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Official Review by Josh Oakes, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Formerly known as the Charlottesville Ice Park, Main Street Arena is located at the heart of the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, Virginia, and is home to UVA ice hockey. The games are free, the beer is cheap, and the atmosphere both inside and outside the arena is electric. Main Street Arena is a multi-purpose building, complete with a bar/restaurant in the main lobby. As far as seating goes, there isn’t much. A few bleachers above the team benches, along with some benches behind the goal at one end, are all the seating you will find, unless you want to watch from the main lobby.
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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".
Main Street Arena is divided up into two halves. One half is the ice rink; the other half is the main lobby, which also happens to be a restaurant and bar. On hockey nights, the beer (Bud Light) is $2 per cup or $12 for a pitcher. The menu is simple yet satisfying, with a couple unexpected items. They have the standard grilled cheese ($4), hot dog ($3), and onion rings ($5). I was surprised and excited to see bratwurst for $5 and a pound of smoked wings for only $6! The variety and prices here are much better than I expected to find at an ACHA college hockey game. A small sign posted outside the arena prohibits outside food or beverage, but the staff does not check, and at worst, you'll be told to eat your food. Either way, you are covered.
The standing room only seating, along with the $12 pitchers of beer, adds all the more to the rowdy atmosphere. It is ice hockey, after all. Most nights the crowd can be three or even four rows deep behind the goal and beside the team benches. The wall separating the main lobby from the rink is a wall of glass, and some people will watch the game while sitting at one of the few scattered tables in the main lobby. It is only ACHA hockey, but don't tell the fans that. If you get there early enough, you can get a spot right up against the glass. The proximity to the ice, along with the rowdy crowd, makes for a fun night of hockey.
Main Street Arena is located in the Downtown Mall in Charlottesville. A beautiful fusion of old and new, the Downtown Mall is the place to be on a Friday night in Charlottesville. There is something for everyone here, and it is only open to pedestrians. There are street vendors selling shirts about pot and politics, street musicians playing banjos and violins, and more vendors selling exotic scarves and jewelry from the Middle East. The buildings are beautiful, and the atmosphere outside the arena is electric, to say nothing of the food.
The food here is incredible! Everything from The Mudhouse coffee shop serving up delicious, home-made roasts to Christian's Pizza (my personal favorite), which is right next to the arena. Christian's serves up the closest thing to true New York pizza I have had outside New York. At the back of this corner restaurant is a large bar, with everything from the classic cheese to such inventive creations as buffalo chicken with mushrooms, onions, and two kinds of cheese. Once at the bar, you choose which kind you want and even pick out the slice you want, as each one is unique and fresh out of one of their numerous ovens. Prices run from $2 for a massive slice of cheese to $4 for specialty slices. A whole cheese pie is a mere $10, and they only have one size, huge (18"). The wait is considerable for a whole pie, as they make it from scratch, but it is well worth it. Domestic beer is $2.75 and imported beer is $3.75.
Most of the fans are students, with a few scattered families and alumni along with the occasional European tourist or three. The students are usually a bit less than sober by the time the second period rolls around, and they mercilessly harass the opposing goalkeeper and any other unfortunate member of the opposition that spends too much time by the glass or on his back. You can usually find a sober hockey enthusiast or two who is willing, and able, to talk hockey with you.
One thing they all have in common is that they love their team and hate the refs. Conversation is readily welcomed by all but the most intoxicated ,who are easy to spot anyway. Just don't get caught wearing the opposition's colors.
As the Downtown Mall is closed to all motorized traffic, parking can be a bit of a hassle. There is a parking garage on site that costs a mere $8 a day, but getting there can be a pain. Once in, everything is within walking distance and easy to find. Main Street Arena is an accessible facility, with a wheelchair ramp that leads to the front door.
Though it is not Division I level hockey and the seating is limited, Main Street Arena is a fun place to catch a game and get caught up in the nightlife of a college town. The food is good, the beer is cheap, and the atmosphere is one of a kind.
Main Street Arena is a public rink and you can go ice-skating before the game. Also, there is a restaurant in the arena! Since I cannot give the neighborhood more than a 5, an extra point gets tagged on here.
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118 W Main St
Charlottesville, VA 22902
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