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Official Review by Aaron Hotelling, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Ewigleben (pronounced A-VEE-glave-in) Ice Arena on the campus of Ferris State University was opened in 1976 and has been the home of the Ferris State Bulldog Hockey team for more than 40 years.
The Bulldogs are an NCAA Division I team and part of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. In recent years, the Bulldogs have made multiple appearances in the NCAA tournament, including a 2012 trip to the Frozen Four. Holding an ice surface of 85 by 200 feet, this small arena has seats for 2,490 very passionate hockey fans.
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 concession stand located in the concourse outside the arena offers fast, friendly service, reasonable prices, and not much else. They offer a variety of candy and chips, or for a hungrier fan, nachos or hot dogs. At $4, the large nacho is the most expensive food item on the menu.
To quench your thirst, there are a variety of Coca-Cola products, coffee, hot chocolate, water, and iced tea. The only thing that stands out is the souvenir travel mug, available in two different sizes and styles, filled with soda or coffee for only $5.
The large ice surface is surrounded on three sides (two short and one long) with seating for the fans, with the fourth side reserved for the team benches, officials, and maintenance crews. The seats are simple bleacher seats and are a bit cramped, but they are close to the action and allow the fans a good view of the action on the ice.
The scoreboards located at either end of the ice keep spectators informed of the score, time, period, penalties, and shots on goal, but do not have screens for replays or any extra information.
What the arena lacks in physical aesthetics, it makes up for in the other categories. The PA announcer is very skilled and interacts with the lively crowd. Whenever there is a break in the action on the ice, there is something going on: t-shirts and other promotional items are given out to the fans. local junior hockey teams play a short exhibition game, and there is "puck chuck." For a small fee, a couple of fans are allowed to ride as passengers on the Zambonis between periods of play.
The Ferris State University Pep Band plays with energy and skill; when they are not playing, there is recorded music playing. Next to the Pep Band is the Dawg Pound - one of the rowdiest, most involved student sections in college hockey. Brutus, the Bulldog mascot, is circulating through the crowd and interacting with fans.
There isn't a bad seat in the Ewigleben Arena, but for the best view of the game, sections G and H are located near center ice. For parents with small children or people with more conservative tastes in vocabulary, avoid sitting near the student section; look for seats in sections labeled G or lower.
Ewigleben Arena is located on the campus of Ferris State University, a small school in a small city, but with many options for those looking to do more than attend the game. Many of the restaurants are about a mile away from campus.
Like many Michigan cities, Big Rapids is full of restaurants including many chains if you are more comfortable with food you know. That being said, downtown is full of unique shops and places to eat.
Raven Brewing & BBQ has an excellent craft beer selection that includes their house brews and taps from many other Michigan breweries. Right next door is the Blue Cow, which prides itself on farm to table cuisine.
After dinner and the game, there are many bars, a movie theater, and bowling as you would find in most college towns. If you enjoy the outdoors, the White Pine Linear State Park has a paved bike trail that passes through town. There are also many other parks, lakes, and rivers in the area.
The Ferris State hockey fans are a passionate group lead by the student section known as the Dawg Pound. The nearly 3,000 seat arena is typically full, and the loyal and loud crowd makes it difficult for any opposing team to stay focused on the game.
Not only do the spectators pay attention during the game, but they do research ahead of time. It is not uncommon for the student section to know the names of the other team's players, coaches, and their families, and to use them in the chants heard throughout the game. There are a number of calls and response cheers that the crowd all seems to know and respond to. The band and student section (neither of which sits at all during the game) also work together with songs and cheers.
If there is one drawback to the fans it is the fact that many of the cheers contain language that would be considered by many to be vulgar. Anyone who would be offended by such things should not sit in sections I or J, which are the two closest to the student section.
In a small city like Big Rapids, it is easy to find your way around, and finding Ewigleben Arena is no exception. When you arrive, there is parking available for five dollars, and there is plenty of room for the sellout crowd. After the game, the traffic flows smoothly, and within minutes you are back on the road.
Upon entering the concourse, the ticket windows are easy to find and staffed by friendly workers. The easiest way to get tickets is to order them online and pick them up at the will call window. The wide concourse allows for smooth traffic flow and there are multiple entrances to the arena.
If you do need to leave during the game, there is no way to see the action from the concourse, but it is easy to get in and out quickly. The restrooms are not sparkling, but are clean enough. The accessibility for those who need mobility assistance is limited, but available.
Ferris State Hockey is a high level team at a low cost. At only $12 per ticket in advance ($7 for students from 3-12th grade and $11 for senior citizens), one can expect to see some great hockey and be entertained. Tickets are slightly more at the door ($16 for adults, $10 for students, and $14 for senior citizens), but easy to order ahead of time; however, they will be waiting at the will call window upon arrival.
Although the food is pedestrian at best, the prices are at least quite low. Parking is ample and cheap, and there are many inexpensive hotels nearby for those traveling from out of town.
One star is given out to the in-game promotions. There is absolutely no downtime during the game, and the entertainment is wonderful.
A second star for an amazing school band. They play well, have a lot of energy, interact with the student section, and play a good variety of music.
The final star is for the Dawg Pound that adds an energy to the game that is hard to find. Because of the dynamic student section, it would be difficult to come into that stadium as a member of the opposing team.
A Ferris State hockey game offers a lot of excitement for just a few dollars. The fan interaction, in-game promotions, and the Dawg Pound are just a few of the many reasons to add a trip to the Ewigleben Arena on your stadium journeys.
Member Review by paul on Feb 04, 2012
Robert L. Ewigleben Ice Arena opened in 1976, a year after the Ferris State Bulldogs joined the ranks of the NAIA hockey. In 1979, the program made the jump to NCAA Division I. The first thing you need to know is how to pronounce that mouthful of a name. I am told that it is AVA-glabe-in. Get that down and you'll fit right in.
Ferris State University is found in Big Rapids, Michigan - about an hour north of Grand Rapids. I was told that this is very much a hockey town, and it doesnt take long to verify that.
The arena itself is tiny, and this is a very good thing. The students fill the student end, complete with pep band. The low ceilings and capacity of 2,493 seats make for an intimate and loud experience, especially when an intrastate rival is in town.
Member Review by fitz09 on Feb 27, 2012
I went there last weekend and the first thing that came to my mind is "Gosh this is small". I thought I was walking into a high school arena or a roller rink (especially before the game with the disco ball). Their student section is alright, but even with the relatively small space, they are hard to hear from the other end of the arena. A good variety of food, with not bad prices.
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