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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
It was officially announced in March of 2016 that the ECHL Evansville Icemen would relocate their operations to Owensboro, Kentucky after the conclusion of the season. The team also announced that it would be on hiatus and resume play for the 2017-2018 season at the renovated Owensboro Sportscenter in hopes of building a new facility somewhere down the road. However, fans need not worry since hockey will be back in the form of the Southern Professional Hockey League for the 2016-2017 season.
This review is much different from ones you will read as it would be the final time Stadium Journey will visit the Iceman at the Ford Center. This will also be the last season for fans to witness instate rivals Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne. The SPHL is a southern based hockey operation, but the league is looking at expanding up north. This might be an ideal opportunity that will be appreciated in time since the league is looking to expand to several more midwest cities by the end of the decade.
The Ford Center is beautiful, modern, and perfect for minor league hockey with a seating capacity of 9,000 people. The $127.5 millions indoor facility opened in 2009 and has been home to the Icemen since 2010. The cutting edge design featuring a gorgeous interior and exterior design does not try to represent buildings of the past, but set the tone for the future.The design should look as sharp now as it will 30 years from now.
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 are various concession areas throughout the main concourse that offer hot dogs, bratwurst, chicken tenders, pizza, mini corn dogs, French fries, popcorn, pretzels, and nachos. The prices are reasonable, and there is something for everyone. The more unique options are highlighted by chipotle cheddar burgers, loaded nachos with chicken or beef, pork tenderloin sandwiches, and grilled chicken sandwiches. The nachos are big enough to share for two and are a bargain at $8.
If you are with the kids, they will enjoy chicken tender baskets and Dippin' Dots ice cream. There is also a kiosk that serves falafel and baklava.
Bud and Bud Light sell for $7.25 a can and local Carson's Red Dawn and Tin Man Rivet are on tap for $8. Wine and well drinks are also available costing between $7.25-$8.
The game time atmosphere at the Ford Center is somewhat peculiar. There is a lot of action taking place in the main lobby where fans enter and are greeted by staff personnel, official team mascot, and Iceman cheerleaders. There is usually something free given and I can't think of a better way to start an evening of hockey.
Fans then hop on the escalator and move up to the main concourse towards their seats. This is where they will find the official team merchandise table, ticket information, and the Chuck-a-Puck table. It is also where they would find the majority of the concession menu items of the arena. There is a lot of synergy taking place on these two levels and one feels very energized before the game.
Once fans enter the seating area and get a view of the ice, which was decorated in pink graffiti for Breast Cancer Awareness Night, they might take a look around the venue to see where everyone is at. They must be patient since fans arrive to the game right before faceoff.
However, looking around one might get the feeling that hockey takes a back seat to the Evansville Purple Aces basketball program; a collection of championship banners, retired jerseys, a memorial, and memorabilia in the front lobby adorn the building. Deservingly, the Aces have been the main sporting event in town for many years. There is an Icemen banner that commemorates their 2010 All American Hockey League championship.
The Ford Center is in a nice part of downtown that appears to be up and coming. Fans walking the streets before and after the game are within a stone's throw away from the Backstage Bar and Grill, Milano Italian Cuisine, and the Children's Museum.
Less than two miles away is Franklin Street which offers a few additional great restaurants including Lamasco Bar, Gerst Haus, and on Saturdays from late June to September the Franklin Street Bazaar. Tin Man and Carson's Brewery are two amazing places for craft beer, especially Carson's where one can sample 25 different beers including Vanilla Cow, Sweet Leaf, and Red Hot Harlot, a cinnamon infused honey blonde ale. Tami will serve you quite well in the room. Tip her well.
There are plenty of lodging options in Evansville. They include the Fairfield Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn Express and Suites, and Baymont Inn & Suites. The only decision is price and location, but you're sure to find a nice price somewhere in town.
