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Official Review by Bill Kintner, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
When you think of Omaha, you probably think of the College World Series or Creighton Basketball, but there is another sports team that has a loyal following and that is the Lancers, a minor league hockey program in the United States Hockey League.
The Lancers play their games in a new multipurpose arena, which offers a nice fan experience, in a family-friendly atmosphere, at a reasonable price.
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".
Ralston Arena has the basics covered and they do it for a decent price, well that is decent for arena food. Here is the big value-beer. A 16 ounce domestic beer is $4.00 and a 24 ounce domestic is $6.00. Add a dollar for imports. They have a beer booth in each corner and the Coors booth has a super cold draft unit that serves the beer at 29 degrees. In addition to the standard arena food that sports fans expect, you can find Famous Dave's BBQ, Domino's Pizza, Maria's Mexican food (a Ralston favorite), Omaha Steaks as well as funnel cakes and donuts. Here're some additional options which include a rating:
Hot dogs: $4.00 A jumbo Hebrew National dog, served hot, lightly spiced, juicy with a soft warm bun and it's kosher! - Rating: A
Large popcorn: $3.50 warm, salty and a buttery taste. - Rating: B-
Nachos w/ cheese: $4.00 warm, lightly spiced cheese and good chips that weren't broken. - Rating: B
Pepsi: 32 oz cup $4.00
Loud, loud, loud are the first three words that come to mind starting about 30 minutes before game time. The music is loud, the announcer is loud and the fans are loud. Throw in the flashing lights on the ribbon boards and it is bordering on sensory over-load. The music was a little too loud for my taste, but the crowd was close to a sell out, so it must not bother most of the fans. The crowd is a little more blue collar than a Creighton basketball game or an Omaha Storm Chasers game. Heck, even the girl that sang the national anthem wore a flannel shirt and blue jeans.
The seating bowl is a small pit design with a concourse that circles it. There are four overlook areas in the corners where fans can sit or stand, and watch the game. They sell seats along the corner railing where there is a ledge for food and drink. The sightlines for hockey are very good. There is not a bad seat in the house. There are 12 suites above the seats on the sides and two court level super suites on one end, a little like the court level suites at Pitt's Peterson Events Center. High above the end seats are large video scoreboards that are very easy to see and feature stats. There are ribbon boards on the side walls above the suites and above that are six flat boards on each side that feature messages and advertisements. The concourse is a little tight, if you don't keep looking down as you walk, you might bump into someone. There is area in the arena just behind the club seats, but walled off, that can be used for banquets, dinners and meetings as part of a game day experience or separate from a game.
Finally, Blades the over-sized bird mascot is very entertaining as he skates around the ice tossing a football into the crowd, then catching when a fan throws it back. He also tosses t-shirts and other trinkets into the crowd.
There is no neighborhood that could be considered attached to the arena. Across the street is Ragazzi's Pizza and just up the street is the Anchor Inn. Ragazzi's has good pizza and assorted food including sandwiches for a decent price. The Anchor Inn has an assortment of burgers, sandwiches and BBQ. If you like a large burger the Battleship Burger comes with bacon and it weighs in at a half pound.
Maria's Mexican Restaurant is just a few blocks from the arena and they run daily specials that are popular with many fans. They also are one of the featured restaurants that has a concession stand in the arena.
You can find all kinds of fast food within a two mile radius that will satisfy about any basic food cravings.
The fans are passionate about their Lancers. There are lots of families and lots of children of all ages running around the concourse. They bring signs, they cheer and they make the arena come alive. There are plenty of fans wearing orange Lancer gear, too. You will never forget that you are at an Omaha Lancer game. These fans are loyal: even when the Lancers are eliminated from making the USHL playoffs, they still get a near sellout crowd, which is impressive.
This venue is easy to get to, just a few blocks off of I-80. The parking is free and close to the venue. There are only 1200 parking spaces, which makes parking pretty tight, so getting there early is recommended. The restrooms are very close to the seating, large and clean. They can get a little crowded during peak times.
Tickets in advance are $18.75, $17.75 and $16.75. Day of the game the tickets are $22, $21 and $20. A ticket purchased at the door, plus a hot dog, popcorn and large Pepsi can be had for $31.50, which is a decent value for a hockey game.
The four corner overlooks are worthy of a star. The wide assortment of beer at a good price earns a star and the no-flush urinals in the men's room are unique and worth a star.
This is a solid entertainment option for families and for anyone that loves hockey. Every seat offers a great view of the action and the scoreboards. The food is decent and the atmosphere is very good. It is a very good winter entertainment option.
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5170 S 72nd Street
Ralston, NE 68127
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