There are no tickets available at this time.
Official Review by Scott Montesano, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Located in relative obscurity, the Viaero Events Center in Kearney, NE is a hidden gem that many people have driven past, but never had a reason to step inside. With an unassuming exterior, plucked on the side of I-80 in Central Nebraska, thousands go right by a building many probably think is a large warehouse facility. However, the cold, lifeless aluminum siding is a shell to what is not only an excellent facility for a tiny town of less than 20,000 but what would suffice in communities three or four times as large.
Kearney itself is a popular resting stop for people driving through Nebraska, either to or from Denver which is six hours to the west. The community isn’t large, but serves as one of the rural area’s hubs along with Grand Island and Hastings.
In November 2000, the Viaero Events Center opened as the home for the recently relocated Tri-City Storm of the United States Hockey League (USHL), and to this day the team is the arena’s main tenant. Over the years, attempts to place summer league basketball and indoor football have failed, but hockey has remained along with a full slate of touring concerts, MMA cards, and the typical potpourri of events that dot the calendar of an arena.
On the inside of the facility, one immediately walks onto a wide open concourse, the type typically seen in most ballparks now. Concession stands are along the exterior wall, while fans can walk around the top and get views of the action. The seating is a single bowl of about 25 rows with individual seats. Oddly, the building features sky boxes, but they are located behind the goals including a two-story structure at the west end.
The Storm tend to draw about 2,000 fans to this building that seats around 4,500 so there is plenty of room to move about and explore and with the way the arena is set-up, it invites one to do that. A simple, basic scoreboard is at center-ice though the team installed a pair of projection video boards in the northeast and southwest corners a few years ago. An old dot matrix message board runs along the front of the press box on the north side but it is no longer in use.
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 Viaero Events Center offers all the standard fare, but also includes catered options from Valentinos, a small Italian restaurant chain in the Midwest. A full line-up of beer can be found at many of the concession stands. Nothing outrageous with the pricing with most options priced from $4-$6. Overall, everything is average and that isn't a negative, especially for this level of hockey.
With more than a decade of history, the Tri-City Storm have been around long enough that both the novelty factor of having hockey, but the naivety of not knowing the rules have worn off in the area. Many of the people attending games know what is going on and a visitor will see plenty of Storm jerseys from previous seasons being worn. Support for the team is there and though numbers were initially 4,000+ for most games when the team first arrived, a core base of 2,000 per game has settled in.
The Storm organization does an excellent job of using the video board to run highlights and player features, and the mascot Stormy (a large Yeti like creature) is visible most of the night. Unfortunately, the sound quality is very poor especially for a building such as this with music and the announcer coming through muffled. The pregame light show could also use an update.
Located right off I-80, the arena is on the other side of the on/off ramp with all the hotels and chain restaurants one would expect. Kearney is a popular resting stop along I-80 and while nearly everything is beyond walking distance there is plenty to choose from for food and lodging. Located about 500 yards from the building is Skeeter Barnes BBQ which offers up palatable barbeque as well as a family-style steakhouse.
Considering the small population base to draw from (Grand Island and its 30,000+ residents are an hour away), the Storm do very well in bringing fans out to games. Games are quiet as it's definitely a family crowd that comes out. The massive amount of walking room, coupled with a high ceiling and 50% capacity make it difficult to contain sound.
Overall, there is a casual feeling during the game.
With the exception of a small airport that flies in Kearney with a couple commercial flights (at very expensive rates), the only way into and out of Kearney is to drive. The community is located right along I-80, about 3.5 hours from Omaha and 6 hours from Denver. If traveling from the north or south directly to Kearney, the only option is a patchwork of county roads.
Once there, everything one would need for their arena visit is within a 1-2 mile drive.
If one makes the effort to go see this facility, it's well worth it. The lack of easy access and 'off the beaten path' location are easy deterrents, but a visit will uncover a hidden gem. A well-built arena that has just enough modern amenities mixed in with small town ambiance make this a great place to see a hockey game.
Grand Island has their own facility, the Heartland Events Center, which hosts indoor football as well as concerts and other events. That facility is newer and is arguably much nicer but is even more off the beaten path that the Viaero Events Center as it isn't directly off the interstate. The two buildings are about an hour away from each other, though for locals that isn't considered too far.
There are no crowd reviews yet. Be the first and help us build with your expertise!
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!