If you were to ask someone to describe South Louisiana, you’d typically hear stories about tasty Cajun dishes, hot and humid weather, swamp land, Zydeco music, and alligators. The absolute last thing you’d expect to hear is anything related to ice or cold weather. For diehard ice hockey fans, however, South Louisiana is IceGator country.
Located in the city of Lafayette, the Louisiana IceGators of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) provide Louisiana with the only legitimate ice hockey experience in the state. The IceGators call the Cajundome, located on the campus of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, home ice (also serves as home court for Ragin’ Cajuns basketball and many other events ranging from monster truck rallies to concerts).
If you’re a traveling ice hockey fan or a Cajun resident looking for a unique family friendly sports event, the IceGators experience won’t disappoint. Though the overall atmosphere certainly can’t match marquee Louisiana sports experiences like the beloved New Orleans Saints, LSU Tiger football, or the New Orleans Pelicans, attending an IceGators game at the “Frozen Swamp” is affordable and surprisingly a great time.
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 Cajundome provides the IceGators with a decent variety of concession options. You'll find vendors including Pizza by the Slice, WOW Café & Wingery, Fresh Roasted Nuts, and Dome Eats. Stadium staples are a mixed bag when it comes to affordability. Hot dogs are an acceptable price at $3.75, however, a large bag of popcorn comes in at a whopping $6.25. The soda selection features Coca-Cola products and ranges from $4 for a regular to $5.50 for a large.
The best concessions deal is the Kid Combo at the Dome Eats stand which provides a hot dog and a kid soda for just $5 (substitute a popcorn in place of the hot dog and it's $4).
WOW will offer you the best quality and variety with items like red beans and rice, buffalo shrimp, southwest eggrolls, and multiple flavors of hot wings.
Alcohol is sold at the Cajundome. A regular draft beer will cost you $7 and a large is $9. Depending on when you attend, you may catch a drink special where regular drafts are only $4. In addition to beer, you can also purchase various hard liquor drinks.
Forgot cash? You're in luck. The Cajundome concessions stands take major credit cards.
Considering Lafayette is arguably the capital of Cajun cuisine, I recommend keeping your concessions order light and eating before or after the game.
The Cajundome and the IceGators game day crew team together to provide a great atmosphere for ice hockey in Louisiana. The promotions team does just about everything possible to ensure your experience is enjoyable. The combination of Gaston the Gator and the GatorGirls significantly contribute to the overall experience. It can be a challenge to incorporate a mascot and dance team into ice hockey games, especially in south Louisiana where few have mastered ice skating outside of the imported hockey placers. The IceGators make this work by having Gaston constantly roam the seating areas interacting with fans. Also, the GatorGirls begin each period in the crowd helping to rev the fans up. They remain in the seating areas, switching locations, throughout the game from the north and south endlines to areas separating the lower and upper decks. The GatorGirls also give a performance before the game begins and during intermission.
At what other sporting event can you participate in a po-boy toss? The promotions team gets creative by stuffing a t-shirt cannon with wrapped po-boy sandwiches and shooting them into the stands. There's also a remote control blimp which floats above the seating areas during intermission dropping balls which fans can redeem for concessions items. Each game features a post-game party at an area restaurant where fans can mingle with players.
As a minor league hockey program, playing in a facility designed and constructed specifically for your brand isn't realistic. This reality is obvious when you enter the Cajundome and notice University of Louisiana-Lafayette logos on the stairways and Ragin' Cajun red colored seats. Though the Cajundome wasn't designed specifically for minor league ice hockey, the IceGators benefit from a long history with the Cajundome which has established a seamless rink set-up between the seating areas. Though the seats aren't pressed against the glass, the IceGators embrace the space between the seats and glass by using it as a small concourse for fans to get around the arena.
The Cajundome is an older facility and it looks as such. For some, this provides a positive feeling of nostalgia, for others, it's a negative. Some investment could certainly be made in giving the Cajundome a more modern, clean feel. In 2016, the Cajundome is budgeted to undergo some remodeling including the installation of new lower tier seating. This will allow the floor seats to press up directly against the glass. There's some discoloration on the exterior of the roof and the concourses feel dated. A modern touch is added with the four-sided hanging scoreboard with video panels. In the four corners of the stadium there are Daktronics-style displays for additional stats like penalty time.
