Still yet to secure a professional team, Las Vegas relies on the minor leagues for its franchises. In a region that does not experience a whole lot of ice outside of the mixed drinks, the Wranglers of the ECHL are one of the most popular teams in the region.
The team plays in the Orleans Arena, which is often confused with the New Orleans Arena in Louisiana. Primarily the home of the hockey team, it also occasionally hosts games for the UNLV Rebels basketball team when the Thomas and Mack Center is hosting another event.
Construction on the arena began in February of 2002 and after a cost of $85 million, the opening of the arena occurred on May 25. 2003. After being named an expansion franchise for the ECHL, the Wranglers played their first game at their current home on October 21, 2003.
An interesting factoid of the arena is that it was the first site ever connected to a casino with Sportsbook when it hosted an NCAA basketball tournament in November 2006. The WCC and WAC conferences have also hosted their annual basketball tournaments in the arena as well.
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 first thing fans may notice at the arena is the smart phone application known as Stadiyum. Rather than waiting in lines, fans can place an order via the app and have food delivered to them.
Immediately upon entering the arena, fans will notice the most impressive concession item (shown in photos), the candied apples. These apples range from $5-$8, and while that may seem a bit expensive, the flavors included worms and dirt, cheesecake, and rocky road.
The nuts are also impressive, offering cinnamon glazed almonds, french roasted cashews, chocolate peanuts, cinnamon glazed pecans, chocolate raisins for $3.50 each or two for $6.
The normal stadium fare is very reasonably priced, but limited in selection. Items here include Southwestern Philly or Italian club with chips ($6.50), pizza ($6), hamburgers ($6), hot dog ($4), polish sausage ($5), jumbo pretzel or bites ($3.50), nachos ($4), churros ($3.25), beef jerkey ($5) and popcorn ($5).
The beverage options include 16 oz soda ($3), 32 oz soda ($4), Gatorade ($3), Beer (ranges $5.50 - $7.50), wine ($5.50), cocktails ($5.50), bottled water ($3), Red Bull ($4), and hot chocolate or coffee for ($2).
The arena seems to be the perfect size (capacity approximately 7,400 for hockey) for the average crowds at a Wranglers game as the smaller size is conducive to a better atmosphere. While there were less than 7,000 fans at the game, there was definitely a buzz pregame as the concourses definitely seem alive with action. The Orleans seems more conducive to an exciting atmosphere with its smaller size than do the larger arenas of the other Southwestern teams, the Bakersfield Condors and Ontario Reign.
I was definitely impressed with the team's introductions, where the Volbeat 2010 song Warrior's Call was being played and I even saw some of the elderly fans dancing.
While it was nothing new to see the fan of the game and chuck a puck promotions, it was very different to see fans competing for tickets to Cirque du Soleil Mystere and Criss Angel's Believe.
When the Wranglers score a goal, both local fans and tourists will recognize "Viva Las Vegas" by Elvis Presley. Similar to the free taco promotion at the Los Angeles Lakers game, the Wranglers have the "Taco Tally." If the home team scores five goals in one game, fans receive a coupon for free tacos at fast food chain Del Taco.
I was surprised that I did not see too much of the mascot during the game. I failed to capture a photo of "The Duke," but follow the link to see an image of the large green bull.
One of the biggest no-brainers in all of Stadium Journey. Just a short walk away is the Orleans Casino, which while not one of the most notable Las Vegas hotels, would be considered one of the best anywhere else.
At the Orleans Casino, fans will find several fast food options as well as many fine dining options. The casino offers Sazio Italian Restaurant, Don Miguels, The Prime Rib Loft, Koji Sushi Bar and China Bistro, French Market Buffet, and Fuddruckers.
If you want to get away from the casino, McMullan's Irish Pub is not far away, offering everything from burgers to prime rib. They host a roast dinner every Sunday and have all you can eat fish and chips on Thursdays. Otherwise, just about any option fans can dream up will be available to them on the strip, at all hours of the day.
What I noticed most about the fans was the sheer variety in the Wranglers jerseys that were being donned. I must have witnessed at least 10 different types of jerseys, with everything from older logos to a Mardi Gras theme.
The fans were mostly subdued during the competition. There was a group above the player benches that would occasionally start a "Let's Go Wranglers" chant and they certainly showed enthusiasm for the home team during a goal or a fight, but otherwise I did not notice a lot of passion from them.
Many of the local residents could very likely be working these hours and I would assume that many of the tourists are unaware that this great option is even available to them.
The Orleans is just a few minutes from the Las Vegas strip and probably less than 15 minutes from downtown, just minutes off of Interstate 15.
Fans are treated to free parking and with a smaller capacity, it's never a long walk from your vehicle. Cabs and buses can easily get fans to the arena from the strip and the really aggressive fan could even walk from the strip.
The restrooms were extremely large and reminded me of some of the nicer restrooms in the nearby casinos.
Inside, fans are treated to a large concourse and being a smaller arena, it's rather simple to get from one end to the other. The seating is a single section (suites above) in a horseshoe shape. While there is only a single main scoreboard at one end of the arena, there are a pair of high definition televisions opposite the scoreboard that allows fans a closer look into the action.
In Las Vegas, there are very few options that do not carry a significant price tag with them. A night with the Wranglers provides entertainment for all ages and significantly less expensive than other forms of entertainment.
The highest priced tickets are the glass seating, where tickets cost $38. The Select Circle (slightly above the glass) seats go for $28.50, and the Premium (or center ice) seating is $21. The Mardi Gras seating takes up approximately 60 percent of the arena and goes for $17.50 ($6.00 for youth).
Parking is free of charge and the concessions are very reasonably priced for Las Vegas. I felt the concession prices are on par with other venues around the country.
The arena has two modern amenities that while are not mainstream just yet, deserve credit for being implemented ahead of the competition. The first, mentioned in the Food & Beverage section was the Stadiyum application for smart phones. The free app allows fans to order food and have it delivered straight to their seats. Secondly is the temporary advertisements shown via a projector on the arena walls. This provides the team flexibility to quickly change advertisements and cater specific messages for certain events easily. The costs associated with installing and creating permanent signs are decreased and better positions the team's financial standing.
Being the Orleans Casino, I also enjoyed the Mardi Gras theme. Each portal (or tunnel) entrance had an image of a Mardi Gras mask and vivid colors above it. Large ribbons and flags in Mardi Gras colors also gave the concourse some personality.
Fans can also treat themselves to great views of the Las Vegas Strip from the arena parking lot or from one of the two smoking areas. For evening games, the night sky is lit up with all of the lights from the casinos in the distance.
Lastly, extra points are given to the Wranglers for catering to their community. As many of the residents work in the casinos at the busy evening hours, the team hosts a few games during the season with a start time of midnight.
There are certainly many entertainment options in Las Vegas, but as far as live sports go, the Wranglers offer one of the best. In fact the Las Vegas Review-Journal has named the team the "Best Local Sports Team" several times, beating out the likes of the Las Vegas 51s and the UNLV football program. If you're in town, be sure to get a few minutes off the strip to check out a Wranglers game.
Follow Drew's Travel's Through Southern California on Twitter @Big10Drew.
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