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.
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".
There is quite a bit of selection available to you at Carver Arena, but very little that will make the food memorable. The recommendation that I had walking in was to try one of the Avanti's bread products. I tried the garlic cheese bread ($3.50) and it was cold and pretty disappointing. I also tried the spicy chicken sandwich ($4.75), and while it wasn't spectacular, it was hot and delivered on the spicy promise as well. Other specialties offered include chicken strips and fries ($6.25), cheeseburger combo ($8.25), pork chop sandwich ($5), and corn dog bites ($3). If you want to keep it basic, a hot dog will cost you $2.25.
Coke products are the featured soda at Carver Arena, with sizes available in regular and souvenir ($3.75 and $4.75). Bottled beer, mixed drinks, and wine can be found along the concourse. Draft beer ($6) can be found at the main concession stands with choices Miller Lite, Leinenkugel, and Killian's being standard.
The concessions are large and well staffed, so unless there is an especially large crowd, you shouldn't expect to see much of a line. Most importantly, there won't be a need to leave your seat early.
I should preface my remarks in this section by saying that I attended on a Wednesday night, and that typical weekend experiences in the AHL, and reportedly in Peoria, have greater energy and crowd support. That being said, it is a pretty laid back atmosphere at Carver Arena. Although, I did witness my first toilet race of any hockey game I've attended as they strapped toilets to sleds, and raced down the ice and back.
Seats are comfortable and well elevated so that the head in front of you shouldn't obstruct your view. Although it was announced prior to the puck drop that fans should limit their movement while the puck is in play, I saw several fans ascending and descending the aisle during play, and the ushers did little to dissuade this behavior. However, the majority of fans behaved with the proper etiquette, which was nice to see.
The first seven rows are temporary seating, and are a little less comfortable than the seats above. Unless you get a spot right on the glass, I would recommend sliding up a bit.
The four sided HD scoreboard is a nice addition to the arena, providing a constant view of the action above, as well as occasional replays.
I rather like the options available to you in Peoria. Whether you head down by the river or stay nearby in downtown, you should be able to find something you like.
One traditional favorite is Sully's Pub, just a block or so away on Adams, they offer 24 beers on tap in a wide open setting. The menu consists of burgers, sandwiches, pasta, pizza, and appetizers. I tried the tavern burger, a half-pounder with bacon, cheese and BBQ sauce. Almost everything on the menu is less than $10, so it is an affordable stop before or after a game.
Other bars and restaurants that I can recommend include Richard's Steakhouse and The Locker Room, both within easy walking distance to the arena.
I was unable to locate a contingent of die hard fans, and there were only a couple dozen fans sporting Rivermen or St Louis Blues (the parent club) gear. Other than expected cheers after a goal or especially big hit, the fans remained tame throughout.
Parking can be found in a lot directly across the street for $5 for a gameday, and there are several additional garages within easy walking distance to Carver Arena. You shouldn't have any trouble finding a spot, and getting in and out of town is also a very reasonable experience.
Inside the arena, the concourses are wide, and concession lines are short. The bathrooms were actually pretty nasty, with sticky floors, messy stalls, and the overall scent of a rest area. Worst of all, when I went to wash my hands, they were out of soap. Pretty unacceptable given the small size of the crowd.
Seats along the glass will cost you $25, which is a very fair sum to see second level hockey. Outside of that, you probably want to go for the least expensive tickets ($10) on a weeknight, and slide down to your preferred view. On a weekend, go for upper center seats ($17.50) for a good view. Factor in concessions and parking and you can expect to pay $27-$40 for most experiences per person. If you're in the area, and like hockey, then it is probably worth the visit, but otherwise you probably will not feel like you quite got your money's worth.
One extra point for the longevity of hockey in this city. The Rivermen, in their various forms, have two Turner Cup Championships and one Kelly Cup Championship, with banners hanging along one corner to prove it. The building also holds the Greater Peoria Sports Hall of Fame, although it may take you a while to find it. Joe Girardi and Hersey Hawkins stood out among some of the memorable names that have been inducted.
The Peoria Rivermen experience is a tough one to rate as it feels rather generic "" nothing too positive or too negative to report. The bottom line is that hockey fans will like the experience, but casual sports fans may find it a bit dull.
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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