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Official Review by Paul Swaney, Stadium Journey Co-Founder
The Saginaw Spirit joined the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for the 2001-2002 season after their move from North Bay, Ontario. The franchise has been continuously playing hockey dating back to 1943 when they were the St. Catharines Falcons of the Ontario Hockey Association.
The Spirit have done well in the standings during their time in Saginaw, usually finishing first or second in the West Division of the OHL, which has helped to encourage the fan support that they see today. They have made the playoffs in every year from 2006-2015.
The Dow Event Center is the home of the Saginaw Spirit as well as the Saginaw Sting of the Ultimate Indoor Football League. Located in downtown Saginaw, the Dow Event Center features an attractive entry, and a comfortable environment for some entertaining hockey. The building opened in 1972 and has a capacity of 5,527 for hockey games.
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".
Food prices are slightly higher than expected across the board, but not unreasonably so. Koegel-brand hot dogs ($3.50) are the way to go, and you can add a bag of chips and a pop for just $5 total. Jets Pizza provides slices ($3.75) or whole pies ($12 for plain cheese, $13 for pepperoni, or $15 for BBQ chicken pizza). Other options include boneless Buffalo wings ($7), cheeseburger ($5), mozzarella sticks ($5), and French fries ($3)
Pepsi is the soda provider of choice ($3 or $4) and there are the welcomed hot beverages available as well. Coffee, hot chocolate, or cappuccino ($2) are on hand. Draft beers will cost you $6.
Don't plan on getting dinner in the arena, but if you need something to get you through the game, then go for a Koegel Vienna hot dog. The company is headquartered in nearby Flint, Michigan.
The Dow Event Center, or specifically Wendler Arena, is a comfortable place to see a game. The seats have above average legroom, although don't offer you cupholders, which makes it especially difficult for the fans to clap during $1 beer night.
The center scoreboard offers video of the live action and occasional replays, but only the score and time left to accompany the pictures. In opposite corners of the arena you'll find the additional detail you may need such as shots on goal and penalty information.
Sammie the Eagle, does a wonderful job interacting with the crowd. It is amazing how much of a difference a good mascot can make to the overall experience, especially in a minor league or junior league setting, where the players change rapidly. Fans begin to associate with the mascot, and certainly the kids look forward to the opportunity to high five or hug Sammie.
In the immediate neighborhood there seems to be more options popping up each year. There are some fast food options like Rally Burger, but you would be better off trying one of the local restaurants.
Bradley's Bistro is located just a few blocks away on Federal Street. It's a small restaurant, with a limited and changing menu. This is definitely a good thing, as it is better to do a few things well than to have a 10-page menu. This is a good option if there is a vegetarian or someone with a gluten allergy in your party. Note though that as of February 2016, they were still awaiting approval on their liquor license.
A block close to the arena, on Washington, is the Bancroft Wine & Martini Bar. This is a good choice if you're looking for a pregame or postgame cocktail. You'll also find a good array of Mediterranean-inspired dishes.
A couple of miles away is the Old Town area of Saginaw. Here you can find some good pubs to grab a drink or a bite. My recommendation is Jake's Old City Grill. It's a good option if you want to go upscale or just get some quality food or drink. Steaks and seafood are at the forefront of the menu, but they also have a good selection of burgers, sandwiches, pasta and salads. You can also find a rather tasty burger and a couple of Michigan-brewed beers, at a cost of about $20 after tax and tip.
If you'll be in town for a weekend, then you may want to see if you can catch a show at the nearby Temple Theatre. Known as the Showplace of Northeastern Michigan, the theatre opened in 1927 and offers a beautiful and historic look into the past.
You may also be interested in the Castle Museum, or the nearby Children's Museum if you have kids with you. The Castle Museum is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places, so is worth a drive by at the very least. Inside you'll find exhibits dedicated to Saginaw's history.
If you're looking for accommodations, then cross the Saginaw River and stay at the Ramada Saginaw Hotel & Suites, with rooms starting at $89 a night.
