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Official Review by Daniel Armstrong, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
In 2006, the US Cellular Coliseum would not be a good topic for conversation in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. Many residents were unhappy with the construction of the building, and many thought it was a waste of money as such a venue was not needed nor wanted in the area. It's been a long process, but slowly US Cellular Coliseum is turning into one of the best venues in downstate Illinois. There have been challenges, like the Prairie Thunder folding and being replaced by the Bloomington Blaze in the CHL, but there have also been highlights too, like the addition of the Central Illinois Drive. And then of course, there has been the transformation of the Bloomington Extreme into the Bloomington Edge of the Indoor Football League (IFL).
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 Coliseum has a professional quality selection of food for professional prices. The selection is good and it is quality food, but the price is something I would see at a big time game, so I really prefer not to spend it on a small semi-pro Midwestern team. There's your typical popcorn for $7, Pepsi Products for $5.75, hot dog ($3.50), double cheeseburger ($4.50), and nachos for ($4). Then there's a large variety of sandwiches for $6-$7.50 and my favorite, the walking taco, for $4.
This is easily the most electric of the blo-no teams and the best I have witnessed in the IFL. The half chicken/half lizard mascot "Spike" does a great job of interacting with the kids and they run a variety of unique and fun promotions throughout the game.
There's just about everything you could want in walking distance. Resturants, bars, theatres, museums, and shops. My recommendation is to visit Lucca Grill, about three blocks down from the coliseum. The restaurant has been in Bloomington for over 75 years and is one of my favorite restaurants with easily the best pizza in town. It also has a bar area if that is your preference. One warning would be if you go too far West the neighborhood can become a bit sketchy. If you are unfamiliar with the area I would suggest using a GPS.
The games for the Edge are the best attended of all the Bloomington-Normal minor league sports. The attendance average has the building at least half full in each of their 7 seasons. They are also the most involved and loudest of the fans of the Coliseum's tenants.
Parking is limited in the area surrounding the Coliseum. A majority of the lots in the immediate area are private and if you do not pay they will have you towed away, so please be aware of signage. There are some free spaces along the street and free parking garages. Once inside the building there are plenty of small bathrooms, but they can be tough to find if you are a first time visitor. The concourse is rather narrow and can become very crowded between periods.
Tickets are available for $15 on the sidelines or $12 in the endzone. They also have a variety of family promotions. With a sandwich snack and drink coming to around $25 and parking averaging $5, the whole experience comes to around $45. It's overpriced for what you get inside. But if you keep an eye out, the team offers promotions for 4 drinks, 4 hot dogs, and 4 tickets for $35 which is a steal.
There are banners lining the concourse at U.S. Cellular Coliseum representing the athletic achievements of the local high schools, universities, and teams. It's worth taking some extra time when you have the opportunity, as well as an extra point here.
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