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Official Review by Nick Stevens, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The Rapid City Rush are celebrating their fifth year in the Central Hockey League during the 2012-2013 season. They call home the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, a complex of arenas and exhibition spaces in downtown Rapid City, South Dakota. Despite their short existence, the Rush already have a rich history, winning the President’s Cup in 2010 and a division championship in 2011. The team has a fervent following and they frequently sell out their arena.
The Rushmore Center dates back to 1977, built as part of restoration efforts after Rapid Creek flooded and devastated the city in 1972. Just a couple blocks north of downtown, it has been gradually added to over the years. The hockey arena was completed in 2008 in time for the Rush’s inaugural season.
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".
Mostly standard arena fare is found here, but at great prices. The more typical offerings are located in all the interior vendors while more unique offerings are interspersed throughout the concourse in stand-alone islands. Sodas like Coke and Dr Pepper start at $3, hot dogs ($4) and burgers are $5.
Pizza was only available at a single location for $3 a slice. The pizza stand had Cactus Flats, which are hot tortilla chips with a cinnamon sugar coating. There was also a Subway cart that offered a limited number of the chain's subs. A coffee and espresso bar is available if you need a lift.
Draft Budweiser and Coors beers were $3 for 12 oz , $4 for 16 oz and $6 for 24 oz. Add 50 cents for more specialty brews such as Fat Tire, Shiner Bock and Batch 19. The Penalty Box, located just by the main entrance, is a full service bar with mixed drinks and wine. Note that alcohol is sold at separate vendors from the food. You are also required to first show your ID and get a blue bracelet before purchasing any spirits. The specialty beers are only sold outside of section D. Due to the large crowds, if you are at the other side of the arena it can take some time to get there and back.
The arena is U-shaped single bowl around the ice, with a small bleacher section at the open part of the U under a huge jumbotron screen. With a capacity of 5,132 for hockey, there is not a bad seat in the house. Above the bowl is a ring of luxury suites with a large club at one end. The club has its own food and beverage vendors and lounge area with couches and high tables.
The team seems to have great sponsorship. The boards were packed with ads and each portal section had a local company sign. On ice events, such as powerplays and penalties were "brought to you by ..." on the big board. The visitor penalty box has its own camera to show the rival offender. When they had two in the box, the jumbotron would show them both with the "kiss cam" graphics overlayed, which was quite the crowd-pleaser.
While the crowd and actual hockey viewing experience is great, it is hindered by the arena itself. The venue is just too small to comfortably handle capacity crowds. The concourse is narrow and is further hindered by the many single stand vendors that compete for space in the hall. Between periods it is simply packed and it takes quite a bit of time to get from one end to the other. However, there are video monitors everywhere, including the bathrooms, so even if you are late back to your seats you will not miss any action.
The seats themselves are quite tight and made of hard thin plastic. The outside is a plain windowless concrete and brown brick building. For an arena only built five years ago, it is surprisingly bland. There are no architectural flourishes or even a marquee on the side of the building. This is probably not the worst thing to complain about if you are the Rush. How many CHL or minor-league teams of any sport can complain that their venue is too small for their crowds?
The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is two blocks north of the heart of downtown Rapid City, just across Rapid Creek. Within the complex itself is a Holiday Inn and also a Howard Johnson's just across the street. The Holiday Inn is a full-service hotel with a restaurant, bar, and pool. After Rush games, the bar is filled with hockey fans.
Two short blocks away, downtown Rapid City is a real gem. It is the tourist center of South Dakota and gateway to the Black Hills. A thriving, walkable downtown, there are many great places to eat, drink and shop. Main Street Square has an outdoor ice rink with skates available for rental. On each street corner are life sized bronze statutes of all the US Presidents and other historical figures. The Hotel Alex Johnson is a historic hotel in the heart of downtown. There are two local brewpubs, the Firehouse Brewing Company, located in an actual historic firehouse and the Independent Ale House, which claims to be Rapid City's first brewpub. Both had excellent beers and food. Tally's Silver Spoon, across the street from the Alex Johnson serves a tasty breakfast.
