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U.S. Cellular Coliseum

Bloomington, IL

Home of the Bloomington Blaze

1.7

2.9

U.S. Cellular Coliseum (map it)
101 S Madison St
Bloomington, IL 61701


Bloomington Blaze website

U.S. Cellular Coliseum website

Year Opened: 2006

Capacity: 7,000

There are no tickets available at this time.

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Blaze Unimpressive as CHL Experience

The Bloomington Blaze are named after the fire that destroyed downtown Bloomington in 1900. Now in their second full season, the Blaze replaced the Bloomington Prairie Thunder who also played in the U.S. Cellular Coliseum from 2006 to 2011. The Bloomington-Normal twin cities are in central Illinois with a population of about 167,000 people.

1.7

What is FANFARE?

The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:

  • Food & Beverage
  • Atmosphere
  • Neighborhood
  • Fans
  • Access
  • Return on Investment
  • Extras

Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".

Food & Beverage    3

The Coliseum is mostly limited to the typical stadium fare. The Smokehouse has a variety of beef and pork barbeque sandwiches ranging from $6.50 to $7. The Italian Grill features hot dogs and burgers starting at $3.75. A local Italian restaurant, Avanti's, has quite flavorful pizzas starting at $7.

The beer selection is very good. While the domestics are limited to Bud and Bud Light, they are reasonably priced at $6 for 20 oz and $8.75 for 32 oz. Premiums, such as Guinness, Harp, Stella and Spaten are a bit more at $7.25 and $9.75 for the same respective sizes. All the premium brews are located in the Mason St. Pub, just to the left of the main entrance.

At the far end of the arena under the video board is The Club, a nice full-service bar that overlooks the ice. While the bar is open to the public, the club seats below the bar which are on top of the glass, require club seats.

Atmosphere    2

While the U.S. Cellular Coliseum is relatively new being built in 2006, it seems dated on the inside. The main concourse is white painted cinderblocks with a plain concrete floor, lacking much character. Extraneous tables of all sorts severely narrow the hallway, which get quite crowed between periods.

The seating in the arena is a U-shaped configuration around the ice with the single bowl of seats topped with a ring of luxury suites. The far end wall contains a large video board and aforementioned club. Like most newer arenas, the seats are made of hard plastic with little leg room. Possibly due to the few people in attendance during my visit, the arena was quite cold. Make sure you dress appropriately.

Neighborhood    2

The Coliseum sits in downtown Bloomington. It is easily walkable to the neighborhood bars and restaurants. I would not call the downtown area thriving, but there are certainly a few bars and coffee shops mixed in with the vacant buildings. There are no hotels within a walkable distance to the arena. The closest restaurant, the Illinois Brewing Company, is just across the street.

Fans    0

I have visited every other CHL city during the 2013 season and nowhere else have I found the fans to be as unintelligent, obnoxious and drunkenly hostile. While most home fans can be expected to deliver a fair amount of razzing towards the visiting team, the level of profane vitriol delivered to the team, trainers, visiting fans and even the team bus driver should be seen as an embarrassment to the city of Bloomington, the Blaze and the CHL.

One person was initially ejected after throwing a beer bottle at the visiting bench, but then he was allowed back in after a few minutes. At other venues such an action would not only result in ejection, but probably a permanent ban if not criminal charges. In Bloomington, apparently, the only consequence is the opportunity to purchase another beer.

Once the Blaze fell behind, the so-called Bloomington "fans" quickly turned on their own team with equal misguided passion. Again, unlike other CHL venues, Blaze games are not family friendly. Indeed, some of the worst behavior was exhibited by groups of pre-teens. The fans really removed any enjoyment from the game. I really cannot recommend seeing a game here.

It may not matter as Bloomington has consistently had ownership and financial issues. One source informed me that the latest owner has left town and the team is now being operated directed by the CHL. If true, they may not be around in 2014, which in my opinion may not necessarily be a bad thing.

Access    3

The U.S. Cellular Coliseum is located in downtown Bloomington, IL. It is easily accessible via interstates 74, 55, and 465. There is a garage directly adjacent to the arena with parking available for $5. There are two sets of bathrooms on either side of the bowl, plus at least one family restroom on each side.

Return on Investment    2

Tickets range from $14 to $20 for on the glass seats. The arena was 2/3 empty during my visit, so finding seats at any level is easy. On a typical night, the Blaze average about 2,500 fans in attendance.

Extras    0

There is nothing else to recommend except possibly not going at all.

Final Thoughts

The quality of the hockey, fans, and surrounding environment is higher at virtually every other CHL city. If you want to see passionate fans in a great atmosphere, go to Rapid City, Wichita, or Missouri. If you want a big city with lots of other non-hockey things to do, go to Denver or one of the two teams outside of Dallas. If you are driving between Chicago and St. Louis my advice is to keep driving to see the Blackhawks or the Blues.

