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Official Review by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Just north of Austin in one of its larger suburbs, Cedar Park, is the H-E-B Center, home to the American Hockey League's Texas Stars. The franchise has called the H-E-B Center home since 2009, and the team is now owned by Tom Gagliardi, owner of the NHL's Dallas Stars. Under Gagliardi's ownership, the Stars have taken home two division titles, two conference titles, and the AHL's Calder Cup.
The H-E-B Center, also home to the NBA's Gatorade League Austin Spurs franchise, as well as the Austin Acoustics of the Legends Football League, has gone through some upgrades in recent seasons to keep up with the area's growth and the team's success on the ice. The most notable changes are adding an LED display screen that is visible from Highway 183, and bringing in a new concessions vendor that has completely revamped the arena's offerings.
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".
Speaking of said concessions, fans attending Stars games are going to be more than adequately taken care of gastronomically. The bulk of the food options are on the ground floor/concourse level; stops such as the 183 Chophouse, Smokey Mo's BBQ, and Metro Deli offer some tasty and reasonably priced dishes.
The Chophouse offers a variety of upscale burgers, while Smokey Mo's offers Texas-style BBQ and other delectables, such as tamales. At the Metro Deli, you can get a couple of wraps named for some Austin-area icons, such as the Willie Nelson wrap (made with Angus roast beef) or the McConaughey Wrap (made with fried turkey).
One highlight to be on the lookout for can be purchased at Fairlane's Diner. This eatery makes a point of combining some of the best comfort foods with the most old school of sports fare, the hot dog. For example, the Big Kahuna adds mango relish and pineapple mustard to the mix, while the Janis Joplin adds hatch green chiles and macaroni and cheese. Also, be sure to sample the grilled cheese hot dog, which is as amazing as it sounds.
There are several bar and lounge areas throughout the venue, and the second floor suite level also has a dessert bar!
Central and South Texas are not often thought of as hotbeds of hockey. However, those that have found the sport here have been converted into die hard followers, and the Stars are no exception. The H-E-B Center averages over 4,500 fans a night, which is not too far off of its capacity.
The best part of the H-E-B Center is how close the seats are to the ice, and this plays especially well acoustically for the building. Because of how the facility was designed, 4,500 often sounds like double that, which lends itself well to the action and atmosphere.
Cedar Park is basically a suburb of Austin, and while the area has grown in recent years, it still maintains the look and feel of a suburb. Nothing truly distinguishes it from virtually any other suburb in America. To be sure, there are ample shopping, dining, and lodging options up and down 183, but if you're looking for variety, you might be out of luck.
The Austin Aquarium and Texas Museum of Science & Technology are both located near Cedar Park, if you want to add another excursion to your visit. However, the real beauty of Cedar Park is how close it is to Austin; you can be in the state capital within 30 minutes. You can also get to San Antonio by driving south on I-35 for just under two hours; Austin and San Antonio both have infinitely more to see and do compared to what you can find in Cedar Park.
Those fans that have found the sport of hockey in Central Texas have become forever hooked on the game; they are the most vocal and the most passionate. You can find them wearing sweaters celebrating their favorite players (not just those from the Texas Stars) and cheering on every line change, every one-timer, and every dropped pair of gloves.
You can feel the energy in the building from the opening puck drop to the game's end. While the Texas Stars are a minor league farm team, their passionate fans are big league.
Getting to the H-E-B Center is virtually as easy as falling off the metaphorical log. Fans and visitors can easily access the facility off of 183, and that can easily be reached off of I-35; there is no navigation through neighborhoods or business parks needed to reach the H-E-B Center. Best of all, when you are ready to leave after the game, you can hop right back on the highway and be on your merry way.
Tickets for Texas Stars games can be had for as little as $13 for general admission. In any league, in any sport, at any level, this is one heck of a deal.
Higher end seating can run anywhere from $58 to $65, which will put you up close and personal with the ice and glass. This option is not a bad deal either, especially since there is no charge for parking, and you can eat pretty well on $12.
For the action you get, the beautiful facility, and the relatively low cost, it is hard to beat a night at the H-E-B Center.
There are very few frills offered at the H-E-B Center beyond straight-up hockey. There are games and contests for the fans during timeouts, and the local favorite hamburger restaurant, Mighty Fine, flies a cheeseburger-shaped blimp in-between periods dropping coupons. However, the bulk of the action takes place on the ice, which should be a delight to hockey fans.
The bells and whistles typically found in minor league sporting events aren't present, for the most part, at the H-E-B Center. With that said, however, the facility is absolutely gorgeous, the sight lines are all clean, and the cost to attend is low. In addition, the Texas Stars are traditionally a competitive, if not contending team, and their roots to NHL counterparts in Dallas run deep.
There is something truly special about hockey in the bush leagues; there's a purity here that is only matched in something similar, like minor league baseball, and you can feel the passion from the fans and the players. If you are in the mood for some hockey and find yourself in Central Texas, make it a point to visit the H-E-B Center at Cedar Park.
Follow Eric Moreno's Stadium Journey on Twitter @EricMoreno6477.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Feb 28, 2013
In 2009, the AHL granted the Texas Stars a limited franchise, which allowed them to begin operations for the 2009-10 season. When owner Tom Hicks was able to purchase the inactive Iowa Chops franchise in early 2010, the Stars became full-fledged members of the league, just in time for their appearance in the Calder Cup finals.
The Stars play in the Cedar Park Center, located in Cedar Park, TX, a bedroom community about 20 miles north of Austin. Built for the 2009 season, the stadium also hosts the Austin Toros of the NBDL as well as dozens of concerts annually. It rises out of the prairie like a mirage, but rest assured, the CPC is quite real as I found out on a recent visit.
Member Review by megminard on Feb 28, 2014
The Texas Stars fans are passionate, loud and cheer on their team well. The Cedar Park Center has plenty of food options and a nice clean, wide concourse. Sections 106 and 107 are center ice and face the benches. I'd recommend row L to see over the glass.
There was a huge floating cheeseburger gliding over the stands pregame and during intermissions.
The game I attended was a well played one by both teams and ended up a 4-3 win for the Stars in a seven player shoot out.
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13530 N. Hwy 183 #101
Austin, TX 78750
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