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Official Review by Brandon Gee, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Cincinnati Cyclones name dates back to 1990. Three different franchises have existed in the East Coast Hockey League, the now-defunct International Hockey League, and then back to the ECHL in 2001. Since 1997, the Cyclones have called U.S. Bank Arena home. The arena on Cincinnati’s riverfront, next door to Great American Ball Park, is the largest indoor venue in the area with a 17,000-seat capacity for concerts.
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 selection is varied with branded concession stands from local chains like Donato's Pizza and Skyline Chili. Orange Leaf frozen yogurt has stands as well. There are novelty items like the giant "hockey helmet nachos" for $15 or the goetta nachos (goetta is basically sausage made with pork, oats and spices and has historical ties in Cincinnati's German heritage), but the best value might be the double cheeseburger and fries combo for $7.50.
The beer selection has improved in recent seasons. A number of local beers are available from Hudepohl and Christian Moerlein, in addition to the usual domestic beers.
While service is rarely an issue, an unusually large crowd can overwhelm concessions at times. If there's a big crowd, you may want to cut out a little early before the end of the period.
USBA provides a listing of all concession locations and the suite level All Access Bar & Grill on their website, so you can make choices before you arrive at the arena if you like.
Despite the smaller crowds in this outsized arena, the energy level can be quite high.
The two bowls are separated by an inner concourse, with the upper seats curtained off to concentrate the crowds down low unless demand calls for them. This helps to keep fans on top of the action and to help somewhat with noise generation. When the lower bowl is full, this place can be rocking. The team does a great job with the pregame ceremony and in-game entertainment to get fans fired up. Pro hockey has been in the city for the last 25 years (minus a two year layoff), so the general fan is quite knowledgeable about the game.
The All Access restaurant is actually a pretty cool place to watch the game. Take the elevator behind Section 226 up to the fifth floor and you can get a great birds-eye view from the end zone.
One criticism for the arena experience is the lack of any history. U.S. Bank Arena is now 40 years old and has experienced a lot of good (the WHA Stingers hockey team, concerts, etc) and tragic events (The Who disaster in 1979). However, there's no sign of any of it.
The arena itself definitely shows its age, despite a sizable renovation in 1997. The scoreboard is dated and the arena's circular layout is definitely of that 1970's era. There's been a lot of discussion about the arena's future and if another renovation could be in order. Ownership (who also own the Cyclones) has made some smaller upgrades behind-the-scenes but for now, no one's willing to pay for the large scale gutting this place may need to bring it level with the newer arenas in Indianapolis, Columbus, or Louisville.
The Banks development on the other side of Great American Ball Park is finally coming into its own. There are a number of pre and postgame options to check out with bars like The Holy Grail, Jefferson Social, and Tin Roof. In better weather, the Smale Riverfront Park will be a great place to hang out. Overall, downtown Cincinnati is seeing a renewed energy and gives hockey fans plenty of reasons to stick around after a game.
Newport On the Levee is just across the Newport Central bridge right outside the arena and features a number of bars, restaurants, and entertainment like a bowling alley and comedy club.
In recent years, attendance for the Cyclones has sat near the ECHL average of around 4,500 fans. Due to a congested local sports scene in the fall, crowds are usually smaller through the early months of the season and pick up coming out of the holidays. Weekday games are smaller, but the beer specials ($1 beers on Wednesdays) bring out a young, rowdy crowd. Weekends bring out more families and boisterous crowds that can easily exceed the arena's lower bowl "hockey capacity" of 6,995.
USBA sits on the eastern edge of downtown Cincinnati's riverfront and is easily reached from all directions into the city.
Along with the garages and lots at The Banks development ($10), there are a number of cheaper options. You can find a couple of garages just a block north of the arena on Broadway and to the west there are a few surface parking lots down Pete Rose Way. Those should run you around $5.
In the event of large crowds in the area, there's also plenty of even cheaper street/lot parking across the Newport Central bridge in Newport, Kentucky. Keep in mind, meters in Newport are enforced until midnight. Then it's a ten minute walk across the bridge, which leads you right to the arena's southeast corner.
Tickets have held firm at $13 ($17.90 with fees) for every seat other than the front row. Those will cost you $26.50 ($34.49 w/ fees) if you're so inclined.
With the constant shifting of talent synonymous with minor league hockey, it can be difficult to maintain consistent success on the ice. So it's quite a feat that in recent years the Cyclones have made it to three Kelly Cup Finals (winning in '08 & '10; losing to Vegas in '14). The team has a good track record of on-ice success while also preparing both players and coaches for the higher levels of the AHL and NHL.
