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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
When it comes to sports, Canton, Ohio, is most known for being the home of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the area’s rich high school football history. But there is another game in town that has fans inside of an arena instead of a stadium. In 2011, the Cleveland Cavaliers bought an NBDL franchise and moved the team from New Mexico to Canton. That team would become the Charge and the old Civic Center became home. The Canton Memorial Civic Center was built in 1951, and retains most of those inaugural characteristics, serving as a multi-functional venue for decades. Though the building isn’t exactly inviting or even old-school charming, the Charge have done enough here to make for a great spot to host a D-League franchise.
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As expected with a small arena, there were only a few concession stands and they offered the usual fare like hot dogs, pizza, nachos, etc. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary until I looked at the menu on one of the walls of a concession stand. There was a whopping 22 items available! Definitely a nice surprise as this one stand featured a variety in products like Chicken & Waffles ($8), Turkey Wraps ($5), and Coney Dogs ($5). Snacks are well covered here too as fans can get Pasta Salad ($2), Beef Sticks ($2), Yogurt Parfaits ($4), Root Beer Floats ($3), and Muffins ($2). Given the small and old nature of this arena, the offerings exceeded expectations.
Pepsi and Bud are the featured drinks. There are several Pepsi products available, but the beer was mainly just Bud and Bud Light. One stand, however, did sell locally produced Ohio Brewing Company.
The Civic Center name to the arena is very applicable here as when fans steps inside, the multi-purpose nature of the facility is quite apparent. The most noticeable feature is the stage at one of the ends, which is used especially for concerts. In this section, the Charge turned it into a VIP area with free food and closer seats for ticket holders. The rest of the arena features three sides of seating in a horseshoe format. Center seats are decent, while the corners and end seating aren’t terrible, but certainly not the most-desired seats, given their angle and proximity from the court. With only 3,500 seats, the arena is definitely intimate and it does seem to be the right sized facility for the city and team.
Entertainment outside the game is typical of minor-league venues as there is a contest during each sustained break in play. Game play features music similar to what you would hear during an NBA game.
Though Canton is a small city, there is a surprising amount of things to do. Most of the focus is on the Western side of town where the Pro Football Hall of Fame and the William McKinley Presidential Library and Museum is located. The former President’s grounds also include a monument that is a landmark in the city. Also, within downtown, is the Canton Classic Car Museum and the National First Ladies’ Library, giving visitors plenty to do in the area. The Civic Center is on the northern edge of downtown in an area that includes the local Art Museum.
The most visible food joint is the Wendy’s right next door, however a better option can be had within walking distance to the arena at the Desert Inn. This is an Arabic/Syrian restaurant that may not be for everyone, but is known for some really great food, and it even has belly dancing! More options for food or drink are found towards the rejuvenated downtown section, just a mile away. Here you can head to Peter Shears for a steak or Bender’s for a drink in a tavern that has been there since 1902.
On a mid-winter Friday Night game, the arena was half-full. Given that it only holds 3,500, that is a little disappointing, but still the crowd that was there was into the game. A smattering of Charge apparel dotted the crowd and though the building was never overly loud, most fans clapped after a home basket. Overall, an average crowd.
It is very easy to get to Canton and the Civic Center as Interstate 77 runs right by the city. Everything is well signed as Exit 106 brings fans to 12th St NW, which is the main access point to the Civic Center located on Market Ave. A small parking garage is attached to the building and there are other surfaces lots immediately nearby. The $5 parking charge is a little steep given everything involved. Regardless, the whole driving, parking and leaving process is painless here.
Bathrooms are old and somewhat small, as expected, but as long as it’s not a full house, it’s not a problem.
Though the NBDL is minor-league, there are many known players currently in the D-League who starred in college. Since college basketball is a popular sport, players are a little more identifiable than what you might see in minor baseball and hockey. Plus, many of these players may have the chance to someday play for the nearby Cavaliers, all the more reason to check out a game. Ticket prices are reasonable as they range from $7-$25, and the small nature of the Civic Center allows the fan to really get an up close and personal view of the pro game that is just a step below the NBA. Most of the seats with a center view are $19 and over. All things considered, parking is a bit overpriced at $5, otherwise prices are fair and it’s worth heading to the Civic Center for a game or two.
The game-day staff deserves an extra two points. All of them were accommodating and genuinely happy to be there. From the ticket takers, to concession workers, to the ushers, everyone was in a good mood.
None of this was over the top or excessive and it made the atmosphere a bit better. Even the security guards that lined the floor during timeouts were pleasant, one of them even mouthed the words to a song playing in the arena.
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