The team has averaged between 4,000 to 5,000 fans during their last two seasons in Evansville. The Evansville hockey supporter has been through a lot during the last decade. They saw the Icemen leave a smaller arena and league to join the ECHL and play in the Ford Center, only to lose them to Owensboro, and welcome in an SPHL team. This could be quite irksome to any fan base, but they have shown respectable support for minor league hockey in the River City. Another interesting note, is the copious amounts of different Icemen jerseys worn by the fans during the game. There must have been at least 12 different styles during my final visit to see the Icemen in Evansville.
Being a downtown location you would think it would be difficult to find a parking spot. However, that is not the case for the Ford Center. There is free parking a couple blocks away from the arena in vast lots. Many locals complain about the distance, but the walk does not seem to be that much of a problem. Inside the arena, there are plenty of restrooms that serve both men, women, and families.
Tickets for Icemen games start at $15 for upper deck seats and top out at $45 for glass seats. In between there are four different price points and kids tickets cost between $10 and $13. This is common with the other ECHL teams in the state and respectable with other minor league operations. You have your choice of ticket prices and the arena has more than enough tickets on most occasions. The parking is free and concession prices are varied and reasonable.
The fan base has continued to support the club as it makes it move 41 miles south to Owensboro, Kentucky. They easily could have created a lame duck season at the Ford Center, but there have been nights of large crowds and appreciation for the Icemen.
Great views of the ice from your seats are prevalent throughout Ford Center. It is a great size for a minor league hockey arena and features a wraparound concourse for easy access.
One final point for the Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) for finally connecting Evansville to Indianapolis with the nearing completion of I-69. Instead of a 3 plus hour drive through multiple state roads and downtown squares, a motorist can drive a two lane highway in much less time.
This is a bittersweet review of the experience of an Evansville Icemen game. The team will cease to exist at the end of the 2015-2016 season, but hockey will continue in a new league that should continue the tradition. The Ford Center is a fabulous state-of-the-art indoor venue for minor league hockey. The fan base is strong, supportive, and knowledgeable; just give them a good product, and they will be back.
Member Review by Jordan_Baer
You can still smell the fresh paint drying on the newly built Ford Center in downtown Evansville. The Ford Center, which holds 9,400 people for Icemen hockey games, has raised the bar another notch in the Central Hockey League (CHL). Beginning the 2012/2013 season, the Icemen are a part of the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
The Ford Center brings the Evansville sports scene into the 21st century with its modern, state-of-the art amenities such as sixteen 16-person suites, one 24-person suite, two eight-person mini suites, two 10-person mini suites, 92 main concourse loge seats, and 516 club seats with access to suite-level clubs.
Located in the heart of Main Street, the Ford Center is projected to be the catalyst in the renaissance of downtown Evansville. By upgrading and bringing the Evansville Icemen hockey team from Swonder Ice Rink to the Ford Center, look for many devoted Icemen fans to fill up eateries, shops, and parks in downtown Evansville all season long.
Member Review by wparris on Nov 25, 2011
So... we are from the St. Louis area and going to the Hadi Shrine Circus is something that we have done every year for the 32 that I have been alive. I have to say that I miss Roberts Stadium, however I can tell you that I really liked the Ford Center until we went to leave. As we were trying to leave the facility, we expericened something that I hope is a one time thing. In the foyer seperating the two sets of doors created a huge vaccum suction effect that caused the doors not being able to be opened, and about 70 mph winds so bad that it rolled the rugs up, causing my 65 year old father to trip and fall. I hope that someone from the Ford Center will review the cameras from Thanksgiving night around 6:20 pm. This is a huge problem, and one that I hope get fixed soon. My tip: beware of the Ford Center until all of kinks are worked out!
524 Main St
Evansville, IN 47708
500 Main St
Evansville, IN 47708
1331 W Franklin St
Evansville, IN 47710
2100 W Franklin St
Evansville, IN 47712
1430 W Franklin St
Evansville, IN 47710
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