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Official Review by Eric Hasman, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Opened in 1981, BMO Harris Bank Center was known as the Metro Centre or as the “Big Orange Box” by many locals due to the reddish/orange exterior. BMO Harris Bank Center seats about 5,895 for hockey, 10,000 for concerts and approximately 7,700 for basketball.
The Rockford IceHogs have been the AHL affiliate for the Chicago Blackhawks since the 2007-08 season. Prior to that season they were in the United Hockey League (UHL).
The unique thing about BMO Harris Bank Center is that when the IceHogs were accepted into the AHL, the arena ice surface had to be extended by 15’. As a result, one end of the arena used to have seating but now is open. Also, since the rest of the seating bowl was not changed, the player benches do not have enough room for the back-up goalies. Therefore, they sit away from the rest of the team and are where the zambonis come out between periods.
The seating is basically a horseshoe shape with one end being open. In the open end there is an ice level area that serves as the club lounge. From the upper level, fans can watch the game overlooking the goal for a fantastic angle of the action on the ice. In addition, there are about 10 conventional skyboxes located on one side of BMO Harris Bank Center.
Their gift shop has the usual stuff with hats, t-shirts, sweatpants, and game worn uniforms. The selection is pretty good too.
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 food at BMO Harris Bank Center is outstanding. There are many choices. The panini stand serving meatball, pepperoni and cheese sandwiches is exceptional.
In addition, the Barnyards' pulled pork bbq is good too. The fried buffalo chicken or the country fried chicken fried sandwiches are both impressive. The "Pig Slop" includes French fries, cole slaw, pulled pork and nacho cheese ($8.25).
There are also the standard arena foods such as Papa Johns pizza ($4.25 a slice), nachos / taco stand and hot dogs, bratwurst, Polish sausage, and Italian beef.
The beer here is lacking. It is mostly Budweiser products in cans. However, there are some craft beers on tap in the arena but the selection is rather thin. There are some mixed drinks too.
BMO Harris Bank Center is small, but the fans who attend are really into the game. Since the place is so small you are very close to the action and there is no bad seat in the arena.
Hammy, the mascot, does a lot on the ice to entertain the crowd. After the game he is near the exit taking pictures with fans.
Hanging in the rafters is the IceHogs' lone championship banner from their UHL championship. This is only banner at the arena, indicating that the franchise as a whole has not been very successful on the ice.
There is not much of a neighborhood around the arena. It is mostly government buildings or vacant storefronts near the BMO Harris Bank Center, but there are a few bars and restaurants within walking distance. You'll find some fans at the Kiwi Café & Bar before the game, which is near the entrance of the arena. There's nothing special about this bar except the proximity to the BMO Center. After the game, the bar Kryptonite is hopping and there is a line to get in.
As with many minor league sports, the people in attendance are mostly families. In addition, there are many fans wearing game worn jerseys and replica jerseys.
In the past few years the attendance has been on the rise. Now the IceHogs average about 4,800 per game. And the fans who go are loud and into the game, which makes for some good times. The intensity is increased when the "local" rival the Chicago Wolves (St. Louis Blues AHL affiliate) are in town.
After a home team goal is scored the crowd taunts the opposing goalie to the old tune of "Mony, Mony," by saying "hey guess what, you're goalie sucks." If you don't like cowbells you are not going to like this place. It seems that most of the people have one here.
Getting to the arena from Chicago is easy; off I-90 onto US 20 through a commercial area with shopping and restaurants. Just about every major chain you can think of is down this stretch. Then you drive through residential neighborhoods which are bit rundown, but safe. Then it becomes somewhat industrial, and lastly you arrive downtown.
There are parking lots all around the arena which cost about $5. In addition, there is a lot of free street parking a couple blocks from the arena. Leaving the game, the one road, US 20, is packed and it takes about 15 minutes before you get to an area where traffic is flowing again. It really would help if Rockford police directed traffic after a game.
Tickets range from $8 to $27, depending on the game. The IceHogs instituted a "premium" pricing program. Despite this pricing between the promotions, game activities and food this is well worth the time and effort to get there to Rockford.
One star for the "zamboni" ride between periods a person can buy. They took a zamboni and removed the water tank and put seats in the area on top. The "zamboni" fits 10 people and the money goes to a charity.
One star for the promotional themed night jerseys worn throughout the franchise's history. I wish all teams would adopt this.
One star for "The Stars of Tomorrow" area where there are pictures of former players who have made it to the NHL.
One star for the standing areas with tables within the arena. There is an upper level area on the open end of the stadium where people can stand and watch the game. My only beef with this area is that if you are not right against the railing you can not see all of the ice. Also, on the lower level on the open end there are a bunch of sit down tables and stand up bar tables.
Due to Rockford being fairly close to the Chicagoland area (about 2 hrs), and the IceHogs being the Chicago Blackhawks' affiliate, combined with all the promotions the IceHogs have, this is a can't miss venue for hockey fans.
Member Review by paul
The Rockford IceHogs originated as a team in the now defunct UHL (United Hockey League) in 1999. In 2007 they joined the prestigious AHL, and became the top minor league affiliate of the nearby Chicago Blackhawks.
Known for years as the Rockford MetroCentre, the arena was renamed in August 2011 as the BMO Harris Bank Center, although many fans continue to simply call it the "Big Orange Box." With outstanding food offerings, fair prices, and a few interesting twists, the BMO Harris Bank Center is a great place to catch a game.
Member Review by uicpuckheadpaul on Jan 26, 2012
The bowl-style area has a college atmosphere feel to it. There are no bad seats in the arena, which does not have an upper deck. The fans are energetic and supportive of the team. The arena is located in the downtown area of Rockford. There are a few restaurants in the area, but clearly there's a revitalization afoot. Tickets and parking is affordable. I absolutely love going here for games. I could go to Rosemont to see the Wolves, but prefer Rockford instead by leaps and bounds. I have yet to have a poor experience here.
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Nov 10, 2013
A great rink with surprisingly varied and tasty food options, an $8 ticket, the ability to sit anywhere, free parking all around, and cool fans. Can't add much more than the main review, the IceHogs go whole hog on the ham theme, with a Hamboni ride, a flying pig, and even signing Theo PeckHAM.
Member Review by akulyk on May 05, 2014
Once simply known as the “MetroCentre,” BMO Harris Bank Center is the home of the AHL Rockford IceHogs, the successor to the old United Hockey League franchise which also used to play at this facility.
Opened in 1981, the arena seats almost 6,000 for hockey, and is located right in the middle of downtown Rockford, an industrial city with ample building stock in the center city, but sorely in need of vision and fresh investment. Locals call the arena “The Barnyard,” although with the distinctive reddish/orange brick façade, another nickname for the arena is the “Big Orange Box.”
The current IceHogs are the descendants of the old Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, a franchise which went defunct for one season before landing in Rockford in time for the 2007-08 season. The IceHogs are the AHL affiliate for the Chicago Blackhawks, add some local connection to the squad for fans.
509 E State St,
Rockford, IL 61104
515 E State St
Rockford, IL 61104
514 E State St
Rockford, IL 61104
519 E State St,
Rockford, IL 61104
211 Elm St
Rockford, IL 61101
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