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Official Review by Eric Hasman, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Carver Arena was built in 1982 and had an extensive renovation to expand its lobby and meeting facilities in 2008. The arena is the home of the Bradley University Braves men's basketball team and the Peoria Rivermen of the SPHL. Carver Arena seats 9,919 for hockey and indoor football, 11,433 for basketball and up to 12,036 for concerts.
Currently, the Rivermen are in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL). The Rivermen used to be in the American Hockey Leauge (AHL), but were left without an affiliate as the Vancouver Canucks purchased their own franchise and moved them to Utica, New York. The Rivermen executives John Butler and Bart Rogers and former Rivermen owner Bruce Saurs applied and were accepted into the Southern Professional Hockey League thus saving hockey in Peoria. The Rivermen have been in Peoria for 33 years entering the 2014-2015 season.
There is nothing unique thing about this venue. It is your basic multi-use facility. I prefer to sit in the upper level since the site lines are better to see the play developing. With the small size of the arena there really is not a bad seat in the place unless you are way up there in the upper level. But since they rarely sell out you can basically sit where you want.
The team’s gift shop is right outside the arena and has the usual stuff including hats, t-shirts, sweatpants, game worn uniforms, etc. The selection is pretty good too.
The arena is very clean throughout the seating area and restrooms.
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 food here covers the basics including burgers, fries, and pretzels. The prices are reasonable for a sporting venue. The tenderloin is very tasty at $7. Also, the all you can drink soda for $9 is a good deal if you have few kids with you and they don't mind sharing.
The beer is provided by Budweiser for $6.50 a draft, and they do have some "premium" beers but they are in two small specialty bars in the arena. These specialty bars do have some hard liquor drinks too. There are a few tables and a high definition tv in each. These are nice places to hang out before the game or between periods. The staff is friendly and provides good service.
There isn't a lot of entertainment within the time outs and no special areas for kids activities like "shoot the puck" or other kid events like what you may expect at other arenas. So don't look for a big focus on silly mascots, but they do the traditional chuck-a-puck contest. The crowd is mostly families and there are lots of kids present.
The team mascot "Rocky" the Beaver doesn't make his way through the stands as often as he probably should. I didn't see him during my most recent visit until the 3rd period (besides to give away a pizza) and that was only in the lower bowl seats.
The arena is located in Peoria's downtown area which has a variety of nightlife for fans. There are many hotels and bars / restaurants within walking distance of the arena. Nearby (about a block away) is the home of the Peoria Chiefs - Dozer Park.
My favorite restaurant is Jim's Steakhouse. I have not had a bad meal there yet. Yes, it is pricey, a steak or prime rib, a salad, potato and a couple of drinks will cost about $60 with tip, but it is well worth the money. A bonus is Tim, the owner, who usually comes by and chats with you for a bit.
Depending on who you are with there is an "adult" entertainment club, Big Al's, basically kitty corner to the arena. It is a new building and they moved there approximately in 2012.
You can expect a crowd of between 3,000-5,000 fans. With this many people in the stands the place seems empty, but the people who do go are friendly and know a lot about the team and seem passionate too. You'll find many fans wearing game worn jerseys and replica jerseys.
If you are not staying in one of the nearby hotels, there is plenty of parking available in the area for $5 in parking garages across from Carver Arena and lots around the arena. Also, you could park for nothing if you don't mind walking a few blocks. There are no issues leaving the lots since traffic moves fairly quickly.
Carver Arena offers minor league hockey at minor prices. Single ticket prices start at $10 and go as high as $20. It's a good sports experience at Carver Arena, but nothing exceptional.
The people at the concession stands are not allowed and will not take tips which in a way is cool, but I hope the team is compensating the workers for the missed tips they would receive.
Within the concourse area the Rivermen have pictures of all the former teams with their records and names underneath which is interesting and worth the time to meander a bit. Also, on each side of the arena you can see all the banners and retired numbers for the Rivermen and the Bradley Braves.
Even though this is not the best atmosphere or arena it is still worth the trip. The staff members are very nice and helpful.
Member Review by paul
On the banks of the Illinois River, the city of Peoria has been an important hub of business and trade since it was initially settled in 1680 by French traders. That original group of explorers traveled up the Illinois River from the Mississippi, and I suppose were "Rivermen." Today, the Rivermen of Peoria play hockey in the AHL.
Previously, the city of Peoria has had hockey clubs in the CHL, IHL, and ECHL beginning in 1972. The Peoria Rivermen have existed in their present form since 2005, after moving from Worcester, Massachusetts. The franchise dates back to 1926 when they were the Springfield (Massachusetts) Indians, an original member of the American Hockey League (AHL).
The Rivermen are co-tenants at Carver Arena with the Bradley Braves basketball team. The facility is a part of the Peoria Civic Center in the city's downtown area.
Member Review by profan9 on Apr 30, 2011
I found Peoria to be my typical AHL experience. Everyone ranks each of these categories differently. For me the most important categories are fans and atmosphere, both of which are lacking at Rivermen games. Myself and each of my kids could have had our own sections to ourselves as there were not too many folks at the game, and the fans that were there were pretty blah. I suppose I didn't pay too much, but I wasn't interested in paying any more. The toilet race was kind of cool though.
112 SW Jefferson St.
Peoria, IL 61602
121 SW Adams St
Peoria, IL 61602
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