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Official Review by Jared Townsend, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Although it initially opened in December of 1989, you’d probably never guess that Herb Brooks National Hockey Center was over 25 years old. Perhaps much credit can be given to an extensive renovation completed in 2013. The renovations provided the venue a facelift that added wider concourses, additional seating, a new atrium/entrance, a new store for the team, and additional suite space.
Today, the 5,159 seat stadium serves as home to both the St. Cloud State Huskies men’s and women’s hockey teams. Representing a college hockey environment that perhaps stands second to none in terms of providing the best amenities available, so much so that it resembles a mini version of an NHL rink. But don’t let the sleekness fool you, Herb Brooks still espouses a college hockey atmosphere that is quite quintessential and traditional.
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".
Herb Brooks has all your stadium essentials, and a bit more. Prices are very reasonable, with your basics costing the following: popcorn (small $2.00/large $4.00), nachos ($4.00), pretzel w/ cheese ($4.00), Husky dog ($4.00).
Now the best food items on the menu are the ones featuring the delicious tenderly-cooked pulled pork (which I'd highly recommend and they give you a generous amount of meat). They are the pulled pork nachos ($6.00), house-made BBQ pulled pork sandwich & chips ($8.50), and the pulled pork loaded baked potato with cheddar cheese ($6.50). Meanwhile, other menu items of note include cracker jacks ($2.00), bratwurst ($4.50), house-made BBQ pulled chicken sandwich & chips ($9.00). Bottled beverages are available at $3.25 and you can get a coffee, cappuccino, or hot chocolate for just $2.50.
Other than the general concession stands, elsewhere in the stadium you can order pizza from Dominos.
And even though the arena is located near the St. Cloud State campus, there are alcohol options by the can. 12oz options for $6.00 include Budweiser, Bud Light, Michelob Ultra, Michelob Golden Light, Miller Lite, Coors Light, and Grain Belt Premium...the latter of which is local to the state of Minnesota. 16oz options for $7.00 include Redd's Apple Ale and Minnesota Golden Light Lager.
Overall the food options may be somewhat limited compared to other venues, but Herb Brooks makes up for that in quality that's top notch.
The atmosphere could be described as intimate. It's smaller than your professional hockey stadium, but perhaps a bit larger than other collegiate hockey arenas within Division I. The interior of the stadium is beautiful. Roaming the relatively wide corridors, there are lots of things to note: Memorabilia and trophies enshrined in glass cases that are integrated into the walls, walls covered with large graphics showcasing imagery from both the men's and women's teams' pasts, a wall dedicated to St. Cloud hockey veterans who have gone on to compete in the Olympics, framed jerseys, and flat screen TVs that hang from above which allow you to watch the game, even as you walk about.
One of the most impressive feats of the arena is actually the entrance/atrium, which was constructed during the 2013 renovation. Here you'll find large glass walls, and staircases leading up on each side. Like much else of the arena's interior, this area is decked out in the team's colors - red and black.
If you visit, also make sure to stop by the Husky Hut, the team store that like the atrium/entrance, is one of the newer features. There, you'll find a wide variety of team merchandise.
The neighborhood surrounding the arena is mostly comprised of the St. Cloud State campus and residential areas. It's located right by the Student Recreation Center and Husky Stadium.
Downtown St. Cloud isn't that far away, taking about 4 to 5 minutes driving, and 20 to 25 minutes walking. Downtown features a number of restaurant/bar locations that are ideal for pre-game/post-game dining - whether it's the 7 West Taphouse, White Horse, Kohinoor Bar & Grill, The Pickled Loon, or Granite City Food & Brewery. All of the these feature a wide variety of beer/drink options.
Fans of St. Cloud State hockey are extremely passionate. They'll cheer loudly and don't be surprised for them to boo loudly, especially if there's a call by the officials they don't like, or a bad play by the team.
And fans have much to be excited for lately. While the last 12 years under Head Coach Bob Motzko have seen a fair share of both ups and downs, during the 2015-16 season, the Huskies men's team posted a 31-9 record. They tied for second in the NCHC and made it to the Regional Semifinals, being eliminated only in OT by the Ferris State Bulldogs.
The games are mostly well attended, but there are quite a few empty seats, highlighted by the red you'll likely see throughout.
Access is relatively easy. There's plenty of free parking in the area (2 to 3 lots) and of course, the surroundings are mostly residential, so if you need to park on the street, that really shouldn't be a problem.
The arena, however, is off the beaten track in terms of its distance from Interstate 94, so you will probably find yourself using side streets if you're coming from out of town. If you're not familiar with the St. Cloud area, using your smartphone's GPS will make it much easier to find. The arena also isn't far from the Mississippi River (not that you'll need to try to get there by boat). Notable roadways near Herb Brooks include Highways 10, 15, and 23.
You can usually find ticket prices for anywhere between around $17 to $30 via StubHub or a related site. Wherever you sit in the stadium, you're sure to have a good seat. It's really hard to find a bad spot in the house, whether you're on an upper level, or down close near the ice. The experience really is top notch, as the amenities are more what you'd expect from an NHL stadium (hence the 2013 renovation).
The arena's management also knows how to excite the fans, with the intermission featuring an indoor arena blimp that drops prizes directly into the hands of excited onlookers. You pay to get in, but that only gets you so far in terms of having the entire hockey experience. Make sure to indulge yourself in some of the great food options (after all, the prices are relatively affordable).
Upon its reopening in 2013 after renovation, the arena was named after the late Herb Brooks, a former head coach in the NHL and a notable coach for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Herb had a brief stint as head coach at St. Cloud, but his most notable career achievement was coaching the U.S. men's hockey team to an upset win over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid, New York.
I never visited Herb Brooks National Hockey Center before the 2013 renovation, but it's my assumption that that's when it received its most admirable features of an arena. Walking the corridors, there's much interesting to look at, and that makes it easy to immerse yourself in both the history and the current excitement surrounding the college's hockey program. From the time you walk into the atrium, then walk through the corridors, then reach the edge of the arena ice, you're sure to be impressed. Simply said, it's hard to argue against the idea that Herb Brooks is one of the best college hockey experiences in the state of Minnesota, if not the entire U.S. Midwest.
Member Review by Tom Schreier on Dec 17, 2012
Home to the St. Cloud State Huskies and Saint John’s University Johnnies (Division III), the National Hockey and Event Center in St. Cloud, Minnesota is undergoing its first reconstruction since it broke ground in 1989.
In its current state, the arena feels charmingly old school, but also a bit outdated. There is no jumbotron, the sound system is more Amplivox than Sony and most of the television and computer monitors use cathode-ray tubes. At times it is nice to experience a hockey game without all of the fancy gimmicks, but it’s also clear that it was time for reconstruction.
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