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For years, Southern California commuters became familiar with the "Big A" placed outside of Angel Stadium while driving on Route 57. It was a landmark of the only professional team in the city of Anaheim at that time. In 1993 however, the "Big A" received a new neighbor as the Anaheim Arena was built across the freeway and the city received its second professional sports team.
It was the Walt Disney Company that brought a second NHL team to Southern California. So many years later, many forget that the team nickname was spun off from the popular movie "The Mighty Ducks." Fans may remember this era of the eggplant and jade green jerseys, duck-billed goalie mask, and 2003 Stanley Cup Finals appearance. Shortly after the franchise's first trip to the NHL Championship, new owners would take the reins. In 2005, the franchise was sold to Henry and Susan Samueli, who seemingly took a more professional approach, shortening the nickname to simply "Ducks."
Construction on Orange County's premier arena began in 1991 and opened to hockey on October 8, 1993 against one of the most storied NHL franchises, the Detroit Red Wings. Since the $123 million facility opened, it has been renamed the Arrowhead Pond, the "Duck Pond," and most recently the Honda Center. Many fans still refer to it as "The Pond" and others simply "Ponda."
The 17,000+ Honda Center is no stranger to big events. It has twice hosted the NHL Stanley Cup Finals (2003 & 2007), almost every major concert, the Circus, and the annual John Wooden Classic NCAA basketball tournament.
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 Honda Center did offer a significant quantity of options as far as food and beverage, it did definitely lack in quality and value.
I do understand that most Southern California sporting events do have some elevated prices, but I had not spotted prices this absurd at any of the nearby professional venues. Some of the items included bratwurst($8), Italian sausage ($8), 1/2 lb. hot dog ($8), Hormel chili cheese dog ($6.75), "the top shelf" dog (basic hot dog in a pretzel bun for $5.25), chicken tenders and fries ($9.50), chicken or bean and cheese burrito ($7.50), taquitos ($5.75), super nachos (with chili and cheese $7), nacho grande ($7.75), peanuts ($5.25), super pretzel ($4.50), pretzel braid ($4.75), churro ($3.25), popcorn (small $4.50 and large $5.50), candy ($4), side or guacamole, extra cheese, or chili ($1.50). Probably the best value in the arena was actually the Kid's meal (hot dog, chips, and soda for $5.25).
One of the specialty stands was Oggi's Pizza. Here you could get a personal cheese pizza for $8.50 and add pepperoni for $0.50 more. I tried one of these pizzas and noticed nothing in particular that set it apart from any other personal pizza.
Another specialty stand is the Urban Wok. Some of the items on the menu here include Beer & Broccoli and Sesame Orange Chicken. Single items in a bowl go for $8, two item meal go for $9.50, and egg rolls for $2.50. I loved the sign that read, "Add an Egg Roll and Bottled soda for only $6 (which by the by is the same value you would get if you bought the items separately)! "
As for the beverage options, they included soda (Pepsi products with small at $4.25, large at $5.25, souvenir at $6.25, or bottled at $4.50), Gatorade ($4.75), coffee ($4.25), hot chocolate ($3.25), Aquafina water ($4.25), energy drink ($5.00), ICEE (Cherry or Blue Raspberry for $4.25), milkshake ($7), or green tea ($4.50).
My biggest concern was the gouging on the alcohol. The domestic draft was $7, which doesn't seem too steep, but when you spot the actual size of the cup, it's laughable. The premium draft goes for $9.75, with "Bomber" drafts at $10.50 and premium "bomber" drafts for $11.50. A "bomber" is roughly the size of a normal draft, you would find anywhere else, so over $10 for a fairly regular beer. Other adult options include Fetzer wine (red or white for $8.50), cocktails at $10, and shakers at $13. If you want a beer without the alcohol, that can be had for $7.
Like any event near Disneyland, the atmosphere is more family-friendly than anything else. While the Walt Disney Company sold the franchise back in 2005, it has seemingly remained as fan-friendly as any professional sports team today.
While this is great for mom and dad, it also seems to prevent a really great sports atmosphere. Regardless of the circumstance, there never really appears to be a game changing atmosphere.
Between periods, the lights would dim and I would often wonder if this put many of the fans to sleep because they remained relatively quiet other than the "Let's Go Ducks" chant here and there.
The mascot is known as Wild Wing, yet he does not seem to be as visible during games as most mascots. As a perfect play on the team's nickname, the Honda Center once even sold novelty duck callers at the souvenir stand.
The Ducks do tie in a variety of promotions to keep the fans' attention. Some of these included the "Wave your AAA Card and Win," "This Date in Ducks History," puck shuffle, and the typical fan cam. They also threw in a "sign cam" where fans could display their homemade signs. Finally, there were two promotions that had everyone clamoring for offense as fans would receive free wings at Hooters should the Ducks score five goals or the fans could get free Oggi's sticks for a power play goal.
