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.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Having had Walleye on a stick at the beautiful home of the Minnesota Twins, Target Field, I whole-heartedly expected to see something like that at the Huntington Center. Alas, there were only the regular favorites. Pizza is provided by Vito's with slices going for $4-$5 and whole pies available for $16.
If you're feeling low on protein, then I would recommend the pulled pork sandwich ($6). Hot dogs are a pricey option ($4.50), or you can try the fancily named "angus dog" ($4.75).
Beverages are primarily Pepsi products in two sizes ($3.25 and $4.25 for a souvenir size). You'll find Budweiser beers, also in two sizes ($5.75 and $7.75), including Bud Light Lime and Budweiser Wheat.
Anytime you attend a game and every seat is full, you're in for a good experience. The truth is there isn't anything that makes a trip to the Huntington Center really memorable. There's no overhead scoreboard to distract you, and few dopey contests outside of your usual intermission entertainment. I see this as a good thing, as the action is totally focused on the hockey.
There is some of the best legroom that I have seen in my travels, with many of the lower level seats being the folding variety. These aren't always the most comfortable seats, but one positive is that if there is a sparse crowd, the seats in front of you will push forward slightly, giving you even more space.
There are several good options for pre or post game food and drink within an immediate 3 block radius. I spent some time at Pizza Papalis, where they serve Chicago-style pizza with a really fresh tasting sauce, all with a Greek undertone. They do get a bit crowded before a game so if you want to get dinner, then plan on arriving two hours before the puck drops.
If you're looking for more of a bar feel, then try the Blarney on the corner of Monroe & Huron.
For a little culture, the Toledo Museum of Art is a good place to invest some time. They feature over 30,000 works of art, so you should be able to spend hours in the museum and still need to come back for more.
You know the fans are going to be passionate when an ECHL arena sells out. These people love their hockey and were engaged throughout. The home team was completely outplayed the night of my visit, but still, the fans stuck in there until the very end.
Fans took advantage of the many ways to view a game. There is an open area off the main concourse which was loaded with standing fans throughout the game. If you have a ticket for the 200 level or a suite, you have access to a bar that looks out on the ice from high above. They are both great perspectives, and the fans seemed to be watching the hockey before them.
There are several parking garages in the area. I parked at the corner of Monroe and Superior and it cost me $5. For $3 more you can get a half block closer, but not really worth it if you ask me.
Inside, the concourse is wide enough to navigate easily between concessions stands. There are ample bathrooms, and even during intermission there weren't any significant lines.
I paid $16 a seat and sat in the 6th row. My wife and son attended the game with me, and even with food and parking factored in we spent less than $75 for the entire experience. I wouldn't consider that to be a bargain, but certainly not overpriced either. More and more I feel like minor league hockey is one of the best values in sports, and this is no exception.
As much as I enjoyed the experience at the Huntington Center, there aren't a lot of unique aspects to attending a Toledo Walleye game. I do think that the 200 level bar is a nice addition but the exclusivity leaves something to be desired.
They also have one of those inflatable, blimp-like, mascots that float around the arena during intermissions, which is a lot of fun for the kids to see.
Toledo has a lot to offer when it comes to the sports scene. Fifth Third Field is an outstanding minor league baseball stadium, and the Glass Bowl is a unique football stadium. For basketball, the Toledo Rockets program has been down in recent years, but still has a fairly rich history. For their part, the Toledo Walleye represent well in the Huntington Center, and if you love hockey (or even like hockey), then you'll have a great time here.
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!
601 Monroe St
Toledo, OH 43604
3154 Navarre Ave
Oregon, OH 43616