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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Ft. Wayne Komets are the second oldest minor league hockey operation in the country, after the Hershey Bears. The team was founded in 1952 and have called the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum its home for over 65 years; not too many other hockey teams can say that.
Through much of that history the team had been members of the International Hockey League, before bouncing around numerous leagues after the 1998/99 season and finally settling in the ECHL in 2012. Despite the different leagues, the Komets have been constant playoff contenders capturing nine championships, including four cups in five seasons between 2008-2012.
In 2002, the coliseum underwent a much needed renovation that raised the 1,200 ton roof 41 feet and 10 inches to modernized the building and create greater accessibility for guests with disabilities. The final cost of the project was $34.5 million and increased capacity size from 10,500 to 13,000.
In 2013, a $3.96 million renovation modernized all the restrooms on the 200 level and added two large food courts and retail space. These renovations have been beneficial to the facility in attracting concerts and other events, but it has not taken away from its charm of the old-school building.
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".
There have been major improvements with the food since our last visit. There are two food court areas in the 200 level where fans can feast on pizza slices from Slice'd, take-out style Asian cuisine from Wok this Wayne, grilled burgers from Appleseed Burger Company, and jumbo dogs from Dog House Cart.
Pizza slices sell for $5.50 or a whole pie for $28, plus tempting steak hoagies and submarinos for $7.75, and fried raviolis for $6. It should be mentioned that the slices are well portioned and fresh from the oven.
Teriyaki bowls cost $7.50 for a regular and $9.50 for a large order. Patrons can pick their protein, vegetables, toppings, and sauces and watch while they are created right in front of them. Other take-out options include sesame beef, General Tso chicken, and vegetable lo mein for around $6.50 a dish.
If there couldn't be more at the arena, Banditos whips up burriitos for $7.25 and nachos for $5.75 right in front of you along with one of the best deals in the building-two hard or soft tacos for $4. Also, BBQ 58 serves mouth-watering items such as pulled pork, pulled chicken, and brisket nachos for $8 and Piggy Back Tina Tots that are covered with jalapeno, cheese, sour cream, barbecue sauce and scallions for $7.50.
Fans make their way into the arena from the main lobby and up the escalators towards the main concourse. Many are dressed in the colors of black and orange and sport a jersey of some era of the team's history. The concourses have display photographs of past legends who suited up for the team and broadcaster Bob Chase who covered the team from 1953 until his passing in 2017.
There are some great local area institutions both old and new that should be previewed when in town. First, Coney Island Ft. Wayne has been serving its unique chili and Coca-Cola from 8 ounce bottles for over 100 years. The interior has not changed that much since its opening in 1914 and the place is quite popular among the populace. Coneys are $1.50 and it now takes credit cards.
Powers Burgers is the way hamburgers should be served and its decor has not changed at all in over 82 years it's been in business. Their sliders come with grilled onions and cost under a $1.00 per burger. The small location only takes cash.
A few new places that are vastly becoming popular are The Yummi Bunni and Junk Ditch Brewing Company. The Yummi Bunni serves homemade ice cream between two glazed donuts and the lines have been long since the place opened in November 2016. Junk Ditch Brewing Company opened in town 2015 and has a very impressive menu lineup along with its craft beer.
The Komets have lead the ECHL attendance ever since joining the league for the 2012/2013 season and at one time were the number two attendant team in all of minor league hockey. This 2016/2017 season the club averaged 7,568 people per game which would rank them #8 in all of minor league hockey. While the rest of the country is catching up to minor league hockey, it's been king in Ft. Wayne since 1952.
The coliseum has gone through a couple of renovations this century that has modernized the building for greater access for all patrons. Areas are well marked and escalators and elevators are available to transport fans to multiple areas. There is parking for 5,000 cars and it's only a 1.5 half mile drive from the I-69 exit or a 4 mile drive to downtown Ft. Wayne.
Tickets prices start at $12 for the 600 level, economical for the conscious traveler. If you are looking for watching the game with a rowdier, more cutthroat type of fan-not to say that they don't exist in the 600 level-purchase a $28 ticket for the lower bowl. Here, the fans yell at the goalie and chant various pleasantries to the opposing team.
Parking is $5 a car, aligned with other ECHL venues and menu options are reasonable and plentiful. However, for a historic venue that has housed the same team since 1952, it would benefit with a lot more photos, trophies, awards, and throwback jerseys throughout some of the dead space in the upper part of the building.