There is plenty to do outside of Rapid City as well. The aforementioned Black Hills are incredibly beautiful and contain other attractions such as the Mt Rushmore and Crazy Horse memorials, gambling at Deadwood, and Sturgis, home of the world-famous motorcycle gathering. It does get pretty cold in South Dakota during hockey season, so dress appropriately for any extended periods outside.
Rapid City is a hockey town. There had been previous failed attempts at minor-league basketball and arena football, but South Dakota has only really embraced hockey and the Rush. As such, when I was there it was packed: nearly sold out on a Wednesday and completely sold out on a Friday, both nights they were playing their regional rival, the Denver Cutthroats. The crowd is loud, raucous and passionate - a great hockey crowd.
It seemed that almost everyone was wearing some type of Rush clothing. There were fans of all ages here, from babies in arms to retirees. While family friendly, sitting next to the visitor bench, the language directed towards the rival team players was quite colorful. The noise level rarely abated, no doubt assisted by the arena's metal roof and walls. Despite my wearing the visitor team's sweater, everyone was exceeding nice and welcoming. They were even more friendly at the Holiday Inn bar after the game.
The arena is part of the larger Rushmore Plaza Civic Center complex, just north of downtown Rapid City. It is easily accessible by I-90 via I-190. Rapid City Regional Airport is less than 30 minutes to the south. There is plenty of free parking, although it did seem to take a while for the lot to empty after the game. For visiting, there are several hotels within walking distance, including the Holiday Inn within the Civic Center itself.
Tickets range from $13.50 to $31 for glass and club seats. However, the Rush do frequently sell out, so if you are planning a trip purchase tickets in advance to avoid any game-day disappointment. Food and beverages are very well priced as are the nearby hotels. Combine that with an excellent hockey atmosphere, seeing a Rush game is a great value.
At least one point for the great location in downtown Rapid City and the nearby Black Hills. There is a lot to do here and many places to eat and drink within a few blocks of the venue. The sell-out crowds are also another point, this is a great place to see hockey. The surprisingly cheap beer and food prices are also another point. The people and after game party scene at the bar is another point.
We had a great time seeing two Rush games and visiting Rapid City. While a newer team, Rapid City has embraced them and this is a true hockey town. While not at the game, there are plenty of things to do in the vibrant downtown and beautiful Black Hills.
Member Review by megminard on Dec 31, 2012
Boring and uninteresting. No local brews offered when I attended in 2010.
Concourse crowded and narrow. One cannot walk around the entire concourse. The merchandise shop did not have hat pins when I visited. I went to two games and each time I had people’s heads in front of me blocking my view – I tried seats on each side of the ice. Seats are narrow and tight – I kept bumping my neighbors sitting next to me trying to move my body so I could see beyond the people’s heads in front of me.
The temperature in the arena felt about the same as it was outside, 22 degrees F.
I noticed the Canadian Flag is smaller than the US. I checked the roster and all but six players are from Canada – the year I attended, it was all but three players. I just don’t get it.
Loved the US Presidents and the downtown area. Do try the Firehouse Brewing. It’s like a museum inside that pub. And, visit Mt. Rushmore if you haven’t been.
Rapid City fans are great. It’s nice to see a ‘friendly rivalry’ starting with The Fish (Denver Cutthroats – first season for the Fish this 2012 year).
This is a mixed bag. I was able to walk to the arena from my hotel (that always increases the score for me). However, the movement on the concourse was poor. Rest rooms were serviceable but not great.
It was average. I was glad I visited but didn’t really enjoy my hockey game experience but totally enjoyed Rapid City and its sites.
A new arena visit for me
Member Review by sportsroadtrips on Jan 21, 2014
Better than a typical minor league arena. Food is not that impressive, but try the pulled pork or brisket sandwich stand for something different and tasty. Fill up your soda for $1 is something I haven't seen before. Place is supposed to be loud but the team was out of the game early and it never got happening. Easy to get in and out of, but the cheapest ticket is $17, a bit much for this level. Still, if you are visiting Mount Rushmore and staying in Rapid City, check if there is a game, it is worth a visit.
523 6th St
Rapid City, SD 57701
610 Main St
Rapid City, SD 57701
625 Saint Joseph St
Rapid City, SD 57701
12151 Avenue of the Chiefs
Crazy Horse, SD 57730
13000 Highway 244
Keystone, SD 57751