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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Mar 23, 2017
Toledo has supported minor league hockey as far back as 1947. For much of that history, teams played at the Toledo Sports Arena, the true definition of an old barn, but by 2007 the facility was no longer profitable. It was time for a new arena in Toledo.
The Sports Arena was in fact well past its prime in the 1970s and at one time featured locker rooms so small that players might have the change in shifts, coaching rooms no bigger than a boiler room, and players making their way onto the ice through the hurling of insults from fans.
After a two-year absence, hockey returned to play in the modern, ultra chic, and spacious Huntington Center in downtown in 2009, complete with the newly named Toledo Walleye of the ECHL. The Walleye have been a success with close to 100 sellouts since its inception and have continued the legacy left by former hockey teams: Mercurys, Blades, Hornets, Golddiggers, and Storm.
The $105 million facility features 20 private suites, 750 prestige club seats, and a club-level lounge overlooking the ice on the second level. There are also two main merchandise stores dubbed The Swamp Shop. The results have been positives as the team has played in front of 98 sellout crowds as of this writing in March, 2017.
The Huntington Center is one of the nation's first LEED certified professional sports arena featuring a 900-square foot “green wall” outside of the building, light color roof membrane that reflects heat and sunlight, and underground cisterns that collect rainwater for reuse.
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".
Huntington Center has everything one would want or possibly need at a sporting arena. The biggest surprise is not only the portions of some of the items, but the prices, making it one of the best deals in all of minor league hockey.
Swamp Dog's (section 108) is the first place to visit to try either a loaded BBQ burrito ($7.50), grilled mac and bacon sandwich ($6), or loaded tots ($5). The tots are served hot and crisp, covered with cheese, chili, jalapenos, and onions.
Frogtown Burger Company cooks chargrilled burgers ($7.50) featuring the southern burger with pickle ribbons, bacon, and pimiento cheese spread; turkey burgers are topped with lemon garlic aioli, spicy tomato relish, and avocado.
T-Town Treats (Section 119) probably offers the best value for your dollar, and also has the longest lines. The cost of one of these sinfully delicious frozen treats are $4 and include the s'moreo sundae (fudge, marshmallow, graham cracker bits, Oreo cookies), and the banana foster sundae (deep fried cheesecake bites, whipped cream, caramel, and nuts).
Draft beers sell for $6.50 (small) and $8.50 (large) at various stands throughout the concourse. However, you can purchase a 16-ounce aluminum can of Budweiser or Yuengling for $6 each. The Fitz Craft Brew Bar (Section 102-104) features six taps of craft beer, plus various canned and bottled varieties. The price for drafts are $7.50, bottles $6, and cans $8.50. There are eight stool tops and two friendly bartenders are here to serve you during the game.
The Toledo crowd is just as savvy and frenzied as many other minor league towns in North America. The arena has just about everything a hockey fan could want in a modern facility and much more.
The Walleye feature two mascots, CatTrick and Spike, who make their way around the building and introduce the team on the ice. The players skate through the mouth of a giant inflatable version of Spike. The arena plays both the US and Canadian National Anthems and a long time Toledo tradition of shouting "Hit Somebody" can be heard by the crowd towards the end of the Star Spangled Banner.
The top floor houses suites and a giant bar that overlooks one end of the arena. Luckily there is another one on the main level of the concourse that offers open views of the arena, plus table tops to put your food or drink down while watching the game or talking to friends.
The arena does not feature a video board above center ice, but a large screen at one end of the lower seating bowl. There are a few nice artistic features splashed throughout the main lobby stairwell and 11 championship banners hang from the rafters.
The arena is located downtown just a block away from the ballpark Fifth Third Field. There are various bars and restaurants that are within walking distance including Blarney Irish Pub and Fleetwoods, both serving great food and drinks. Of course, there is the famous Tony Packo's that is home to the Hungarian hot dog and other specialities.
A few other hidden gems located within the vicinity by car include Glass City Cafe and Maddie and Bella's Coffee Roasters. There are many bars and night spots to enjoy a good time in downtown Toledo.
The Maumee Bay Brewing Company is little over a mile from the arena and is housed in the historic Oliver Building. The multi-level building features a brew pub, Rockwell's Steakhouse, a sports bar, and a brewing hall of fame. The outside is decorated with historic beer ads. I would suggest a pint of Buckeye Beer.
The Walleye have made an impact on the city, thanks to their beautiful arena, but also to its fans who have responded in record pace that include 98 sellouts since the team debuted in 2009. It would be hard not to blame them if they are here just for the food, drinks, and entertainment, but it would be hard to find many who aren't focused on the game.
Huntington Center is an easy downtown venue to find with or without a GPS system. There are various signs off the highway that guide motorists to the arena and if you get lost, just follow the signs for the ballpark.
Inside, the facility is large enough to handle the capacity crowds that have become the norm with this team. There are numerous bathrooms and exits/entrances throughout the building.
The price points for Walleye games are $17, $22, and $26-an attractive price for ECHL hockey. It is also appealing for fans who find value in watching future Detroit Red Wings prospects in their own backyard. Parking for most hockey games is $5 in the private lots, although free street parking can be found if searched diligently well before face-off. The price of concessions are among the best in minor league hockey, making the return of investment 4 stars.
One star for the tradition of chanting "Hit Somebody!" at the ending of the US National Anthem; hockey fans have a very different approach during the singing of the National Anthem and Toledo tosses a subtle hat into the ring of such traditions.
Another star for the affordable and plentiful menu items that include barbecue, Italian beef sandwiches, desserts, loaded tots, and street taco varieties.
A third star for the open end section at the lower end of the seating bowl. A great view of the ice and a chance to enjoy the game with a few friends with plenty of room to stretch.
A final star for the 11 championship banners won by Toledo hockey teams since 1948. The 11 total cups won in the IHL and ECHL are tied with Hershey as the most won in minor league hockey.
The Huntington Center has almost everything a building needs for the 21st century sports fan including affordable prices for tickets and concessions, plenty of menu options, ideal location, and a place to enjoy a night out with family and friends. Here's to plenty of more seasons of minor league hockey in Toledo.
Member Review by paul
The city of Toledo is yet another fantastic example of a downtown area embracing sports as a key to revitalization. It started with the opening of Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens, in 2002. Then, in 2009, the Huntington Center joined the scene. It has hosted concerts, monster truck shows, and serves as the home of the Toledo Walleye of the badly-named East Coast Hockey League (ECHL).
There is actually a bit of hockey history in Toledo, despite the Walleye being founded in 2007. Previously, the Toledo Goaldiggers (get it?) occupied the hockey landscape. They were followed by the Toledo Storm in 1991. They took the ECHL by storm, winning back-to-back championships in 1993 and 1994. Today, the Walleye have a fantastic following, as evidenced by the Saturday night sellout crowd I experienced.
Member Review by jbrady on Mar 14, 2011
We enjoyed taking my son to his first hockey game at Huntington Center to see the Toledo Walleyes. The packed crowd was a great experience and we were able to enjoy all of the things you would expect at a modern arena. My son loved all of the extra entertainment during intermissions and breaks - he was not ready to leave by the end of the night!
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