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Official Review by Jimmy Knight, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
As with most athletic venues, simply putting a little water and chemicals on the playing surface is a good start for the growing process. Especially in the South’s warm, weathered climate, something like a professional baseball diamond or a college football field. What about directly on the concrete floor of an indoor arena for a hockey surface? That is exactly what the Lander’s Center does in Southaven, MS. for the Mississippi RiverKings.
Although this process is not out of the ordinary for most hockey arenas, everything ice and/or hockey related can be fascinating in Northern Mississippi. Most locals may not be accustomed with the science of facilitating a hockey tenant, but they are more than accustomed with the home team. Southaven, MS. is just south of the Tennessee/Mississippi border and is considered a suburb of Memphis, TN.
The team was founded in 1992 and has played in the Lander’s Center since the beginning of the 2000 season. Now members of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), they have reached their tournament league finals three times, winning the championship twice. The RiverKings enjoy a loud and loyal following that exceeds expectations for a hockey team in the deep south.
Although the RiverKings are the primary tenant for the venue, the Lander’s Center was built to be diverse. Events feature premier musical and comedic talents (Motley Crue and Jeff Dunham), the circus, monster trucks, rodeos, graduation ceremonies and MMA title bouts. Bellator MMA will host its inaugural Pay-Per-View event the spring of 2014 from the Lander’s Center.
A true testament to the arena is how comfortably and naturally these events fit in Lander’s Center. Seating at capacity is 8,400 for hockey but can grow to 10,000 for other events.
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 Lander's Center has six permanent concession stands. Depending on the event and attendance, a few or all of these stands might be open. The lines never extend more than eight to 10 people and flow at a very appeasing rate. Rarely is there a bottleneck in the process.
The standard hot dog, hamburger, soda and beer products are available. The part that sets the concessions above is the availability of Domino's Pizza. A prominent pizza chain in the area, this offering is always popular with kids and adults alike and bids an above-average option to concession stand fare.
If pizza is not one of your preferences, nor standard concession stand food, it would be beneficial to eat before you arrive. There are a couple of nice options around the arena that are covered later.
There is not a better sight than to witness somebody surprised and excited their drink was spilled. This happens almost every game as some non-expecting newbie to hockey, sitting in the front row, places their drink on the flat areas along the boards. Inevitably, a collision occurs on the ice next to this seat and tosses the drink. Laughs occur by everybody around. Most other seats are spaced appropriately, padded for comfort and have access to a stationary cup holder.
The corridor to these seats flows nicely, because of the strategic arrangement of restrooms and concession stands. The upper level, lower level and suites are accessible from the same corridor. Due to the size of the arena, the sight lines are good and the only bad seats are judged that way because of a preferred view. If you prefer to hear the sounds of the hockey action, I recommend sitting in a seat that is higher than the boards. You will hear more of the 'game noises' that are not blocked by the boards. Besides that, everything is close to the action.
As you look down onto the ice from these seats, you will notice the bright colors of lines, face-off circles and advertisements. These are a combination of paint and stickers underneath and in the ice. The surface is frozen in layers and preserved for multiple games at a time. If an event were to occur during that time, they can simply build a platform over the ice to prevent melting, draining and in eventually starting the freezing process over.
As an excellent complement to the bright colors on the ice and on the uniforms, the Lander's Center has a jumbotron that looks great and supplies plenty of functional information. Besides the score, clock and screen for action and replays, the board also offers shots on goal and penalty kill time, just to name a few.
The Lander's Center and RiverKings games are not just for adults. One of the most impressive parts of the experience is how they cater to kids. Opposite the RiverKings bench is where the team enters and leaves for the period. This is a common gathering spot for kids after a period or after the game for high fives from the players. A couple of the guys do a great job of going through and greeting every child standing around the rail. The RiverKings also have two mascots named Sheldon and RiverThing. The organization and the Lander's Center should be very proud of these two. They walk through the crowd and arena the entire game and engage families non-stop. Young or old, afraid or embracing...no matter what your child's approach to mascots, these two have a trick or act for you.
But it does not matter where you sit or who comes to visit you, the best seat in the house are the Lander's Center suites. They are at the optimal height for enjoying all of the sights and sounds of the game. The suites have the seating in the front for watching your event, but also a high top table for socializing around, a lounge area, fridge, flat screen television and a hostess for the patron's requests. This exclusivity comes at a very friendly price also, as the suite is generally sold as an 'adder' price to the standard ticket.
The Lander's Center is not in the middle of a commercial area. It does have some warehouse and industry nearby, but nothing that intrudes close enough that it takes away from the view of the building from the main road or the interstate. You will definitely be sure you have arrived when you get close. Driving up to the arena, you will pass two 'sit-down' restaurants that have great food and a very casual atmosphere. The Fillin Station Grille is a nice spot to watch sports and hang out with fellow hockey fans before the game. Boiling Point is just on the other side and specializes in Seafood Cuisine. Both are great spots before and after the game and have a great location also.
The RiverKings fans are very knowledgeable and passionate about their team. Without exception, every hustle play is rewarded with cheers and ringing of bells by the faithful. After the game, a couple of players will come back out, skate under a spotlight and throw a T-shirt into the stands. The fans are very appreciative of this and show that in the end.
The Lander's Center is just 11 miles south of the Memphis International Airport. Most of that drive will be on I-55. The fact that it is right off that interstate makes it accessible within 20 minutes of metro Memphis, TN. and 45 minutes of the suburbs of the Bluff City. If you live in North Mississippi in Olive Branch, Horn Lake or Hernando, you are not more than a few minutes away.
The arena has multiple entry points all the way around the perimeter and each has a friendly staff member that is anxious to get you in. The corridor flows well because of the layout and there is never a capacity issue in the restrooms.
I have sat along the boards, in the seats and in the suites. You cannot go wrong sitting anywhere in the arena, but the best value for your money is in the suites. They are priced more competitive than any other venue's suites and are a good way to get in the building and relax in your own space.
The arena has an excellent email correspondence to keep everybody up to date on new show announcements and ticket specials. If you live in the area, you more than likely will take advantage of it to watch a friend or family member's graduation event.
The Lander's Center and the Mississippi RiverKings have combined for an outstanding fan experience. The hockey team fits the venue for size and culture. Small enough to be chummy with the mascots but just large enough to create a home-ice advantage. Adults can enjoy a draft beer and watch a professional sports team and kids can eat candy and dance on the jumbotron during timeouts.
Feeding that environment is the staff as they always seems happy to help. This includes the hostesses in the suites. All groups should consider renting a suite as they start at $200 and go up depending on the event, size and location of the suite.
Member Review by jimmy.knight on Mar 19, 2014
4840 Venture Dr
Southaven, MS 38671
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