For IceGator games, there are multiple tiers of seating areas: rinkside, lower, and middle. The seating areas are in a traditional bowl shape with more seating along the baselines and fewer seats along the endlines. When the upper deck is open, the Cajundome has a total capacity for an ice hockey layout of 11,433. Due to reduced attendance, IceGator games are currently played with the upper deck closed which provides a capacity of approximately 4,500. Even with the reduced capacity, the IceGators rarely feature an attendance near capacity. This definitely has a negative impact on the atmosphere with less than a quarter of the arena full. However, the fans that do attend are very passionate and involved throughout the game. The arena can get impressively loud with just a couple thousand fans.
For IceGators games, you shouldn't have any problem with smartphone connectivity so plan to tweet and facebook post at will.
Originally constructed in 1985 at a cost of $64 million, the Cajundome is the centerpiece of big entertainment in the Lafayette region. The Cajundome is owned by the University of Louisiana-Lafayatte and is operated by the Cajundome Commission. In 2002, a convention center was added to the Cajundome to accommodate additional events.
Immediate Area. Being housed on a college campus provides a nice family friendly and safe game day environment. With the safety of a college campus comes the typical lack of attractions within walking distance. However, just half a mile to the southwest of the Cajundome is the Westwood Village Shopping Center which provides a few shopping options and a several quick service chain restaurants like Raising Cane's, Popeye's, Subway and more.
Though the immediate area won't provide much outside of the typical college campus environment, the greater Lafayette area is loaded with food, attractions, and entertainment. The Cajundome is a quick two mile drive from Lafayette's downtown area.
Where to Eat. If you arrive in Lafayette with an appetite, you're in luck. While New Orleans typically receives the spotlight for tasty Cajun cuisine, Lafayette is an off-the-radar tourist location for authentic Cajun dishes. For one of the best poboys you'll ever eat, stop by Olde Tyme Grocery (218 W Saint Mary). Though the place doesn't look like a must-stop from the outside (purchased in 1982 as an old grocery store), Olde Tyme Grocery is an area staple.
Another unique stop is Johnson's Boucaniere. Similar to Olde Tyme Grocery, Johnson's is unlikely to win you over by looks alone, but you'll fall in love with their hot boudin, pulled pork sandwich and chopped brisket sandwich. They also sell locally produced Bayou Pop to drink along with your meal. Seating is outdoor only so be sure to bring along some mosquito spray.
Likely the most widely lauded restaurant in the area is Prejean's (480 NE Evangeline). This will be a big step up from the simplicity of Olde Tyme and Johnson's and will provide a memorable Cajun experience. Other great area restaurants include Blue Dog Cafe (1211 W Pinhook), and Bon Temps Grill (1312 Verot School).
Attractions and Entertainment. While in Cajun country, do as the Cajuns do. There are several nightlife options which offer Cajun-themed music like Zydeco. For a little foot-stompin' and two-step, there's Blue Moon Saloon & Guesthouse (215 E Convent) and Randol's (2320 Kaliste Saloom). No trip to the bayou region is complete without a swamp tour. Take a boat ride through the swampy south Louisiana region and get up-close and personal with a few gators at Cajun Country Swamp Tours (1209 Rookery). For a great family friendly option for groups with little ones, check out the Children's Museum of Acadiana (201 E Congress).
Where to Stay. You shouldn't have a hard time finding quality lodging options. For a convenient and comfortable stay, check out the Hilton Garden Inn - Lafayette/Cajundome (2350 W Congress). This location is immediately across West Congress Street from the Cajundome and you'll be able to avoid searching for a parking spot on game day.
