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Official Review by Steven Bieniek, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
People attend a game or event for many different reasons. Most of the time, you’re going to root on a team that you’ve followed your whole life; sometimes you go because you know someone playing and sometimes you go just because you have nothing else to do on a Friday night. Sometimes, once you get to your destination, your “Friday night” ends up being a great time. This is the situation you can expect to encounter for the Robert Morris Colonial Hockey team and its home, 84 Lumber Arena which is part of the Island Sports Center.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The Ice Center has what adds up to be a very nice snack bar. Most fans sat in the provided seating area and ate whatever they ordered, as opposed to carrying their food in to the ice area. Outside of taking a drink or something small like popcorn or candy into the ice seating, it just seems easier to stay near the snack bar. The real highlight is the Starbucks coffee that can be ordered. Almost the entire Starbucks menu is available, including lattes and mochas. Smoothies and slushies round out a great drink menu as well.
There is a great variety of food also at the snack bar with very reasonable prices. All of the standard game foods are available; such as burgers ($3.75), hot dogs ($2), popcorn ($1.30) and nachos ($3). Other items that are available that you may not find at other college games are grilled cheese ($2), sweet or hot sausage ($3.75) and fish sandwiches ($5.60).
Salads and a variety of wraps are also available. I've been referring to this as a "snack bar", because that is what it resembles; however, you can get yourself or your family lunch or dinner here and be as happy as you would anywhere else. The quality of the food itself is, for the most part, above average and the prices are lower than you would expect at a sporting event.
The atmosphere is incredibly family-friendly and is a great alternative for someone who may want to avoid the rowdy atmosphere of a professional game. In fact, the center is small enough that being there will most likely remind you of being at a high school sporting event. Most of the fans will be engaged in the game and will respond to the PA announcer's chants and songs. Don't go expecting anything similar to a pro game or even something like a college basketball game; college hockey in Pittsburgh just hasn't made it to that level yet.
The Sports Center is located on Neville Island, which is not exactly the most bustling part of Pittsburgh. Neville Island is located on the west side of the city, very close to the Robert Morris campus in Moon Township. You're probably going to have to go close to the campus or Robinson Township (as mentioned in the RMU Football article), for any before or after game entertainment. You're also going to be about 20 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh (as long as there is not traffic), so be sure to leave yourself enough time to get to the Sports Center depending on where you're coming from in the city. The bottom line here is that if you're coming in for a weekend and fitting a game into your schedule, plan on spending your non-game time in a part of the city other than Neville Island.
Many of the fans that show up to support Robert Morris are the same fans that have partial and full season tickets for the Pittsburgh Penguins at CONSOL Energy Center. The fans are very knowledgeable about hockey in general and are very vocal in supporting the Colonials. As soon as the PA announcer asks for the chant of "Let's Go Bobby Mo", the crowd meets the request with great enthusiasm. Many of the fans will have children that will either play hockey at one of the other ice rinks or in between periods. There is a good mix of families and students from the University, which makes for a very fun, and family-friendly atmosphere.
While the ice center fills up quickly, the actual attendance number is not huge. Access into the complex will be simple, as there a lot of people that go early because of the other ice rinks on site. Getting out of the parking lot after the game is not that much worse, either. There are two different bridges to get on and off of the island, so direct access should not be a problem.
There are a few bathrooms located close to the main rink; however, they are very small. Considering the amount of people that fill the stands, the bathroom lines can become long in between periods, so you may want to consider leaving your seat a little early if you want to avoid the line. All parts of the complex are very clean and modern, which makes for a very pleasant experience.
You'll be able to choose from a $10 reserved ticket or an $8 general admission ticket. Normally, I'd suggest just taking the general admission option; however, this complex packs in the people, so if you're someone that gets up often during the game, you may want to pay the extra $2. The reserved seats are a little more towards the center of the ice as well.
Parking is free, and if you combine that with the cheap tickets, the nice merchandise store, and the great concession stand, the RMU complex is a great place to see a game. Since hockey is not a sport that is supported by every college and university, you also may get to see some of the more major hockey programs.
An extra star goes to the RMU staff supplementing the already good atmosphere with some fun activities in between the periods. A youth hockey shootout and a few other fan games are just some of the games that will be played during the intermissions.
The RMU Colonials will prove that they are very much an up-and-coming team in both the college hockey world and in the city of Pittsburgh. Robert Morris athletics is probably best known for its basketball program, but going to a Colonials hockey game is a cheap way to see good hockey in a nice arena. Be sure to take advantage of these games when you can.
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