excellent dining choices and luxury seating options. The Heat will move to Glens Falls, New York beginning with the 2013-2014 season.

  30. Androscoggin Bank Colisee - Home of the Portland Pirates

    The Portland Pirates came to the Colisee as an interim tenant while their home rink, the Cumberland County Civic Center, was renovated following the 2013 American Hockey League playoffs. Renovations were to be so extensive as to make the rink unavailable until well into the 2013-2014 season. Originally, the Pirates were to begin the season with a road-heavy schedule, playing their first 13 home games in Lewiston. However, a contract dispute between the Pirates’ ownership and the CCCC board of trustees over concession revenues forced the team to look for a temporary home for the remainder of the 2013-2014 season. In stepped the Colisee, providing the Pirates with a consistent home in the Portland area for the entire season.

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