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Official Review by Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Columbus Cottonmouths are members of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) which includes teams from Pensacola, Fayetteville (NC), Huntsville, Knoxville and Peoria. Founded in 1996, the Cottonmouths are named after a snake that is native to the nearby Chattahoochee River.
The Columbus Civic Center opened in 1996, is the home rink for the Cottonmouths, and the it holds 10,000 for arena events. The arena has four levels of seating; Rinkside (ends of the rink lower than ice level) at $30, Ice Level (first three rows behind glass on sides of the rink) at $26, Lower Level (next 10 rows after Ice Level) at $19 and Upper Level (anything above Lower Level) at $14. The Civic Center also has party decks available in the corners and suites that are available on a per game basis.
The Civic Center is located within the South Commons Sportsplex, which includes a football stadium, baseball stadium and a softball complex. The softball complex served as the site of the Women’s Softball competition during the 1996 Olympic Games. Also housed in the Sportsplex is the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame, which salutes sports notables from Central West Georgia and Alabama, as well as athletes who have passed through nearby Ft. Benning. The most famous member of the CVHOF is Frank Thomas, a Columbus native who was one of the 2014 inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.
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 main food and beverage concession stands are located on the four corners of the building on the outer concourse. The lines at the stands are very slow and extremely long during the two intermissions. During the three periods there are virtually no lines, but you miss the action on ice as there are no monitors on the concourse or open view of the rink from the concessions areas. Food sold at the main concession stands includes pizza ($4 a slice) hot dogs ($4), bottled water ($2), and bottled sodas ($2). There are some small kiosk stands spread around the concourse that sell shaved ice in many flavors ($3) and Bruster's ice cream ($2-$4 depending on how many scoops).
The team has local ownership, the family that owns AFLAC insurance, and they are very involved in the community. They have a major involvement in youth hockey in the area and have been in the Columbus area for nearly 20 years. This has created a very family-friendly setting for the locals to attend the games. The Cottonmouths have had a consistent winning tradition and the city is solidly behind the franchise. Most of the SPHL teams are located less than a three hour drive from Columbus which makes for many friendly rivalries.
The Sportsplex is located near downtown Columbus and near both the Historic District and the Chattahoochee River. This means it is located near some of the Columbus tourist attractions. They include Heritage Park, the Chattahoochee Riverwalk, which stretches 15 miles along the Chattahoochee River as it winds through town, and the newest attraction, a whitewater rafting experience on the river. For history buffs, the National Civil War Naval History Museum is located nearby, covering this little covered aspect of the Civil War.
Accommodations within walking distance are provided by the Marriott Riverwalk. A good choice for a before or after the game meal is the Cannon Brew Pub (1041 Broadway).
The Cottonmouths fan base is known as the Snake Nation, and they are loud. Fans come from both the Columbus area and the Phenix City, Alabama area, which is located just across the river from downtown Columbus. Nearby Ft. Benning is one of the US Army's main training facilities and you can expect to see lots of men and women in uniform at Cottonmouth's games. The team is very appreciative of their service to our country, and offers military discounts for every game and holds a Military Appreciation Night in which all soldiers are allowed in free of charge. Firing up the fans are the members of Venom, the club's dance team, which also assists with fan promotions between periods.
Columbus is 100 miles southwest of Atlanta on the Georgia/Alabama state line. Once you are in Columbus, getting to the Sportsplex is very easy .It is located on one of Columbus' main thoroughfares and is just a short drive from I-185. This signage leading you to the arena and other area attractions is numerous and well marked. Parking is free at the arena and the Civic Center is ADA compliant. Seating in the arena provides excellent leg room and the concourses are wide enough to navigate between periods with no problem.
The Cottonmouths are truly a member of the community and they go the extra mile to serve their neighbors. Factor in reasonable ticket prices, discounted tickets for both military personnel and youth hockey teams and reasonable prices at the concessions stand. Add to that free parking and easy access to area attractions and restaurants without moving your car, and you have a very affordable night out at the rink.
The Chattahoochee Riverwalk is adjacent to the Civic Center and provides more than 15 miles of hike bike trails for a walk or ride after the game. Two other attractions within walking distance of the Civic Center are the National Civil War Naval museum at port Columbus and the National Infantry Museum at nearby Ft. Benning.
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