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Official Review by Justin Sutton, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Among the sailboats, casinos and sand, the Mississippi Coast Coliseum welcomes fans to watch the Mississippi Surge of the Southern Professional Hockey League. With a seating capacity of 8,797 for hockey, plenty of fans can pack the coliseum, which opened in 1977.
Before the Surge moved in, the Mississippi Sea Wolves (ECHL) and the Gulf Coast Bandits (basketball) called the coliseum home, but damages from Hurricane Katrina, which flooded the lower level of the coliseum, chased the Bandits away and spelled doom for the Sea Wolves.
In addition to hockey, the venue has hosted wrestling events, concerts, festivals, and the annual high school basketball extravaganza known as Hoopsfest.
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 concession areas, both located on the second level, have the usual fare of hamburgers ($6.25), corn dogs ($3.00), pizza slices ($4.00), chicken tenders basket ($7.00), hot dogs ($4.25), pretzels ($3.50) and steak sandwiches ($7.00). These could all be washed down with Coca-Cola products (16 oz for $2.75 or 24 oz for $3.25) or Bud Light ($6.00). If the urge for a snack hits, nachos ($4.25), popcorn (small for $3.50, large for $4.00), chips ($1.25) and candy ($2.75) can be picked up, as well.
A variety of cocktails ($6.50) can be purchased, and there is a two-drink limit on alcoholic purchases per trip.
While nothing stands out about the food selection, the price will not make someone consider a second mortgage either. The trips through the line seem pretty quick and painless, pushing this from two stars to three.
A lack of fans in the seats is the only thing preventing a ranking of five stars for the atmosphere of the game.
As with most minor league teams, promotions play a vital part in the entertainment of the fans. The Surge offer a variety of entertainment options to the fans. From hockey traditions such as the "Chicken Dance," booing referees and cheering zambonis to new games and dance-offs, fans will find something they enjoy during a break in the action.
On this night, the Pitch-a-Puck contest had many entrants, and with the price of one puck for a dollar, six pucks for five dollars, or fifteen pucks for ten dollars, the whole family can get in on the excitement pretty cheaply.
The concourses are easy to navigate, and nearly all of the seats in the stadium have cup holders. Perhaps the best thing about going to a Surge game is that there is not a poor seat in the house for hockey. Different seats offer different sightlines, but they are all of good quality.
Fans who want to sit near the action have the opportunity to do so as the first row is only inches from the glass. Fans who want to get a bird's eye view can do that, as well.
If being able to see both benches is important, sit in sections DD-LL (top level), 3-12 (mid-level), or B-E (lower level). All of these tickets will cost the same price.
If fans want to listen to the game, they can hear Tommy Domenico and Dwayne Bremer on the call on 88.5 FM.
Fans will also enjoy the many promotions with local restaurants tied into events during the game.
The location of the Mississippi Coast Coliseum stands out when watching the Mississippi Surge play hockey. More than likely, fans coming to the game will drive along the Mississippi coastline. There are not too many venues where fans can cross the street for a stroll along the beach after a hockey game.
If staying at a hotel within walking distance is important, the Quality Inn in Biloxi is the only game in town. However, within a 5-10 minute drive, most casinos, including the Beau Rivage, the Hard Rock Casino and the IP Casino can be reached for late night entertainment, eating or a place to stay.
The Surge often have post-game parties at Mugshots Grill & Bar (try the peanut butter burger), which is about five minutes west on US 90 next to Edgewater Mall.
Downtown Biloxi also offers a variety of bars to visit after the game.
History buffs will enjoy a visit to Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis home and presidential library, which sits next door to the Mississippi Coast Coliseum. During the Christmas season, the large oaks on the site are decorated.
It seems unfair, but the biggest knock against the fans of the Mississippi Surge is the lack of fans in attendance at most games. However, the fans that do attend the games come off as a knowledgeable, excited fan base.
Many fans of the Surge supported hockey in Biloxi when the Mississippi SeaWolves of the ECHL played in the Coast Coliseum, and traditions, such as ringing cowbells, continued through the changing of the teams.
A major plus for the crowd is the intensity of nearly every fan. For the most part, every fan seems to actually be into the game, not some random conversation or their smart phone. This really stands out on any questionable call or a goal.
The fans also keep up with the goings-on of the team during the season. Earlier in the 2012-13 season, the Surge and the Huntsville Havoc scrapped on the ice, and when it appeared another slobber-knocker may erupt, the crowd leapt to its feet.
The fans are also engaging of strangers. They love to tell their stories of following hockey in Mississippi, and they do not understand why more residents in the area do not attend games.
With its location on a major US Highway, the Mississippi Coast Coliseum proves to be an easy find. Those with good local knowledge will find little trouble with taking the exit (44) for the Coast Coliseum off of Interstate 10, while those a little more unfamiliar with the territory should consider taking the Cowan-Lorraine Road exit (38) and going east on US 90, or taking the Interstate 110 exit (46A) and going west on US 90.
Fans can enter the coliseum directly off of US 90 (usually the easiest) at a protected arrow or on Beauvoir Road. Parking costs five dollars and if tickets are in hand, any parking spot is as good as the next. Fans needing tickets should park on the east side of the parking lot.
Trips to the restroom will not require a long wait, and the staff at the Coast Coliseum does a good job making sure the restrooms are well-stocked and clean.
Over the past few years, sports fans have seen the cost of attending live events continue to rise. If a family of four with one teenager and one child under ten want to attend a game, they will pay $69 to walk in the door: three adult tickets at $18 each, a child's ticket for $10 and five dollars for parking.
Ten to 15 dollars a person should take care of concession costs for the family, and fifteen more dollars gets everyone four pucks in the pitch-a-puck contest for the night.
This brings the grand total for a family of four to $119 on the low end and $139 on the high end. Compared to taking the family to dinner and movie, fans will pay more to go watch the Surge play.
When the Huntsville Havoc notified the Mississippi Surge that they would be nearly three hours late to the arena, the Surge did a great job preserving the game day experience. The team took advantage of social media (@MSSurgeHockey) to let people know of the delay. Fans who had already entered the arena were allowed to get tickets signed in order to leave and return. For those deciding to wait at the arena, the video board showed the NFC championship game and the concession stands were open.
The team does a great job in letting fans plan ahead for their trip to the game through its website. Their FAQ section tells fans how to get selected for different in-game promotions and contests, how to suggest in-game music, when doors open (one hour before game time) or how to sing the national anthem before the game.
Finally, it may be a small thing, but as someone who routinely forgets to carry cash, the site of ATMs at both entrances to the coliseum makes for a welcome sight.
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2414 Beach Blvd
Biloxi, MS 39531