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Official Review by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Against all odds, ice hockey in Texas - South Texas no less - is an unqualified success. You need look no further for proof of this than what is happening along the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1998, the NAHL's Corpus Christi IceRays have called the city of Corpus Christi home; and since 2004, the team has resided in the American Bank Center next to Corpus Christi Bay.
This gorgeous, state-of-the-art facility took two years to build and cost nearly $50 million. For game attendees, you'll be able to see exactly where that money went and why the American Bank Center is one of minor league hockey's brightest stars.
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".
Like most sporting venues, the American Bank Center has plenty of standard food choices on both its lower concourse and its upper balcony. Burgers, hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, cotton candy, and soda - all are available and can be had for reasonable prices. Hot dogs start at $4, while large sodas, nachos, and popcorn are $5 each, and a large beer costs $7. Again, all reasonable numbers and anyone can eat their fill for a decent amount while enjoying the game.
Where the American Bank Center excels is in the specialty selections it offers; chief among these is the stand on the ground floor known as The Dogfather. As the name might imply, it is a specialty hot dog stand that offers premium, New York-style hot dogs. Besides these, however, another great item to be on the lookout for is the newly unveiled ABC Burger. This hybrid creation combines a traditional Ľ-pound cheeseburger with a chopped barbecue sandwich; for those with big appetites and no fear about messiness, this is a one-of-a-kind treat that should not be missed.
Other local businesses that have been brought in to upgrade the stadium fare include local coffee house Stingers (which offers specialty coffees and hot chocolates), as well as the appropriately named Ultimate Cheesecake Bakery (which offers a large variety of cheesecakes, cookies, and dessert bars). There are also two full-service bars on the upper balcony area that serve beer, wine, and cocktails.
At first blush, you would not think that an ice hockey team would be much of a draw, especially when the home team on the ice is a junior team. However, the IceRays pull out all the stops to make the American Bank Center a great venue for the sport, no matter the level. The IceRays are averaging close to 4,000 fans per game, and that energy is palpable in the atmosphere.
From showing montages of "great" hockey fights on the jumbotron to perfectly timing the kiss cam to focus on the opposing team's bench right before a timeout ends, to the in-arena remote controlled blimp, the IceRays pull out all the stops to make the atmosphere entertaining for the fans. The team mascot, Stinger Ray, is also a real crowd pleaser.
How many hockey arenas can claim they are literally across the street from a beach that you can enjoy pretty much the entire season? I would hazard a guess that there aren't many. However, that is exactly what is going on with the American Bank Center. Located directly next to Corpus Christi Bay, fans can take in a walk on the beach, fish off the pier, or take a swim before or after the game on some days. This feature really makes the facility special.
The arena is also conveniently located in the city's downtown, near many hotels and restaurants. It is also less than 10 minutes away from the city's SEA (Sports, Entertainment, & Attraction) District, home to Corpus Christi's other sporting and concert venues and museums. If you aren't interested in the beach, you can always take in the rest of Corpus Christi's sites during a visit to American Bank Center.
The IceRays draw close to 4,000 fans per game on average. The energy and excitement can really be felt, especially in the lower bowl seating. After having a team in town for over a decade, they have become very knowledgeable about what can at times be a tricky sport to follow. Every shot on goal, every goalie save, every glove drop gets a raucous cheer from the home team faithful. The crowd is loud, passionate, and engaged, all hallmarks of what you want for a home team advantage.
The American Bank Center, which is also home to a separate concert venue and is the city's convention center, is conveniently located in the heart of Corpus Christi's downtown. You can easily access the arena right off of Interstate 37. The American Bank Center is located right alongside the beach off of Shoreline Blvd, one of the city's main thoroughfares. Parking, both free and paid, can be accessed from Shoreline Blvd depending on what time you arrive at the game. This also helps when leaving; despite the venue being located right off of a main road, traffic flow rarely bottlenecks near the arena.
Single game IceRays tickets start as low as $11 for most home games ($9 for children); if you couple this with the low cost for most stadium concessions and several free parking options, this is easily one of the most affordable sporting options around. The chance to see competitive hockey in a truly gorgeous facility makes IceRays hockey something any sports fan should add to their bucket list if they are in the Corpus Christi area. Make sure you go up to the balcony level; the view of the bay through the open floor-to-ceiling windows is truly a site to behold.
The IceRays have several great extras for fans. The Whataburger Chuck-a-Puck gives fans the option of purchasing a signature orange puck to throw onto the ice for a chance to win prizes such as cash or free Whataburger for a year - score!
During the game, the "jersey girl" will walk through the stands selling raffle tickets; after the game, numbers are drawn to win game-worn jerseys. For $1 a ticket, that's a great chance to come away with a really excellent souvenir.
Along the closed off section of the arena behind the goal, rink-side "suites" are available during each home game. These individual and group seats feature tables and chairs and wait staff, and is truly a unique experience.
Last, but definitely not least, after each home game younger fans and their parents have a chance to skate on the same ice the players did. Post-game skating tickets can be bought for $5, and skates of all sizes can be rented (no need to bring your own). These are first come first serve, so sign up outside the team store on the first floor as soon as you get to the arena if you're interested.
The American Bank Center is truly a great facility and the IceRays are the ideal tenants for it. The game experience is unique, since it is ice hockey on the Gulf Coast, but familiar at the same time, and given the value for the money it is one that should not be missed, especially for hockey fans. Make sure to check out an IceRays game the next time you're in Corpus Christi.
Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter @EricMoreno6477.
Member Review by Keith Winters on Mar 07, 2012
Corpus Christi is home to one AA baseball team (Corpus Christi Hooks) and one Division I sports program (Texas A&M Corpus Christi). So, the Islanders basketball program is one of the highest level of sport played in the city of 300,000.
The Islanders launched their Division I sports program for the first time in 1999. They moved to the American Bank Center after it was renovated in 2004. The Islanders share the arena with the City of Corpus Christi.
The American Bank Center has been the city convention center since 1967, and was renovated in 2004. The stadium hosts many events, mainly concerts and sporting events. Since, the 2004 renovation was a total overhaul, the stadium is very modern, with all the latest sound, lighting, and video technology.
The Islanders men went to the NCAA tournament in 2007.
309 N Water St
Corpus Christi, TX 78401
1724 N Tancahua St
Corpus Christi, TX 78401
227 N Water St
Corpus Christi, TX 78401
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