The fans in Saginaw are pretty impressive. There is little doubt that they know their hockey and care about their team. They are engaged throughout, and certainly enjoy hard hits, goals, and beer, but also appreciate some of the finer points. Get into a conversation with a fan sporting a Spirit jersey and you're likely to hear a nuanced discussion of the sport.
Saginaw tends to be in the middle of the pack in the OHL when it comes to attendance, averaging around 3,500 fans per game.
The Dow Event Center is found just off of I-675, which is only a couple of miles off the major highway of I-75. There is a parking garage across the street which charges $5 for the game, or there is some limited parking right next to the arena for $10. You can also choose to park along Washington Street for free, and there are still spots available about 20 minutes before game time that are just a block or two away. As always, pay attention to applicable signs, but after 6pm parking is free and is definitely a good value, as long as you're willing to walk a couple of blocks.
The restrooms are a little interesting in that to enter one you have to walk down a short flight of stairs. I didn't notice a handicap-accessible restroom, but the arena is ADA compliant so there must be access somewhere in the arena.
Concourses are down below the seats, so you are forced to miss the game action if you need to leave your seat, and you can't circumnavigate the arena concourse without walking back into the seating area and up some stairs (basically to walk over the area where the Zamboni can drive into the skating area).
There's an interior concourse which separates the first 10 rows of seats from the upper 11 rows. Row K would put you just above this interior concourse and would be the best place to sit to stay close to the action, but still have good perspective on the game.
Tickets are available at three different price points. Executive seating will get you a spot in the first few rows ($19), Lower Level seating ($17) puts you down low, but off of the glass, and the Upper Level seating ($15) puts you above the interior concourse. Tickets are discounted for kids age 3-12, and for seniors. My recommended seating is section 17 in the upper section. You get a good view of both benches as well as the play on the ice, and for a good price.
Parking is a little expensive, but can be mitigated by arriving 30 minutes before the game and parking on Jefferson or Washington Street. Food options are slightly overpriced with less than a great selection. The overall experience is priced just about right.
Sammie the Eagle is worth an extra point. He is one of the better mascots at this level.
Another point for the playing of both the Canadian and American National Anthems. It is interesting to see that this is done even when both teams are based in the United States (Saginaw vs. Flint, both based in Michigan). You may be surprised to hear so many people singing along with both anthems.
A third extra point for the excitement of the OHL level of play in general. You will be sure to see some really high quality hockey when you go to an OHL game. From 2007-2015, the number one pick in all but two NHL drafts was from the OHL. This is truly where the future professional stars come to groom their game.
With the high level of play and the comfortable seating, I would definitely recommend seeing a Saginaw Spirit game if you live or work in the area. You will almost certainly see a future NHL all-star on the ice, and Sammie will ensure you have a good time. If you want to follow your team on the road, then Saginaw can be a good town to see some hockey as well.
Member Review by paul
The Saginaw Spirit joined the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) for the 2001-2002 season after their move from North Bay, Ontario. The franchise also has been continuously playing hockey dating back to 1943 when they were the St. Catharines Falcons of the Ontario Hockey Association.
The Spirit have done well in the standings in the recent past, usually finishing first or second in the West Division of the OHL, which has helped to encourage the fan support that they see today.
The Dow Event Center is the home of the Saginaw Spirit as well as the Saginaw Sting of the Ultimate Indoor Football League. Located in downtown Saginaw, the Dow Event Center features an attractive entry, and a comfortable environment for some entertaining hockey.
Member Review by BargerD14 on Nov 06, 2012
The Dow Event Center is an ideal environment for OHL Hockey. The seats are close, the fans are rowdy (and knowledgeable), and the entrance/atrium is beautiful. I'll admit that the food options and pricing leave much to be desired, however, the beer selection and pricing is above average. The mascots are likeable, but the t-shirt cannon is the most unreliable in all of sports. The merchandise options are good, the restroom lines are never too long, and the ticket prices are fairly decent for this level of hockey.
Member Review by Zanderdad on May 15, 2015
The Dow Event Center (formerly the Saginaw Civic Center) was brought back from the ashes when the Saginaw Spirit came to town. Thank you Dick Garber for bringing this great team to our area.
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