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Official Review by Jordan Baer, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
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.
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".
With the Ford Center being brand new, I was quite disappointed in the menu selection. I fully expected at least one premium restaurant to be located inside the facility but only encountered basic, general, and ordinary concession stands next to your usual beer stands.
Although the food was basic, the prices were fair. For $4.50, I got an Icemen/Ford Center collector cup. As the hometown to Berry Plastics, who manufactures sports collector cups, I'm glad to see the Icemen and Ford Center take this product seriously.
Even though there weren't any premium restaurants or special menu items at the concession stands, there were quite a few concession stands which will come in very handy during games that are sold out. I'm glad to see that these extra concession stands were put in place to handle the enormous crowds that the Ford Center will get in its inaugural season.
The atmosphere at the Ford Center was great. As expected, everything inside the arena is brand new, shiny, and state-of-the-art. The seats were made of comfortable material and they were plenty wide enough for you to stretch your arms out.
The Ford Center also has a Corridor of Champions where you can view famous Evansville sports icons and moments. This area will do a good job in educating visitors about Evansville's rich sports history.
I also was impressed with the amount of marketing the Icemen have done. No matter what part of the arena you went to, the Icemen had some kind of promotion for you. It's always fun to go to minor league games to take advantage of the wide array of promotions that are presented to you.
The neighbor is acceptable, but it still has a longs ways to go to reach its enormous potential. With the Ford Center only being a couple of months old, the surrounding district hasn't had the opportunity to embrace the new arena. I fully expect the surrounding district to be 180 degrees different this time next year and the year after that. A new hotel is number one on Evansville's list.
Although downtown Evansville already has a good base of amenities such as restaurants, lofts, and small businesses, there still are a lot of empty parcels along Main Street and in the blocks between the Ford Center and Casino Aztar. Once the Ford Center gets broken in, I expect to see more mainstream retail stores, more mainstream eateries, and a strong connection between the Ford Center, the Casino Aztar Entertainment District, and the downtown riverfront that overlooks the Ohio River.
There are plenty of restaurants to visit before and after the game such as Milano's, Angelo's, and Salad World on Main Street, Major Munch on Sycamore Street, Just Rennie's Cookies on Fourth Street, and RiRa Irish Pub on Riverside next to Casino Aztar. These restaurants offer a wide array of varieties such as Irish, Italian, and American cuisine. Outside of that, you'll have to give downtown a little time to grow around the Ford Center.
Although the announced attendance was only 2,700 fans, the fans who did come were loyal, dedicated, and knowledgeable about the game of hockey even though it hasn't been around the Evansville community for very long.
I would say that at least 75% of the fans at the game had on some kind of Icemen fan attire. The rest wore other hockey attire or general clothing. The Icemen have done a great job getting their product distributed throughout the Evansville community with their shirts, pucks, hats, and jerseys.
Another great thing the Icemen and their fans have done is putting "Go Icemen" on all of the marquees at businesses that sponsor the Icemen. No matter what side of town you go, a "Go Icemen" sign isn't too far away. This would go a long way in establishing a strong bond between the Icemen and the community. If the fan loyalty stays consistent in Evansville, I expect the Icemen to be a roaring success.
As far as I'm concerned, the Ford Center isn't hard to access for games. But with that being said, the number one complaint amongst the locals is that there isn't enough parking next to the arena. I had no problem parking on Fourth Street, but many other residents feel that the surrounding areas are too far of a walk and have skipped many games.
As time goes on, I expect parking to become less of an issue as the community will finally embrace an urban arena, the surrounding area will be developed, and mass transit will eventually be upgraded or installed around the Ford Center.
If you come by car and are looking to get in and out of downtown quickly, I highly recommend parking in the "back 40" which is the parking lot behind the Civic Center. If you are coming to the Ford Center and want to enjoy the surrounding neighborhoods, park on the southern side, which is between the arena, Casino Aztar, and the Ohio River.
Since the Icemen are a minor league hockey team, I was shocked to see the cheapest ticket was $14. With the price being that high, I doubt I will be able to afford season tickets in the near future, but I will definitely still come to a lot of games, and I highly recommend coming to an Icemen game as there are plenty of seats in the front rows for you to sit.
With my ticket, I was only 7 rows from the ice which made for great views of the game. I could hear the pucks bouncing off the glass, the sticks colliding as the players battled for the puck, and the loud, but proud, ship horn after each Icemen goal. If you want to watch a hockey game, you've got to check out the brand new Ford Center. Hockey and the Ford Center are a perfect match.
1 Point: I give one point to the city of Evansville for building an arena as nice as the Ford Center. Many naysayers said it couldn't be done. They were wrong as those who truly cherish the games of hockey and basketball won out. Also, the city of Evansville still has Roberts Stadium. Look for these two facilities to be a one-two punch for Evansville.
1 Point: I give one point for the city of Evansville and architect firm Populous incorporating the Ohio River Bend layout into the Ford Center. A new piece of art will go up outside of the Ford Center that will commemorate the Ohio River in Evansville. Inside the Ford Center, the seats are painted to replicate the bend in the Ohio River around Evansville. The Ford Center has a state-of-the-art design both inside and outside.
1 Point: I give one point for the great souvenir cup I was able to purchase for $4.50. Being the home to Berry Plastics, I'm hoping the Ford Center and Icemen come out with more cups like these.
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!
500 Main St
Evansville, IN 47708
305 Main St
Evansville, IN 47708
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