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Official Review by Conrad Klank, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Hockey may not be the most popular sport in Dayton, Ohio, however it might have the most historical following. While the franchise has gone through a lot of changes over the years and even relocation, the team is back to its original ways. The uniforms have a throwback feel, the team is playing in the same arena that hosted so many good memories, and the fans haven't changed a bit. Dayton Gems hockey is back to its original form: raw, emotional, and best of all, hard-hitting.
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 offerings at Hara Arena are nothing out of the ordinary, but they are tasty, traditional, and affordable. The pizza came highly recommended, and truly lived up to its reputation. A large slice is only $3.75, and well worth it. In addition to the typical domestic beers sold, some draft microbrews are offered as well which is a great change of pace ($5). In addition, there's a side cafe called Lefty's lounge where one can sit down before the game or during an intermission to enjoy dinner and a mixed drink from a full bar. This is a nice, unique, area where one can catch their breath.
The atmosphere at Hara Arena is nothing compared to the Super Bowl, but that's not what you'd expect. However, the atmosphere that you would expect is exactly what you will find: fun, family friendly entertainment with a passionate, fanatical crowd at every game. This makes for a very enjoyable, entertaining, and relaxing evening of hockey.
Even though there are some great pre and post-game official hangouts, they aren't very close at all. The good news is that a ten-minute drive is all it takes to find numerous great bars and restaurants. The area directly surrounding the arena is very desolate therefore deserving a low grade.
The Dayton Gems fans are colder than the ice. These are the most intense, hardcore hockey fans I've ever seen. You'll never get a quiet moment in this arena no matter how many turn out. Good luck having a nice conversation with the person next to you. You will surely be interrupted by an air horn or vuvuzela. Eventually you'll give in and join the "Ahhhhhhhh C-Yaaaaa" chant when an opposing player heads to the penalty box. This might be the nicest thing that you'll hear the fans say about opposing players. They seem to have a quick comeback any chance they get.
Access to the arena is absolutely perfect. I-75 is the closest, most direct major thoroughfare to get to the arena. The parking lot is convenient, massive, and offers more than enough spaces. Most of all you'll enjoy the proximity of the parking to the arena.
Once into the arena, expect to wait a few minutes in line for tickets if you haven't already purchased them. Luckily though, the ticket office is indoors which proves to be very convenient in the unpredictable Ohio hockey season weather.
Restrooms are plentiful and clean, seating is spacious and you'll be hard pressed to find a bad seat thanks to the size of the arena. However, I would suggest a seat near center ice.
Ticket prices are very reasonable given the quality of the experience you will receive. End seats cost $10, corners $12, center ice $14, and all kids tickets are $8. Expect to pay $5 for parking, which comes off as a little pricey, but understandable as they need to utilize any revenue opportunity possible. Overall, prices are very fair, but I would probably not be willing to pay any more for a game.
The Chuck a puck promotion, which is held during the second intermission, is done really well in Dayton. You'll see this in other arenas as well, but the fans in Dayton seem especially into it. The idea is that fans will attempt to throw the pucks from the stands and make one in the pot at center ice. A cash prize is offered for the person who drains one. The pucks only cost a buck and can be purchased before the game on the concourse.
Every home game this season has a promotional giveaway for the first number of fans. This seems like a no-brainer for fans trying to stock up on their Dayton Gems goodies. This season gifts such as posters, sunglasses, rally towels, thunder sticks, and t-shirts are given out.
Overall, Hara Arena and the Dayton Gems put on a very nice minor league hockey event and is one that fans of all kinds can appreciate. Get a beer, a slice of pizza, and get ready to yell for a great hockey game at Hara Arena.
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