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Official Review by Harrison Huntley, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In the 1990s, hockey was coming alive in the south and people were beginning to take notice. This led to the founding of many teams in unlikely, non-traditional locations. While locations like Fort Lauderdale, Tampa Bay, and Raleigh got most of the attention, the minor leagues were busy placing their teams in the south. The South Carolina Stingrays were the first hockey team in the state, and are one of only two teams to continue operating today. Since the team’s founding in 1993, they have played in the North Charleston Coliseum, a multi-purpose venue located about 20 minutes outside the city. Though the arena itself may feel a little stale, the action and the people who watch it make the Coliseum an entertaining hockey experience.
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".
If you need a meal, the food is there. Otherwise, I would suggest eating elsewhere. There isn't anything special, and the prices are standard stadium prices (which aren't cheap). Everything is just traditional stadium food, like hot dogs and chicken fingers. When you factor in the surrounding area (and the city you are near), eating at the stadium becomes less appealing. The one bright side is that beer is relatively cheap. A large beer is $7, and there is a rather expansive selection, including some local brews.
You will notice as you walk to your seats that it's a rather vanilla arena. Red plastic seats sit atop a grey concourse that's filled with ads. The ice itself is filled with ads, too. Even the clock behind the net is a basketball shot clock. Like many minor league arenas, the upper level end zone seats are tarped off, in the hopes of making the arena feel a little more intimate. Overall, there's nothing really unique found inside the arena.
The fun part of the atmosphere is not what is in the arena, but the events that fill it. This is a minor league game, and that's not easy to forget. The day I attended was Star Wars Day, and with that came many Star Wars-themed games, promotions, and giveaways. While some may see this as a negative, I think the opposite. This is a minor league game, and it should feel like it.
The Coliseum is located in an outlet mall with tons of shopping, lodging, and dining. The offerings are mostly of the chain variety, but there is a good selection. The full list is too long for this review, but you are sure to find something to fit your taste here.
Of course, if you're looking for something a little more unique, you can always take the 20-minute drive to downtown Charleston. If you've never been, it is an absolute must. Once you get downtown, you will understand why it is such a highly-rated tourist destination.
With it being minor league hockey in the south, you may not expect much from the fans here. In terms of numbers, you would be right. The Stingrays usually rank near the bottom of the ECHL attendance lists. However, the fans that do come try their hardest to be heard. They get loud for tense moments and at times, the noise levels mimic those of your average NHL game. While they may not be the most in number, Stingrays fans know how to get loud.
There's a lot to like here in the access category. The arena is located at the intersection of Charleston's main interstate highway, I-26, and its beltway, I-526. You should have no problem entering or exiting the stadium. Parking is only $5, and you can park almost anywhere in the lot. Getting to the Coliseum was one of the easiest experiences I've ever had.
Tickets are available in print or on your phone though Ticketmaster. Either way, they can scan your ticket fast and get you into the game easily.
Tickets start at $12 for the upper level, which is a good seat for most people. The seats are not that high up, and offer a great view of the ice. If you'd rather sit on the lower level, those start at $20. Don't let the face value turn you away. The Stingrays run a number of promotions that make tickets cheap. Some nights are BOGO nights, some are $7 college and military, and some are family four-pack nights (4 tickets, drinks, hot dogs, and popcorns for $55). While some prices might seem high, check to see if there is a promotion to take advantage of.
I was overwhelmed by the Stingrays' military salute. It was during a break in the action that they began playing "Born in the USA." They had a special section for the military and they called out each of their names and titles to the applause of not just the fans, but the players and referees too. Take note, other teams -- this is how you honor the troops.
The Stingrays' mascot is Cool Ray, the giant stingray. You can find Cool Ray making his rounds in the stands and leading games during intermission.
A local trucking company Liquid Box built the Fan Zam, a zamboni built with TVs, speakers, and much more that gives fans a ride around the ice during intermission.
Hockey in Charleston is still an oddity. It isn't the most popular thing to do on the weekends, but don't let that discourage you. A night at the North Charleston Coliseum may not be equivalent to something up north, but hockey is hockey, and for a small price, you can have the unique experience that is southern hockey.
Member Review by corymsims on Feb 25, 2014
The South Carolina Stingrays were established in 1993, and play in the North Charleston Coliseum in the city of North Charleston, SC. They were the first professional hockey team in the Palmetto State, and are the oldest continuously-operating ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) franchise to remain in its original city. For their first several years, the Stingrays were a minor league team affiliated with the Washington Capitals, but in 2012 inked a new deal with the Boston Bruins. The Coliseum is presently undergoing a renovation to add more concessions stands, widen the concourse, and create more event spaces for parties and receptions. With a revamped home ice, better marketing and more advertising, the Stingrays could be a much more popular team than at present. For now, though, it wouldn’t be hard to find a Charleston resident who never even knew the team existed.
