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Official Review by Andrew Kulyk, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
First Arena is a 3,784 seat, multi-purpose entertainment venue located in the heart of Elmira, New York. Opened in 2000 as the "Coach USA Center", this arena's primary tenant is the Elmira Jackals, which at one timed competed in the now defunct United Hockey League but now plays in the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The uninspired and bland concession fare here at First Arena leaves fans looking for more. There are the basic sports venue staples hot dogs, pizza, popcorn, nachos, etc. One can also find a vending cart offering Red Osier roast beef sandwiches. On the east end zone second floor is a club restaurant offering a view of the playing surface, while right below is a sports lounge with a good selection of domestic brews.
Jackals hockey draws well here in Elmira, especially on weekends. There is a mascot named Blade who works the crowd and does his antics on the ice before and during the game. The seating bowl itself is pretty small and intimate, with suites ringing the top of the bowl and your basic dot matrix scoreboard and message board affixed to the end zone wall. Nothing glitzy, all old school, and there is nothing wrong with that.
Downtown Elmira has its unique and distinct charm -- plenty of stately Victorian, Greek, Tudor and Georgian revival houses abutting downtown which make it an architectural tourist's dream. Much of downtown retail has left over the years, and pubs and eateries nearby are scarce. A good bet for the casual diner and a local institution, is Pudgies Pizza in south Elmira, about a 3/4 mile drive from First Arena. Other regional attractions include the National Soaring Museum and the Corning Glass Museum in nearby Corning.
On the one hand, the fans have really supported this team throughout its more than one decade of existence, despite no championships and just two real playoff runs in the franchise's history. On the other hand, the hockey market in these parts is shared by the NCAA Division III Elmira College Soaring Eagles, who play their games in The Domes outside Elmira.
The arena is simple to find -- off I-86 take the Church Street exit which is Exit 56, and then follow Church about one mile straight into the downtown core. There are few public transportation options, but keep in mind this is a small town and everyone pretty much gets around here by car.
Being ECHL hockey, tickets are cheap and plentiful, with a $18 top price, and promotions such as 4 packs and Holiday specials readily available. Go to the Elmira Jacklas website for details. Most ramps and private lots charge $5 to park, although street parking is also plentiful and meters are not monitored at night or on weekends.
There is a second ice rink, which serves as a practice rink and a public skating rink, attached to the facility and open to the public and local teams for ice skating and games.
Look around the region and you will see the imprint of one of its most famous residents, Mark Twain, just about anywhere you go. Elmira is a perfect getaway for the heritage and architecture tourism buff.
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51 Soaring Hill Dr
Elmira, NY 14903
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