If nothing else, Anaheim is known for being home to Disneyland, the much more intimate cousin of Disney World. The Disney of Anaheim will provide a much better neighborhood, much better weather, and fewer clueless tourists than its counterpart in Florida.
Before the game, I occasionally stop by Danny K's Billiards just a few blocks from the stadium. It's a rather spacious venue and it seems that the billiard area takes up at least half of the restaurant. It has most of the pub favorites on the menu, but I especially like the beer selection. They offer the everyday favorites as well as many unique brews in 25 ounce glasses.
Off Katella Ave, you'll find "The Catch," a restaurant that has served the fans of the Honda Center for over 30 years. The restaurant serves up some impressive steaks, Chilean seabass, drunken mahi-mahi, among other things, but it seems to be the burgers that stand out here. Sure, everyone has "good burgers," but the options here are a bit more elevated by uniqueness. Of course, the restaurant has quickly become most renowned around Anaheim for its "OMG Burger." This $36 burger might be worth the price just to see it in person. A 4-pound patty, 14" bun, and 10 slices of cheese. The prices here are a bit more than you will find at most eateries in the area, but the different experience is well worth the price.
Another option near the stadium is JT Schmid's, which offers an extensive menu and its own onsite brewery. You can have pizza, tacos, steaks, and seafood, but the real draw here seems to be their sweet potato fries. Another interesting option is the "Twenty Dollar Burger" which is topped with an eight ounce prime rib, bacon, swiss cheese, and avocado. While their beverage offerings are much beyond beer, they do offer at least six house brews including a light beer, an India Pale Ale, Hefeweizen, Amber, and a Stout. If you are not the adventurous type, they still offer the typical Budweiser, Coors, Hoegarden, Stella, and Woodchuck options.
Everyone can usually find something they like at the nearby Chili's, but I'd also recommend checking out the Lazy Dog Cafe or Auld Irisher Pub before the game.
The fans can easily be considered to be some of the best as they are as welcoming as anywhere. At any game against a large market team, a visitor can expect the opposing fans to be just as boisterous as the home fans. While this doesn't create much of a home-ice advantage, at least other fans can visit the Honda Center without a lot of flak (a far cry from the nearby Dodger Stadium .
Of course, the above comment is in no way meant to seem as if the fans have no backbone either. The opposing team would hear a lot of Boos after scoring a goal and if a call did not go in favor of the home team, a "Ref you suck" chant may break out.
As for the attire, many of the fans were actually wearing the old green and purple jerseys. Others had the duck bill shaped goalie mask, and a few of them sported George Parros-inspired fake mustaches.
Though a common complaint of Southern California is in regards to its traffic congestion, the facility is in close proximity to five major freeways (57, 22, 5, 91, 55), and is located across the freeway from Angel Stadium.
Just like the food, the parking seems a bit overpriced. Despite 4,500 parking spaces and lots of available spaces in the surrounding area, the charge is typically $15 and sometimes $20. I would really recommend bringing your walking shoes and trying to find a less expensive option nearby. Parking at Angel games across the street are typically $8 and tailgating is not allowed here either, so it is rather curious as to why such a substantial fee.
If you are not driving to the stadium, other transportation options include the Metrolink Orange Line or Amtrak. These railways drop you off at the edge of the Angel Stadium parking lot, so this allows for easy access to the Honda Center. This is a large benefit for fans in San Luis Obispo, Los Angeles, and San Diego as they can now easily get to the stadium without fighting traffic.
The restrooms were plentiful, but would tend to back up rather quickly. The narrow concourse did not help. Long lines would quickly develop during the intermission, so if you can slip out to the concourse during play, it may be wise to do so.
What I found most interesting was that the facility does not contain escalators. Instead, fans making their way to the upper levels can take one of the elevators or the marble-clad stairwells. Even if you are going to the highest level, the hike up the stairs is not all that intimidating as the ice is several rows below the ground level.
The Honda Center offers three levels of seating. The Plaza Level is the closest, surrounding the ice with a capacity of 5,600. 21 rows up is the Club Level and the highest section is known as the Terrace Level. The uppermost level offers lots of affordable seating, very different from the small upper level at the Staples Center.
The scoreboard above center ice certainly needs an update. It is a bit dated as far as modern scoreboards and it is tough to see some of the text on it from the upper level. The sound system is also rather dated as a set of large speakers simply hang above the scoreboard providing all of the sound for the arena.
It seems that tickets are readily available for most games, often through the Ducks box office. If the game in question is sold out, there is a ticket broker next to JT Schmid's and scalpers often directly in front of the restaurant.
Fans can usually expect to pay between $15-$30 for upper tier seats, but I have rarely found lower level seats for less than $50. The team also offers three game packs occasionally for a reduced price and throw-in a promotional item.
