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Official Review by Andrei Ojeda, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Pro football makes a comeback Los Angeles! OK, sort of. For eight seasons, from 2000-2008, Staples Center was L.A.’s home to arena football, hosting the L.A. Avengers before folding in 2009. During that span, the Avengers would make five playoff appearances, including an American Conference Western Division Championship in 2005.
In 2013, the Rock and Roll band KISS purchased a share of the AFL expansion team, headed by lead members Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. The 2014 season marks the inaugural season for the L.A. KISS. The fact that they play their home games in Anaheim, located 26 miles south of Downtown Los Angeles, rather than in Los Angeles is not unprecedented. The NFL’s Los Angeles Rams would also call Anaheim their home from 1980-1994 before packing their bags for St. Louis. Across the street at Angel Stadium, baseball’s Angels even use the Los Angeles title in front of their name as their way to attract the vast Los Angeles and Southern California market.
The Honda Center, located across the street from Angels Stadium, is where the L.A. KISS play their home games. Once known as the Arrowhead Pond, or “The Pond,” the Honda Center is best known as the home to the NHL’s Anaheim Ducks.
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".
While the choices are pretty sufficient, ranging from your standard fare of hot dogs and burgers and even smoked brisket, not all the concessions are open for KISS games, particularly in the upper level. With that in mind, should you be sitting up in the upper concourse, you may want to get your grub on the first level before you head to your seat.
A slice of a meat lovers pizza from the Anaheim Pizza Co. stand is a good value at $6 with the slice being a pretty good size. Should you want to satisfy your sweet tooth, the Center Ice cart in the lower concourse offers up some L.A. KISS themed cupcakes as well.
If it were ever possible to combine a hard rock atmosphere with some family fun, the L.A. KISS sure know what they're doing. From the pre-game entertainment throughout the game and after, the KISS do all they can to make sure you're at more than just a football game. It would be difficult to confuse this with a night at the opera.
Before each game, a live band performs on a stage set up behind the south end zone.
Throughout the game, the evening is filled with loud music, much of it provided by in game guitarist Nina Strauss, loud booms after each score, all the way to the go-go dancers hanging from the rafters.
Look around the stands and you'll see a good number of fans and children not only dressed in LA KISS gear but dressed as members of the legendary band as well. This might be the only venue where you get a great combination of football and hard rock.
The neighborhood around the Honda Center is nothing spectacular. However, there is no shortage of pre-game dining options should you choose to grab a bite before kickoff. Across the street from the Honda Center is JT Schmid's, with its vast menu and their own brewery on site. Hooters is down the street on Katella closer to Angel Stadium should you be in the mood for some wings. Otherwise, you also have your standard fast food options in the area, ranging from Carl's Jr, Togos, Rubios Fish Tacos, and of course there's everyone's favorite golden arches.
Some of you are probably wondering, isn't the House of Mouse nearby? Yes it is. Just drive west a little over a mile on Katella Ave and as you approach Harbor Blvd, well, you really can't miss it especially with every other person, including grown men, dressed in their Mickey Mouse hats, among other obvious tourist apparel. Along the way you can also stop by the Anaheim Gardenwalk where you have more dining options, ranging from your standard chain restaurants, California Pizza Kitchen and Cheesecake Factory to name a couple.
The fans here are a different breed from an NFL stadium crowd. It is a very passionate crowd minus the vulgarity that can often be seen at NFL games. Perhaps it could be because unlike NFL games, there is no pre-game tailgate partying in the parking lots, thus in effect, all but eliminating the over consumption of pre-game alcoholic beverages. For being a first year franchise, the L.A. KISS have developed a pretty hearty following as a good number show up dressed not only in their team attire, but with face paint to look the part of KISS, both the team and the band.
There certainly is no shortage of freeways within the vicinity of the Honda Center as five major freeways, the 22, 91, 55, and of course the 5 and 57, are all within five minutes or less from the arena.
Since most games take place in the evening during the weekend, driving to the game would be your best option. Unless there is a game taking place at the same time of the neighboring Angels, traffic should not be an issue.
As for transit options, the Orange County Transit Authority (OCTA) has a line that does pass the Honda Center though weekend service on the Line 50 is very limited. If you decide to arrive by rail , the Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner train has a station inside the Angel Stadium parking lot. The surfliner serves passengers between San Diego and Los Angeles for those wanting to ditch the car.
Inside the arena there are three levels of seating. Even from the last row of the upper reaches you're really not far from the action and with a capacity of close to 14,000 for football, the atmosphere is quite intimate. However, to get to the upper reaches you must navigate through a few flight of stairs as there is no escalator service here unlike the Staples Center. However, if assistance is needed, there are a couple of elevators that provide service to the upper reaches. Not to fret though, the descent up the stairs really isn't that bad.
Even in the team's inaugural season, advance planning for tickets really is not necessary. On game nights, you can easily walk up to the ticket window and purchase tickets, which range from $15-$50. Even in the upper reaches of the Honda Center, should you decide to buy the cheapest ticket, you are never far away from the action.
New to Arena League Football? A list of rules and guidelines is available for all fans new to the indoor sport. If that's not enough, a meet and greet with the players in various areas along the arena's main concourse takes place after each game for fans and autograph seekers. This is a nice gesture by the KISS to reach out to the fans, something you will never find in an NFL stadium.
Seeing an L.A. KISS football game, there will be no shortage of points scored. There are hardly any running plays, as it is pretty much an aerial attack throughout most evenings. So if you love high scoring games, you will definitely love the arena football game. With the team being named after the legendary rock band KISS, there is no shortage of in game entertainment.
The one drawback one may have with the KISS playing home games in Anaheim, about 26 miles east of Downtown L.A., is the driving distance. Because of that, you can expect the majority of the crowd to be from Anaheim and Orange County.
I am confident the fan base will continue to expand. With the cheapest seat priced at $15, if you get a chance you should check out a game or two here. You definitely will get plenty of bang for your entertainment buck, and perhaps, an experience like no other sporting experience can offer.
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