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Official Review by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Scope Arena is part of Norfolk Scope, a three-part entertainment and convention complex that includes the arena, a 2,500-seat theater named Chrysler Hall, and a 600-car underground parking garage. The arena is used for many types of events, but mainly ice hockey, and there are even plaques displaying the names of notable former players on the walls inside (check out the video).
Currently home to the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, starting in 2015-16, the arena will instead host the ECHL Admirals, and not because the franchise is moving back to that league – instead, the change is due to a three-city deal in which the current Admirals are moving to San Diego to become the Gulls (staying in the AHL), while the ECHL Bakersfield Condors are moving to Norfolk to become the new Admirals.
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For a smallish venue, Scope Arena has a surprisingly wide variety of food and beverage choices - there are concession stands all over the arena on both sides of the circular "hallway," which really helps with the traffic flow. For starters, hot dogs are $3.50, Polish sausage is $5, and specialty sausage or foot-long Chicago style hot dogs are $6.50. Ynot pizza is available for $5 per slice; you can also get Ynot stromboli for $8. Loaded chili is $6, chili cheese fries are $8, and chicken tenders and barbecue sandwiches are $8.50 (fries included). Super nachos and giant burritos can be had for $9, pork nachos for $8.50, and brisket sandwiches or pulled pork platters for $10. Lastly, you can get cheeseburgers for $8.50 and Philly cheese steak sandwiches for $9. However, since people cannot live on main dishes alone, there are also plenty of other choices - peanuts or candy for $3.50, pretzels or snow cones for $4, fries for $4.50, popcorn or kettle corn starting at $4.50, nachos for $5, Dippin' Dots for $5.50, and cotton candy or funnel cake for $6.
The variety at Scope also extends to beverages; coffee and hot cocoa are $3-$4, water is $4, and soda is $3-$6.50, depending on size and whether or not you want to take home a souvenir mug. Lemonade is $5, and beer and wine start at $7, including a wide selection of brands in cans, bottles, or on tap.
Scope Arena has amazing architecture (see the Extras section for more detail) and is well designed, but it is also dated and not well attended for hockey games. The seats, for example, are the kind you see in movie theaters all over America, which fold down and have cushioned seats that are difficult to clean - except for rinkside, where there are padded folding chairs, as well as the "best seats in the house," which are leather couches right next to the glass near mid-rink. The venue draws a better crowd in good years, but lately with the Admirals at or near the bottom of their division, it might only get one-quarter or one-third full during a typical game. There is decent support for the local community with events like Make-a-Wish night, but even this does not improve the attendance that much - this may help explain the three-city move mentioned above; perhaps the change will allow the team to become more competitive and thus get more fans.
The Admirals do have two mascots, which is unique and a lot of fun - the first is a yellow dog named Hat Trick, who sports a black bicorn cap and coat; the second is a brown dog named Salty who wears a partial helmet and jersey.
If you have time before or after the game (or if want to stay the weekend), Norfolk offers plenty to see and do. Starting with harbor cruises or fishing on the water nearby, there are also numerous museums and historic sites, including the Battleship Wisconsin, the Chrysler Museum of Art, and many historic churches and homes. You can also tour the naval station or Fort Norfolk, or visit the botanical gardens. If you want to take in a show, the Robin Hixon Theater is right next to Scope Arena, and Chrysler Hall is part of the same complex.
If you are looking for something to eat before or after the game, or anytime during your visit to Norfolk, there are three great restaurants right across the street from the arena. Your best bet is Baxter's Sports Lounge on Granby, which offers typical bar food such as burgers and sandwiches, but also more refined options, such as pasta, jambalaya, and flatbread pizza, as well as plenty of different beers on tap, and multiple TV screens. More upscale than your typical sports bar, Baxter's actually posts a dress code.
If you prefer seafood, which I always recommend when you visit coastal towns and the catch is therefore fresher, 4-5-6 Fish is right next door to Baxter's. Only open for dinner, this upscale, pleasant bistro offers cocktails as well as almost any seafood item you can think of, plus a handful of non-seafood options like pork tenderloin. Prices here are a little on the high side compared to other restaurants nearby.