Despite providing a great atmosphere for IceGator games, the unavoidable fact is that ice hockey simply isn't popular enough in South Louisiana to provide consistently strong crowds. Expect a crowd of around 2,000 to 2,500 for any given game night. Outside of a lack in popularity, a move from the ECHL to the SPHL also diminished interest (SPHL average attendance caps out around 4,000 per game for the league leader). The IceGators originally debuted as a member of the ECHL with crowds that averaged around Cajundome capacity (11,000+). As the years progressed and the new wore off, support waned. Prior to ceasing operations in 2005, attendance dropped low enough for the upper deck to be closed off and the lower bowl still wasn't at capacity. The IceGators returned to action as a member of the SPHL in 2009.
Despite low attendance, the fans who do show up to IceGator games provide an electric atmosphere. The crowd is consistently engaged. When the IceGators score, the Cajundome is deafening (and that's with only about 2,500 fans in the place). Just about everyone in attendance joins in on the Gator Chomp after scores.
Another fun crowd tradition is cheering on the IceGators in the final minute of each period with a "Geaux, Gators, Geaux" chant.
It's unfortunate the IceGators aren't able to get better fan support. Though it may be hard for Louisianians to believe, there is a sports life outside of professional and college football. It would be a shame if Lafayette and the surrounding regions aren't able to provide enough support to keep the IceGators around for the foreseeable future. It's a great family experience and one Lafayette and Cajun Country should be proud of.
The Cajundome is a very accessible home for IceGator hockey. Though Lafayette traffic can be a headache at times, the Cajundome is a quick drive off of I-10. There is ample parking outside the Cajundome and nearby around Cajun Field. Best of all, parking is free. If you arrive at least 30 to 45 minutes in advance, you should be able to park next to the Cajundome and make a quick walk into the arena.
Ticket lines are fairly short and you'll breeze through the entrance gate. As you get inside, things can get a bit cramped as fans are funneled through the same section which is lined with an apparel stand, game day promotion stands, and the GatorGirls. Restrooms are accessible and large enough for any size crowd.
The concourses are wide enough for small crowds, though things may get a bit tight if attendance is near Cajundome capacity. There are escalators leading up to the second tier prior to the game and down at the end of the game (big plus). You'll find it very easy to get around inside the arena.
Overall, the Louisiana IceGators experience is very affordable and worth every penny. When you head to a minor league sports event, cost is usually a big influence on the overall experience. With that said, you save immediately upon arriving to the Cajundome with free parking. Though the cost of concessions are inflated (like it is at most arenas), the kid's combo allows an economical option for families (only $5). Tickets on the low end run $9.95 for kids and $14.95 for adults. For rinkside tickets, you'll pay just $25. Altogether, this makes for an affordable experience for the only ice hockey program for miles. Not only is the cost reasonable, but you'll leave with a memorable experience.
The combination of Gaston the Gator and the Gator Girls is a great mix. Both crews are very involved in the overall experience and accessible to fans. At the conclusion of the game, they are joined by the IceGator players behind the scenes for an autograph session for members of the kid's club.
Though the Cajundome's primary tenant is the Ragin' Cajuns of the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, the IceGators feel at home with two rows of banners hanging from the rafters including the retired jerseys of IceGator legends Spoltore (23) and Valicevic (24).
Did I mention parking was free? Call me cheap, but this is a great additional benefit for families looking to save a buck. Depending on when you attend, you might also catch a promotion like their Friday Four Pack which features four tickets and four McDonalds value meals.
It is not too you have hockey in the South. We here in Lafayette get to experience the game of hockey. The environment is welcoming and experiences is one of a kind. I find the Cajundome prices for food and drinks to be high but normal for stadiums. The fans are open and inviting as they try to include all including visiting fans. The intermission could be more lively and the announcer could do a better job of pumping up the crowd. But overall, you will have one hectic of a time enjoying the game of hockey.
218 W Saint Mary Blvd
Lafayette, LA 70506
111 St John St
Lafayette, LA 70501
1211 W Pinhook Rd
Lafayette, LA 70503
215 E Convent St
Lafayette, LA 70501
2320 Kaliste Saloom Rd
Lafayette, LA 70508
1209 Rookery Rd
Breaux Bridge, LA 70517
Lafayette, LA 70501
2350 W Congress St
Lafayette, LA 70506