Given the level of play the Cyclones have provided in recent years and the ability to find cheaper food and parking options, this is one of the best sports values in the city.
One point for AC/DC's "Thunderstruck." To outsiders, that seems pretty random, but to local hockey fans this song means hockey. Through three organizations and two venues since 1990, the song has stuck around as a sort of anthem before Cyclones games.
One point for the All Access Bar & Restaurant. It provides a nice change of perspective of the game and offers some quality food in a restaurant atmosphere.
One point for the logo rebrand. While there was criticism of the team's new identity, I still prefer it to the anthropomorphic cyclone it replaced. Also, though it doesn't appear it was the designer's intention, the logo feels reminiscent of the city's lone major league hockey team, the Stingers, who played in the upstart World Hockey Association from 1975-79 and were USBA's (then Riverfront Coliseum) first tenant.
While USBA is considered dated by modern standards, a 1997 update helped to improve the experience. Sure, the concourse could stand to be wider and maybe an HD video board would be nice, but the hockey experience here is still solid. If you're in town for another team or are just looking for a fun night out, adding a Cyclones game to your trip would be worth your time.
Member Review by conradklank
U.S. Bank Arena is a multipurpose indoor arena in which has hosted a star studded list of legendary musical acts, historical basketball games, fights of all kinds, and is the current home of the ECHL Cincinnati Cyclones. The arena has a total of 14,453 nicely padded seats and a total of zero bad seats.
Member Review by BlueNotesFan on Jan 18, 2015
The ECHL is the Premier 'AA' League for the NHL, and has lots of talent. The Cincinnati Cyclones have proved to be a dominant team, and the fans absolutely love it. I believe the Cyclones have the best fanbase for this league, as the turnout is amazing every single game, and all the fans are in on the action. The US Bank Arena is very nice, and most seats offer great view of the action. The atmosphere really gets me into the game, and I always leave happy.
Member Review by Setaris on Feb 04, 2016
I was fortunate to visit U.S. Bank Arena to catch my local ECHL team in action as visitors not too long ago and I must say for an older arena it's very well maintained in my opinion. To begin with it is fairly easy to get to if you're a guest like I was from out of town as it's a huge building, not hard to miss and it can be readily accessed from outside the city as you don't have to go all over downtown Cincinnati to get to it. It is also conveniently located right next to the Great American Ballpark (home of the Reds) and just right down the street from Paul Brown Stadium (NFL's Bengals) so if you're an MLB or NFL fan you're pretty much in the epicenter of Cincy sports there. There are plenty of parking lots and garages for the games too, prices range from $5-$10 but everything is close by and particularly the lots are very convenient for access.
On the inside you can tell the building has seen some years but like other older buildings that service ECHL teams that's not a bad thing at all. The main concourse that loops around is wide and provides excellent mobility for crowds, with accommodations everywhere. Whether you need to use the restroom or grab a drink, you can pretty much do so wherever on that level without going farther than a few feet as they utilize every part of the level and there are no "empty" areas you see in some arenas where there's nothing going on. Food/drink prices are average arena pricing; I think some places charged a bit too much for a few things with that said still but overall I feel most prices fall in line with other venue prices. Donatos and Skyline Chili (a Cincy specialty) offer some great choices, especially Skyline's famous coneys.
As far as seating goes, I think the seats are a little too dated as far as looks go but otherwise they are just as comfortable as other arenas. I was sat in the near front, close to the glass but from what I saw the higher seats had cup holders, which would have been nice for all the seats there considering we were all in the same section. As the reviewer here said the upper bowl is closed off unless demand requires them but from what I saw it seems pretty much anywhere you went there you'd get a good view.
I thought the fans were pretty energetic and loud, something you always want at hockey games. Small crowd, big crowd, doesn't matter, these guys WILL make noise and cheer on their Cyclones no matter what and that's respectable. Cyclones/U.S. Bank staff were also very helpful and numerous in staffing so anything you need assistance with can be taken care of quickly. Overall, I think this is a great venue which might be a bit older than others in the league but certainly has enough going on that you won't notice since it offers to much.
Member Review by scottb_1980 on Feb 15, 2016
I am stunned that a place like this can be a main arena for a bigger city such as Cincinnati. On one hand, the sight lines are great. On the other hand, a lot of the ceiling looks like it is peeling away.
I did like the plaque recognizing the Who concert tragedy.
Great location as well.
161 Joe Nuxhall Way
Cincinnati, OH 45202
28 Fountain St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
101 E Freedom Way
Cincinnati, OH 45202
151 W 5th St
Cincinnati, OH 45202
150 W Fifth St
Cincinnati, OH 45202