The third option is Bite on Monticello, which is only open for breakfast and lunch (Bite is mostly a catering place, after all). Lunch options include salad, burgers, and hot and cold sandwiches, while breakfast offerings include omelets, burritos, and breakfast sandwiches. All three of these restaurants can be seen from the fountain side of the arena.
Some of the fans wear gear, but most do not, and the venue is generally far from a sell-out. On most nights, there is a large contingent of visiting fans, and while they are certainly outnumbered by the home crowd, the visiting fans make a lot more noise, which is not something you typically see, or want to, either.
Norfolk is easy enough to get to with several major freeways intersecting here, and there are plenty of bathrooms inside Scope Arena. However, parking is a different story entirely - there is plenty of parking, but none of the options are really great. Your first choice is to park on the street for free (which, oddly enough, is only illegal on Thursdays from 9 am to 2 pm), and there are plenty of spots there. However, it doesn't feel very safe, so instead you could use the parking deck under the arena, but with only 600 spaces it fills up quickly. Therefore, most people end up parking in the 20-plus story Wells Fargo deck across the street from the arena, which only costs $5, but is really annoying because it takes so long to get in and out - it is best to get there early so you can park on one of the lower levels.
One really nice feature is that inside the arena proper there are black pillars all around the outside that display the section numbers, so it is really easy to find your seat.
When they aren't running a special, the cheapest tickets are $17 at the door, but you can save $3.50 if you buy in advance. While parking is pretty cheap, concession prices are on the high side for most items, especially the beer. The best thing about the venue is the architecture, and you can see that for free by just walking around. There are plenty of other sporting events in Norfolk that would be more fun for the money, like the Tides or the college teams at ODU or Norfolk State.
Two points for the gorgeous architecture and fountain - Norfolk Scope is designed to be elegant as well as functional, and blends perfectly with its surroundings, unlike the typical gaudy sports arena that is plopped down in the middle of town nowadays and sticks out like a sore thumb. Featuring the world's largest reinforced thinshell concrete dome, the central structure is actually circular, with plate glass walls all around, with concrete pillars curving off the top to create the dome. The arena even won an architectural award in 2003.
The dome itself is worth seeing, and the town of Norfolk too with all its sights and attractions, but not so much the Admirals themselves. For fans of other hockey teams, if you really want to see this venue, I would wait until your team comes to town.
Member Review by jharver
To appreciate how much the Scope doesn't smell like the inside of a well-used hockey skate these days, you'd have to be one of the thousands who flocked to the place back when it housed the ECHL's Hampton Roads Admirals.
Built smack-dab in the middle of downtown Norfolk in 1971, and used for everything from concerts to boxing matches, the Scope's main attraction for the past several years has been minor league hockey. While two indoor football teams - the Norfolk Knights and Nighthawks - have come and gone, the Admirals have ridden out three different NHL affiliations by consistently filling most of the 8,725 seats available for their games.
Though a clear notch below "Hockeytown" status, the city of Norfolk - recently reorganized under the "Seven Venues" brand for local events - does enough right with its arena to make an evening spent at the game worth your while. The smell is just the beginning.
Member Review by fraser52 on Nov 13, 2011
The Scope has been the home to the AHL's Norfolk Admirals since there inception in 2000. It has gone through many changes in the past 12 seasons. For one the scoreboard used to be a small pixelized screen, which was replaced 3 years ago by a larger LED screen scoreboard along with 2 screens behind each goal. The seats which are a dark maroon color used to be a bright navy blue back in the day as well.
The Scope does have a distinct smell, but its nothing too ba that will distract from enjoying a great game of hockey.
209 W Freemason St
Norfolk, VA 23510
500 Granby St
Norfolk, VA 23510
300 Monticello Ave
Norfolk, VA 23510
201 Brambleton Ave
Norfolk, VA 23514
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