Did you ever wonder why the team spells its name with a K? When original owner Ernie Berg decided upon a nickname for his new hockey team, he wanted a name that suggested speed, flash and excitement. He spelled it with a "K" instead of a "C" after his wife Kathryn who went by Kay.
The Rooftop Lounge offers full menu options, plus an outdoor seating where smoking cigarettes is allowed. Domestic drafts sell for $7.50, Pepsi products between $3 and $4.25, and craft beers can be found at Hoosier Beers stands throughout the building.
The two new food courts are both spacious, creative, and bright for an older facility that features tight concourses in certain areas. The prices are reasonable, and the selections are varied in these two hot spots on the 200 level.
Ft. Wayne should be considered Hockey City, Indiana, since the popularity of the sport wanes almost everywhere else in the state. Yes, there are minor league clubs in both Indianapolis and Evansville, but here minor league hockey is king in the Hoosier State.
There has been a fantastic job renovating the older facility and creating a place that is warm and inviting for today's 21st century crowd. The oldest professional hockey team that has played in the same building since its existence is worth a visit sometime during the hockey season.
Member Review by paul
Established back in 1952, the Fort Wayne Komets have existed continuously longer than every club in North America, outside of the NHL's Original Six and the Hershey Bears of the AHL. With longevity like that you would expect a loyal fan base, and an electric atmosphere. And you would be absolutely correct.
The home of the Komets is the Allen County War Memorial Coliseum. They share the venue with the IPFW Mastodons and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBDL. This building has also been home to the Fort Wayne Pistons (now Detroit Pistons), as well as indoor football and soccer teams. It is an ultimate multi-use facility, but hockey is definitely the high point.
Member Review by Domish13 on Jan 03, 2013
Food & Beverage 3
Prices went up slightly. They had a stand selling flavored nuts that was doing a brisk business. No other food item really stood out. I was unable to check on other items as the concourse was very crowded.
In the game that I saw, fans were starting to leave about halfway through the period. Toledo was starting to pull away at that point. It was also New Year's Eve, so maybe they were going to another engagement. There was one fight in the game Henley - Oreskovic, which ended with an Oreskovic takedown. They still have the ads on the ice.
The shopping mall and the chain restaurants are still there. However, the Hooters went out of business. There is a strip club next door to it.
There were at least 8,000 fans in attendance (over 10,000 was announced). There were plenty of fans wearing orange and black throughout the building.
The $4 price tag was reasonable as there is no nearby street parking. The concourses were pretty packed. It was a bit difficult to get around on the 200 level. Bathrooms were still clean.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets start at $12 at the 600 level, and go as high as $25 for the lower bowl. The prices are fairly reasonable for this level of hockey. Combine that with the parking costs, and the decent food and the experience is reasonable for the overall price.
The crowd still yells in unison, "He shoots, he SCORES!" The number of goals that the Komets have at that point is noted by the number of times a gong is sounded.
Only retired player numbers (#40 for the long time radio announcer Bob Chase), and championship banners are hung from the ceiling, similar to the Hershey Bears, another older well-known minor league team.
Member Review by kwingnut on Feb 04, 2013
I like the arena overall, especially being able to go right outside the lockerrooms after the game to watch the players leave. The concourses seem a bit crowded but not too bad.
The crowd got quiet pretty quick with Kalamazoo up 4-0 after 1,but were never fully out of it. They did not start leaving until part way through the 3rd with it 5-0. The fans were decent, a few rude ones, but not too bad considering I was a visiting fan.
The food seemed a bit pricey, but with plenty of options around the arena their is no reason to eat inside. The lines were not bad since all the stands were open.
I will not complain about the price of parking, it is more in Kalamazoo for an older arena. The price of tickets is a bit high, especially when you throw in ticketmaster fees. It is a plus to have student tickets, something I wish all teams did.
Member Review by MarcV on Apr 04, 2013
The Allen County War Memorial Coliseum has been a symbol of Fort Wayne, Indiana since 1952 and is home to the Ft. Wayne Komets. In 2002, the coliseum underwent a massive renovation that raised its roof 41 feet, but did not detract from the buildings’ old-school hockey charm. Regardless of what league the Komets participate in, the fans come out in support, as Ft. Wayne continues to rank in the top five of all minor league hockey attendance. The coliseum holds 10,500 for hockey.
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