Member Review by Sports Venue Fan on Mar 07, 2015
With most natives in South Carolina only caring about Clemson or South Carolina, hockey teams like the Stingrays have to rely on us Northeners who are starving for any hockey. It is hard to believe the team has been able to survive for as long as it has with recent reports that they lose $500,000 plus per year. North Charleston Coliseum, while built in 1993 and just renovated, looks 20 years older on the outside. I'm not sure what look they were going for when they built this?
Food & Beverage
The concession stands in the concourse just has traditional stadium food, like hot dogs, etc. But go to the lounge area and there are much more selections, like a food court, plus a full liquor bar. Hot Dogs are good with the stand in the lounge area having a great variety of toppings.
The concourse is very plain, almost feels like an airport. The seating area and ice were better. It was then it finally started to feel like we were at a hockey game. The night we attended there was a good crowd on hand. The game was typical minor league with a lot of scrappy play and hits. There was not a lot of interaction with the fans like they do in Greenville. Very little in game activities and promotions. I do believe they need more of that and maybe that will boost attendance. Between plays it was dull most times. This is minor league and the fans, especially kids, need to be entertained. Also, they were playing in-state rival Greenville tonight but you would have thought they were playing some team from a thousand miles away. The Stingrays management did nothing to hipe-up this game as a rivalry, the battle for the state. I believe they could do a lot more to promote these games, maybe even offer packages to attend the Stingrays game in Greenville, and vice-versa. The AAA baseball teams in NY State do a great job with this calling their games with in-state rivals the Thruway Series, as they are all located along the NY State Thruway. They could call these games the Palmetto Series, us in SC love anything Palmetto, and that would give these games more meaning, create hype before the games, make a wager between the cities, and have a trophy to award at the last game they play during the season to give to the team who won most games. Anything to create more excitement as everyone loves a rivalry, and get more in the seats.
Usually I will give bad marks for an arena not located in the downtown of the city. I guess with this team being called South Carolina, what city do they really represent? Charleston? North Charleston? The whole state? I guess you could say it's located in sort-of what you would call downtown North Charleston as they really have no downtown business district. You could not have this arena in downtown Charleston as there would be no place to park, I guess the only place in Charleston would be near the baseball stadium.
If you are from out-of-town stay at one of the hotels nearby, there are two right on the coliseum property site, and either walk or take a hotel shuttle. There is plenty of parking. Tanger Outlett Mall is nearby, as well as many restaurants. The area is a suburban mall area with easy access to I-26 and I-526. The plus is that there are numerous restaurants nearby, along with hotels and shopping. I know North Charleston gets a bad reputation, but this is a very good part of North Charleston.
The night I attended there was a pretty large crowd on hand. The fans are hockey fans from all over the country. Many wearing their NHL jersey from their hometown, but quite a few had Stingrays attire on. So, with many being northern hockey fans, they were knowledgeable and excited about the game. It would get dull and quiet during breaks in the action with, as I stated above, little fan interaction. They got really loud for good plays, goals, and a fight.
An arena in the suburbs right off two interstates with plenty of parking, it does get any easier than that. The arena is located just off both I-26, and I-526, so it's easy to get to from almost anywhere in the Charleston area and the Lowcountry, or for me, driving down from Columbia because we lost our hockey team the Columbia Inferno.
Return on Investment
For lower league minor league hockey, I believe ticket prices are high. Tickets are much cheaper in Greenville for the same league of hockey. We sat in the lower bowl just a few rows from the ice and had a great view and great experience. Food prices were about what you would expect in an arena, food choices were good, and I loved they had a liquor bar. Easy access was great. Just add some more in-game promotions, get an in-state rivalry going, and that will make a great game even greater.
Did not see much of the Stingrays' mascot, Cool Ray, a giant stingray. He was on ice a couple of time and made a limited rounds in stands. Go down the road to the Charleston River Dogs baseball to see how entertaining mascots can be. They were the best.
For us missing easy access to hockey that we had up north, there are not many choices in the south, but the Stingrays are a good product, easy access, and are just a few things away from being a great experience. They need to go to a few Greenville games to see a better experience. So far I hear they have a secure short-term future as the city of North Charleston is going to give them a $500,000 arena lease "rebate" to help the team with their mounting losses. If you like hockey, live near Charleston, then go to the games and support the team! Or if you are more used to Big Saturday, then give hockey a try.
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