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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Gwinnett Gladiators hockey team name is quite appropriate considering their staying power, where their bladed brethren, the Atlanta Flames and the Atlanta Thrashers have failed. Just as the gladiators of ancient times met the enemy and were victorious, the Gladiators have been a success both on the ice and in the stands. Founded in 2003, they play in the very competitive East Coast Hockey League as an affiliate of the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL. More than 20 Gladiators have gone on to play in the majors. The team has an impressive record of going to the Kelly Cup playoffs in nearly every season in which they have taken the ice.
The modern-day arena for these Gladiators is Infinite Energy Center located in Duluth, Georgia, a northeastern suburb of Atlanta. The arena seats 13,000 for hockey and can easily be converted to other configurations for concerts, conventions, trade shows and other events. Amongst the extra amenities offered at the facility are 36 corporate suites, 2 party suites, and a spacious concourse with a wide range of concessions, and wider seats than most sports facilities, a rarity in the modern-day stadium/arena world.
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".
Due to its use for multiple purposes, Infinite Energy Center has a much wider selection of concessions than most sports arenas. Each of its food offerings has its own separate unit, rather than a one-size-fits-all food and beverage operation. Amongst the in-house choices are Una Fetlina Italian Café, Arena Dogs and Deli, PW Cheesesteaks and Club 64 BBQ. Prices range from $2.50 for a hot dog all the way up to $12.00 for lasagna. Restaurants are arranged in a set of four food court layouts on each corner of the arena, which makes lines non-existent, even between periods.
The target market for the Gladiators is definitely family-friendly. They market heavily to area youth hockey leagues, host school appreciation games (The Gwinnett County School System is the largest district in the state) and feature concerts after games with bands that are popular with the younger crowd. The team's mascot is unusual, as you would expect someone dressed up as a gladiator, but not here. Instead, the usual competition for a gladiator rules, as Maximus the Lion entertains the crowd from the stands and conducts the in-between period contests featuring the fans.
As you would expect from a multi-purpose facility that hosts 15,000 people or more on a regular basis, Infinite Energy Center is surrounded by retail, restaurants and hotels. Located just four blocks from the arena is Sugarloaf Mills Outlet Mall, which features more than 180 stores. Restaurants in the area include Carino's Italian Grill, The Arena Tavern and Marlow's. Hotel brands represented in the area are Holiday Inn Express, Hampton Inn and Hilton Garden Inn.
Even though the atmosphere is very family-friendly, don't discount the knowledge and team spirit of the fans who attend Gladiator games. Many are refugees from Atlanta's past hockey incarnations in the NHL. You'll still have fights at the hockey games, but here they will be restricted to the ice, not in the stands.
The Gladiators have one of the largest season ticket bases in the ECHL and their fan club is very easy to spot, as they sport specially designed jerseys at the games. They also tend to control whole sections of the arena and lead their own organized cheers during the game. Since many of these fans are coaches for area youth hockey organizations, they really promote the Gladiators out in the community and are involved in many charity events the team hosts.
It is impossible to miss Infinite Energy Center, as it has a huge electronic message board advertising its upcoming events along Interstate 85. From I-85, it is just a few short blocks to the arena from the Sugarloaf Parkway exit. Parking is free, but there is one caveat for fans using the arena lot. There are very few entrances/exits leading in and out of the lots to Sugarloaf. You need to build plenty of time both before and after the game to get where you are going. Gwinnett has a very limited public transportation system, with the nearest bus stopping at Sugarloaf Mills, which leaves you a four-block walk along a very congested road. I-85 is also one of the Atlanta area's most congested highways, especially on weeknights. The weekend games are not nearly as hard to access from a traffic perspective.
The Gladiators offer a wide variety of ticket packages that can provide a large discount if you are in a group or are planning to attend multiple games. For an individual game, ticket prices can run from $11 for a general admission ticket up to $34 for reserved seats. This is very reasonable, as hockey tickets go. Parking is free, and there is a wide variety of food and beverage options in the arena at acceptable prices. Add to that the many restaurants and hotels located nearby, and you can definitely find an enjoyable hockey experience that will fit your budget.
The nearby Sugarloaf Mills shopping center is the largest outlet mall in Georgia. It includes a Bass Pro Shops superstore, a Medieval Times dinner theatre and other outlet versions of Neiman -Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue and Eddie Bauer.
The Georgia Sports Hall of Fame recognizes native Georgians that have participated in the Olympics, as well as professional sports.
Member Review by jmccurdy
As NHL hockey spirals down the drain in Atlanta for the second time, it gets significantly tougher for anyone who gives a darn about the ice here in the metro area. Thankfully, for now the Thrashers' imminent migration has no implications for their ECHL affiliate, the Gwinnett Gladiators - who put on a pretty good show themselves.
Part of their solid product is undoubtedly their rink, housed on the campus of the larger event complex called Gwinnett Center. Here one finds a performing arts center and a convention floor among other venues, but of interest to the sports fan is the appropriately-named Arena.
Member Review by Coachrob16 on Sep 16, 2014
Really a nice venue to watch some hockey. The seats are very close to the ice and you feel like you are almost in on the action. Food options are plenty and the area has many things around it that are easy to get to.
2000 Satellite Blvd NW
Duluth, GA 30097
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