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Official Review by Andrew Kulyk, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Brampton, Ontario, a bedroom community of Toronto and located next to the sprawling and bustling Toronto Pearson International Airport, began their splash in the world of minor league hockey in 1998, hastily building a new community center and rink complex and welcoming a new expansion team to the Ontario Hockey League – the Brampton Battalion. Only problem was that a new OHL team was also being placed down the road in Mississauga. Coupled with the fact that there were four OHL teams now competing in the same market, something had to give. Sagging attendance forced the move of the Battalion to North Bay.
In came a new ownership group to locate a Central Hockey League team in the now vacant space. The Brampton Beast began play in 2013, a geographical oddity in a league largely based in the Midwest. That league was absorbed by the East Coast Hockey League effective the 2014-15 season. The Brampton Beast now play as the lone Canadian representative of that sprawling league.
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".
All the concession stands here present identical menus. Pizza Pizza is a national chain and their fresh baked slices cost from $3.98 to $4.43, or you can purchase by the entire pie. ($17.70 for cheese and $19.47 for pepperoni.) French fries can also be purchased "Poutine" style, complete with cheese curds and gravy ($5.50). Poutine purists may protest because the curds aren't curds at all, but rather grated cheese. Coke and Dasani products are sold by the bottle, and of course, Powerade is sold here.
There is but one small vending cart offering alcoholic beverages, Coors and Molsons are sold here for $6, Rickards Red can be purchased for $6.50, and mixed drinks and wine for $6.
You will definitely want to get here early. The team offers up a pretty lengthy and robust laser light show with the house lights dimmed, and it is a feast for the senses. A huge grey inflated "beast" is unfurled as the home team comes out onto the ice. The stands aren't filled to capacity, but the fans who are here are pretty intense and passionate about their team. The game day staff does all the right things with the video board, the team mascot, and entertainment snippets during the breaks without being overwhelming.
While Brampton has its charming spaces, particularly the Queen Street corridor, and the city continues to explode in growth with the ongoing expansion of the Toronto region, what you will find in the vicinity surrounding the Powerade Centre is just awful. The arena sits amidst a sprawled park of office structures, warehouses and light industrial facilities, many undoubtedly existing solely to be in close proximity to Pearson Airport. The arena footprint abuts the Hwy 407 and Hwy 410 divided highways, and the building is surrounded by oceans of asphalt. It is clean, sterile and safe, but one of the most uninviting and desolate locations you would ever want to happen upon.
The Beast ranked close to last in attendance in their one and only season in the CHL. Things don't seem to be getting too much better this season, their first season in the ECHL (2014-15). The team has actually tarped over two end zone sections in one end zone corner to reduce capacity in the 5000 seat building. The fans that do attend are pretty loud and passionate, wear the team colors, and are into the game. Bringing in visiting ECHL teams into this market would seem like a no brainer in attracting hockey purists.
The only way to get to Powerade Centre is by car. The location is desolate, off the grid and at least a mile away from the nearest store or shopping center. It is also disappointing that there is no directional signage on the 410 or 407 freeways to direct patrons to the proper exits. Another point to add about this facility is that the parking configuration is an absolute nightmare. There is abundant surface parking, but it all empties into a single ring road on the site and then onto the street. If there is a full house in the stands, expect long delays getting out of there. The entire traffic management plan is so correctable, it is amazing that nobody is running with it.
Ticket prices start at $22.25 for most of the seating bowl. Special rail seats, titled "gallery seats," are perched high above one end zone, and are priced at $28.25. These seats offer easy access to the Real Stars Bar and Grill, an in house restaurant and sports grill on the mezzanine level which overlooks the main seating bowl and practice rinks located in the complex. These prices are a bit high for ECHL level hockey, but throw in the ample free parking and the reasonable concession prices, and remembering that these prices are in Canadian dollars, it all comes to a pretty good entertainment value.
-Give one star to the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame. Many of these junior and minor league arenas in Canada have dedicated spaces to showcase their local greats, and the presentation in Brampton is well laid out on two sides of their concourse. It's always fun trying to find the national celebrities and names that jump right out. Notable names here? CBC broadcast personality Cassie Campbell and NHL superstar Rick Nash.
-One star for addition by subtraction... the former Brampton Battalion military shtick in their game presentation was ridiculous. (Example: the "one minute left in the period" announcement was "one minute until cease fire"). The Beast keep it simple - nothing wrong with cute mascots, chuck a puck contests and things to keep the kids happy.
-One star for the center ice video scoreboard. Great technology for a rink of this stature, and the Beast do a top notch job with video presentation.
How unfortunate that the fans in Toronto will take out second mortgages on their homes to see their NHL Leafs play, while the stable of minor league entities in this region playing in the AHL, the OHL and now the ECHL struggle to attract fans. It is a conundrum for sure, but make no mistake, the Toronto GTA is well represented as the Canadian representative in the East Coast Hockey League with the Brampton Beast. The arena needs more gussying up, but the product is as solid as you get at this level, and what really needs to happen is to get the word out.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Mar 04, 2013
As the original review notes, Brampton was always a could-be franchise and after the 2012-13 season, they will be moving to North Bay. A CHL team will be playing here from 2013, so it will be interesting to see if the arena gets some renovations.
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