I love the welcoming fans and the opportunity to see NHL action at the reasonable ticket price, but the overpriced concessions and parking rates make it difficult to sign off on anything more than a "3."
As the Los Angeles Kings play in the downtown Staples Center, the Honda Center offers a bit more of a "California" theme. The San Gabriel mountains can be seen in the distance and the property has over 130 palm trees covering it.
The inside offers nearly as much beauty as the exterior as roughly 200,000 feet of marble line the concourses and stairwells. The four different colors of marble seen inside of the arena was imported from Spain, Taiwan, and the Philippines. The main entrances have large glass archways and three of the entrances have displays known as the "Anaheim Arts in Public Places." The themes of these artworks include video arch, musical gateway, and anamorph.
The theme of the franchise began with the Walt Disney Pictures movie "The Mighty Ducks" and the Honda Center appeared on the silver screen as it played the site of the Junior Goodwill Games in the film "D2: The Mighty Ducks."
At the south entrance, fans will find a bronze statue of the team's mascot Wild Wing. A true throwback to the days of the Disney ownership, his paddle and the plaque still read the name "Mighty Ducks." The piece of art is known as "Defending the Pond" and is considered by many to be Stephen T. Landis' best sculpture.
Not every NHL franchise has a Stanley Cup under its belt, so it's always fun to glance up and see an NHL championship banner in the rafters. It is rather tough to get a good vantage point for the banners as many of the beams block the banners, but fans can spot the 2003 Western Conference Championship one (with old logo) and the 2007 NHL Stanley Cup Champions banner.
The Honda Center can also double as a basketball venue despite not having a permanent tenant. Every season since 1994, the John Wooden Classic basketball tournament is held here and the Big West decides its champion with its conference tournament here. Several NCAA tournament games have also occurred here over the years and Anaheim has been vying for a NBA team for quite some time.
Despite my frustrations with the atmosphere and concession prices, an experience at the Honda Center is still an entertainment option that I often consider and would recommend to others.
The distance from the highest seat in the arena to the floor is only 82 feet, so even if you sit high above the action, you will have a great vantage point. Just like Angel Stadium, the Honda Center has maintained remarkable upkeep.
I hope to see the fan base grow more passionate in the coming years. The Honda Center often acts as a venue for transplants to see their hometown team, but hopefully Ducks fans will continue to make the venue more of a home-ice advantage in years to come. Having the minor league Bakersfield Condors nearby was great way to build a fan base in the surrounding region (as the Kings do with the Ontario Reign, but unfortunately their affiliation recently ended. Regardless of the existence of a minor league program, the franchise seems to be growing more and more of an identity and reputation as a positive figure the NHL.
Follow Drew's journeys through Southern California on twitter @Big10Drew.
Built in 1993 to welcome a new NHL franchise, the Honda Center is the home of the Anaheim Ducks. The building is located on the opposite side of the 57 freeway from Angel Stadium, and is in perfect view when sitting high above home plate.
In 2006 the building got a new name and the team was given a new look. The Arrowhead Pond became the Honda Center and the Mighty Ducks became simply the Anaheim Ducks. Many fans have named the building the "Ponda" to affectionately refer to the building's history.
Surrounded by picturesque palm trees, the arched entry ways of the Honda Center welcome fans from the often warm and sunny Southern California climate into the chilly temperatures required for an ideal ice surface.
With shiny marble tiles and the occasional gold embellishments, the Honda Center is considerably one of the nicer NHL establishments. Not necessary top of the line, the Honda Center is ideally comfortable. With a larger upper terrace level, affordable seating is widely available and easily accessible for all guests. There isn't a bad seat in the place. With a capacity of 17,174, even when seated in the farthest row from the ice, there is still a great view.
The Honda Center plays host to several concerts over the course of the year. In addition they host the John Wooden classic, the Circus, several on ice shows, the Harlem Globetrotters, and even professional Bull Riding.
Just a short ride from Los Angeles and the Staples Center, the Honda Center is often a great alternative for fans who would like the ease of parking, less traffic, and a more home-like feel.
The Honda Center is just a few miles east of the Disneyland Resort, where the Ducks franchise was originated. While any ties to the Disney empire are no longer in existence, images from the Mighty Ducks' past hang high in the rafters alongside Pacific Division, Western Conference, and Stanley Cup Championship banners.
I've been to hockey games in several arenas, and it always feels nice to come home to the Honda Center. The ease and convenience of the location, the parking, the familiarity of employees, and the overall welcoming environment is always comforting. Even though the game is played on ice, at the Honda Center it is always a warming experience.
Overpriced tickets, concessions and merch. Fans seemed uninterested in the game and were busy talking about unrelated topics. Handrai duct taped to post, and torn and stained seats. They have hot ice girls though, for what its worth.
2610 East Katella Avenue
Anaheim, CA 92806
2100 E Katella Ave
Anaheim, CA 92806
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