The largest city on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan, Muskegon rose to prominence as a logging center in the mid-19th century. Today that heritage is honored by the city’s USHL team, the Muskegon Lumberjacks. The team plays its home games at L.C. Walker Arena. The venue has been home to Muskegon hockey since 1960, hosting several tenants including the IHL’s Muskegon Zephyrs, then Mohawks, then Lumberjacks, and finally the Muskegon Fury. By then the team was a part of the United Hockey League (UHL), which merged with the Central Hockey League (CHL). Confusing, right?
In 2010, a new version of the Muskegon Lumberjacks was born as a member of the United States Hockey League (USHL), a junior hockey league that stretches across the Midwest. These are amateur players, most of whom are playing for the chance to earn a college scholarship, with a few who may be drafted by the NHL. This is a league where you can see the stars of tomorrow. More importantly, you’ll see hard-working young men, playing a sport that they love. Muskegon is a great place to see USHL hockey. Journey to L.C. Walker Arena and you’ll quickly understand why.
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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".
The food options are fairly unremarkable, but there are some attempts to jazz things up. There are three main concession stands; Lumberjack Café, Fury Café, and Walker Café. Here you'll find hot dog ($3), slices of pizza ($2.75), nachos ($3.25), soft pretzels ($2.75), chicken tenders with fries ($4.50), and popcorn ($4).
Fountain sodas are Pepsi products ($3-$4), with hot beverages like coffee, hot chocolate, and hot cider available ($2). Souvenir sized beers are available ($6.50), or other "large" beers for $5.25.
In the outer concourse, you can also find a small Little Caesar's stand offering slices or crazy bread. Next to that you will find an ice cream vendor, and then there's the build your own dog and burger concession. I was pretty excited to find for $5 the opportunity to choose from 20 different toppings and out them on a bratwurst. Unfortunately the quality is lacking, so you may want to skip this one and stay with a safer option like the pizza at L.C. Walker Arena.
They really like to turn the lights out here. You'll get the pre-game introductions with the lights out, spotlights roaming, strobe lights flashing, and multi-colored effects. It's a lot and probably too much for junior level hockey, but it is certainly a lot of fun. They'll do a smaller version for each period. If you have a seizure disorder with light sensitivity, then you may want to ensure you're out of the arena for these portions of the show. You'll even get some of this after goals are scored. All in all, they enjoy their toys at L.C. Walker Arena.
During game action, the presentation is decidedly less technologically driven. The center-hung scoreboard has all the information you need while the puck is in play. There is a video board as well, but it is only utilized for advertisements and messages.
Seats are comfortable, with all 5,000 or so chairbacks with slightly above average legroom and some with cupholders. Purple, red, or blue padded seats are to be expected regardless of where your seat may be.
The two benches are side by side, so the best spot to sit would be in the back row of section 115 or 116 so you are at center ice with a view of the two benches.
There is an emcee and he does a good job of running contests on the ice during intermissions, and will also make appearances in the stands during media timeouts to award prizes.
It's a solid overall presentation. I could do without all the light shows, but overall it is a very entertaining show.
The area surrounding L.C. Walker Arena is well worth taking the time to walk around a bit. In Hackley Park, you'll find statues of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S Grant, and William Tecumseh Sherman. In front of the Muskegon Board of Education Building is a statue of President William McKinley. In the center of Hackley Park is large memorial dedicated to the American Civil War.
The namesake of Hackley Park is Charles H. Hackley. A seated statue of him is located on the corner of Clay and 3rd. Dedicated in 2009, this sculpture by William F. Duffy has a plaque that describes Hackley as a "lumber baron, who applied his fortune during his lifetime to create a city of distinction."
One landmark in Muskegon is the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts. A statue of film icon Buster Keaton (born in Muskegon) stands in front of the main theatre. Built in 1929, this center of entertainment still shows ballet, plays, concerts, and more.
If you are looking for a nearby restaurant, then try Hennessey's Irish Pub, or Racquets Downtown Grill.
With more than 50 years of hockey history here in Muskegon, these fans know and appreciate the game. Attendance averages in the low 2,000s so on most occasions you should expect to find plenty of empty seats. I hope that fans come into the gates in greater numbers because this is a town that deserves a hockey team.
I found free street parking within a couple of blocks from the arena on Clay. It is three hour parking only, but that should be enough to get you through the game, plus it places you near Hackley Park if you want to do a short walking tour.
Inside the arena, the concourses are spacious enough to handle the crowds, and restrooms are adequate.
Be sure to buy your tickets in advance to see a significant savings - $10 for adult tickets or $5 for kids aged 3-12. Kids under age 3 are free. If you wait until the day of the game, you'll pay 35% more, so it is definitely better to plan ahead. For this level of hockey, the prices seem just a little high, but you'll find more expensive tickets elsewhere in the USHL. With free parking you can still get a beer and something to eat and keep your overall price tag under $20 as long as you plan ahead.
One extra point for the history on display within the concourse of L.C. Walker Arena. Here you'll find the Muskegon Area Sports Hall of Fame with good descriptions of the athletic accomplishments of many athletes from the county. Most noticeable are the displays for Earl Morrall (most known as a quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts) and Olympic luger Mark Grimmette, who competed in five Olympic Games.
One additional extra point for the numerous banners on display to commemorate the Colonial Cups won by the Muskegon Fury in the UHL and the IHL Turner Cup Championships won by the first version of the Muskegon Lumberjacks.
Junior level hockey is really worth experiencing. It combines some of the typical games and contests that you will find at many minor league sporting events with the integrity of amateur athletics. You can almost see the hopes and dreams of these players as they streak down the ice. If you are in the west central part of Michigan, check the schedule for the Muskegon Lumberjacks and consider a visit to L.C. Walker Arena.
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