A few points thoughts but overall good job.

I am a resident of the Bloomington-Normal area and I reviewed the other two tenants of the US Cellular Coliseum (Bloomington Edge of the IFL and Central Illinois Drive of the PBL). Overall I agree with you but I have a couple points....
Possibly the most important thing you have to realize coming to an event here is that the people of Bloomington did NOT want this arena. It was voted down by the citizens before being forced through the city council by our former mayor. There is, still to this day, a good amount of resentment and many residents have sworn to never attend anything here. Personally I like it. It has brought a lot of events into the city, including several IHSA championships that I am involved with.
Having seen downtown arenas all across the country, I must agree that it was poorly designed though. First of all the seating capacity is too small to accommodate many sporting events and concerts. I couldn't agree more with your point on the concourse. It is very plain, crammed full of unnecessary tables, and is not nearly wide enough. While it is rarely a problem for any of the three sports teams at sold out concerts it can take 20+ minutes to get from point A to point B. The bathrooms are also too small and sparse.
While the official attendance average is 2,500 it is rare for the Blaze to even have half that number inside the arena. All three sports teams use tickets sold as the attendance figure and it is so high because of the large amount of corporate season tickets held by State Farm, Country Financial, Mitsubishi Motors, Afni, Nestle, Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan Universities all of which have their headquarters in the Bloomington-Normal area. I have been to games where the official number was 1,500 but in reality there were fewer than 100 actually in attendance.
While I have never experienced the level of objectionable behavior you witnessed, it certainly is a problem at Blaze games. I don't have a lot of tolerance for such behavior and I have been shocked by the lack of action taken by the event staff on numerous occasions. It certainly is an embarrassment, and it is unacceptable. And it obviously gives the wrong impression to visitors.
I wanted to correct you on your line about the ownership. While we have had more than our share of ownership problems here (all three teams have exchanged hands at least twice and experienced at least one name change), I see no evidence that Blaze will not be around next season. The owner has not left town. In fact she never lived in town. When the Prairie Thunder folded we brought in two investors from New England. One was Sandra Hunnewell the other was Gary DelBuono. Before the 2012-13 season Hunnewell bought out DelBuono to become sole owner of the team. She also just bought our arena football team about four months ago. Even if she would choose to fold the team Central Illinois Arena Management, who runs the Coliseum, is required by law to have a football team and a hockey team competing in the venue until the 2016-17 season. Although I would imagine they would have difficulty finding investors after two teams have failed in the market... It simply not a hockey town and I don't see the team ever being fully embraced or supported by the residents. Especially as long as the team struggles to be successful. Our only playoff appearance was with the Prairie Thunder in 2010.
My biggest disagreement is in the neighborhood category. In my reviews of the Edge and Drive I gave the neighborhood a 5. There are numerous bars, restaurants, businesses, theaters, and museums in the downtown area. Your justification for the low score is unclear to me...
Other than that you were pretty spot on. I have read and enjoyed your reviews of the other CHL teams. Hope you enjoyed your travels!
Excellent review Nick!

-Daniel Armstrong

by Daniel Armstrong | Apr 09, 2013 11:54 PM

Bloomington is not that bad.

I have never had an experience close to the one you are describing. I have enjoyed the games I have attended. I dont understand why peeple were acting so poorly at that particular game. The new Bloomington Thunder ownership has really cleaned up the place and made the experience more family friendly. They have also got the community more invoved leading to an overall better experience at the Coliseum. I would recommend attending a Bloomington game, they are fun and relaxing.

by PeoriaChiefs94 | Feb 15, 2014 03:45 PM

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Crowd Reviews

Bloomington Blaze Hockey

Total Score: 2.86

  • Food & Beverage: 3
  • Atmosphere 3
  • Neighborhood: 3
  • Fans: 2
  • Access: 5
  • RoI: 3
  • Extras: 1

The Bloomington Blaze entered the Central Hockey League rumbling across the Illinois flat landscape as the Prairie Thunder their first five years. Then under new ownership, it was determined to blow up the organization and therein lies what you have now in this rural Illinois city, a BLAZE.

The team still calls the US Cellular Coliseum home and it sits in the heart of downtown Bloomington. On most nights, the team averages about 2,100 a game, but that is good for near last in the League and at least 2,000 below the league average. There is much opportunity to grow here and it will take more than just a name, uniform and ownership change to improve. The current group is missing the opportunity and it would be a shame if they let it all go up in flames (sorry, could not resist) by not acting quickly.

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