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Official Review by Bill Kintner, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Ice Box was originally an exposition arena located on the old state fair grounds that was used for live stock events. In 1997 it was modified to handle hockey and now that is all it is used for.
The Lincoln Stars are one of the 17 teams in the United States Hockey League. The USHL is a junior hockey league; the players are mostly teenagers, so the players may still be in high school or junior college. The players live with host families.
It is easy for minor league sports to get lost in a town dominated by the Big 10’s University of Nebraska, but the Lincoln Stars have carved out a nice niche for themselves.
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".
The Ice Box is loaded with food and drink options. There is a great mix of food, and if you like to drink adult beverages, this is your place.
Food is available throughout the Ice Box and the food includes local favorites: Valentino's pizza, Fairbury hot dogs, polish dogs and brats, Colby Ridge popcorn and cotton candy, plus Land O' Lakes ice cream in the east concourse. The prices are pretty reasonable for a sports venue.
I tried the popcorn, nachos and hot dogs and they all passed the taste test.
There are specialty items located in each concession stand including: BBQ sandwiches, hot turkey and cheese sandwiches, nachos, chili dogs, soft pretzels, grilled chicken sandwiches, steak sandwiches and cappuccinos. My favorite is the walking taco, consisting of corn chips, lettuce, sliced tomatoes, cream cheese and shredded cheese. You can get other things on it too. The cost is only $4.
The adult beverages include Miller Lite, Miller Genuine Draft, Mikes' Hard Lemonade, Leinie's Red, Sam Adams, plus a variety of microbrews and imported beers. Beer prices start at around $4.
The hard stuff includes Crown Royal, Captain Morgan, Jagermeister, Jim Beam, Jose Cuervo and Tangueray.
This place is a dump and I love it. The Ice Box has a charm, which newer more modern arenas just do not have. This is a great venue for hockey. The fans are close to the action and there is not a bad seat.
The music is great and they start the night off with a light show. There is always something going on, always something to watch. There are some bleacher seats up in the corner, but most of the seats are chairbacks. There is also the Galaxy Club located at north end of the arena which is the club seating area.
The Ice Box is located at the old state fair grounds. There is nothing there except the arena. The good news is you are just a few minutes away from downtown Lincoln and Haymarket area.
You can find about any type of food or drink you could want in Lincoln. The Haymarket area of Lincoln is a several block area loaded with restaurants, bars and small shops. One that I found that is decent is Buzzard Billy's Armadillo Bar and Grillo, which is a sports bar with a Southwestern themed menu. Another is Brewsky's, which is a standard sports bar, with decent food and reasonable prices. Lazlo's Brewery and Grill is exactly what the name implies, a bar and grill. The food, prices and atmosphere are very good. All three are located in the Haymarket area. I would be remiss if I didn't mention Jake's Cigar Bar, a favorite of sports fans that enjoy fine imported cigars. With a fine offering of cigars, spirits and TVs, it is worth stopping in at 13th and O Streets if that is your thing.
Just take a stroll around Lincoln and enjoy this nice college town and discover all kinds of fun things to do.
The fans are loyal and they love their team. For the most part, it is a blue-collar crowd and they know hockey. There is a steady group of fans that attend almost every game and tend to lead the cheering. For all the adult beverages sold at reasonable prices, I didn't see any drunken fans. It is a lot more family-friendly than an NFL game.
It is a drive-in, drive-out location and the only reason you would go there is to visit the Ice Box. The parking lot is a short walk from the arena and when it is over, it doesn't take too long to get out of the old state fair grounds.
The restrooms in the Ice Box are nothing spectacular but they are adequate for the intended purpose and at no time did I see a long line at any of the restrooms.
Tickets are $17.50 and $18.50. If you buy them in advance, you save a buck. It is $3.00 to park.
You could buy a ticket, get a domestic beer and hot dog for $25. Not a bad deal.
A star is awarded for the walking tacos and another for being such a unique, fun venue.
This is about as good of a fan experience as you will find in minor league hockey. Plenty to eat and drink, the fans are close to the action and there is not a dull moment once you get inside.
It just goes to show, you don't have to have a shiny, new arena to provide a great fan experience.
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