Webster Bank Arena, formerly known as the Arena at Harbor Yard, has been the home of the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers since opening in 2001. Located right off of Interstate 95, the arena is located near Bridgeport’s busy waterfront. The arena has a horseshoe design, with 20 sections consisting of up to 24 rows. There are 33 luxury boxes scattered throughout the arena on two levels above the seating bowl, and a new video board dwarfs the ice below. At the far end of the rink are three rows of bar style seating, with a bank of windows behind them. During the day you can see trains passing directly behind the arena, as well as ferries coming and going to and from Long Island.
There is no entry lobby to the Webster Bank Arena, and the box offices are located on the outside of the arena. After a quick security scan, you enter the doors and are deposited directly onto the main concourse. Unfortunately, the design of the concourse does not allow for a circular trip around the rink, so those wishing to navigate the concourse have to do so in a piecemeal manner. Entryways into the seating area empty out into the bottom of the seating bowl, so fans need to climb up to get to their seats. Fans who have not been to this arena for a few years will find their gaze drawn immediately to the new video board, which has to be among the largest in all of minor league hockey. This arena is new, clean, modern, and attractive. But still, something is missing in Bridgeport…
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The recent renovations to Webster Bank Arena were made with a deliberate eye towards improving the concessions here. First and foremost would be the addition of the Limerick Pub, which opens two hours before opening faceoff, and remains open after gates close. The menu at Limerick Pub features several bar favorites, such as Mucho Nachos, Guinness glazed Wings, a shaved corned beef sandwich, and a Guinness pulled BBQ chicken sandwich (yes, there is an Irish theme at work here). The pub has several television sets tuned to out of town sporting events. It's a great spot if you are interested in checking out what your favorite team is doing elsewhere in the sports world.
For those fans wanting a more traditional arena dining experience, Webster Bank Arena offers a wide variety of options, from the standard hot dog ($4) and hamburger ($6) to quesadillas ($7) and bacon on a stick ($5). Several portable carts have been added to the concourse, featuring local favorite Wilson's BBQ, Rita's Italian Ice, and a carving station serving roast beef and turkey sandwiches. A popular item for the kids is the Sound Tiger helmet full of popcorn for $7.50. If you leave a Sound Tigers game hungry, you have no one to blame but yourself.
As you enter the arena, you are immediately greeted by the Sound Tigers' merchandise stand, which offers a variety of Bridgeport gear.
All the pieces are here for a great atmosphere. The new scoreboard is most impressive, and the ribbon boards around the arena are a nice touch. The on-ice crew is active, and there are plenty of in-game contests and promotions to keep the casual fan interested. There are plenty of t-shirts thrown into the stand for the kids, and the music played during play stoppages is designed for maximum crowd involvement. The Sound Tigers' mascot, Storm, patrols the arena throughout the game. A couple of Sound Tiger players are made available after the game for autographs. But try as you might, there is just no way to make a crowd of 500 in a 10,000 seat arena seem big. All these efforts are for naught when there is no one around to witness them.
Downtown Bridgeport has a really bad reputation, and in the past it may have been deserved. However, like many other cities in the region, the city's leaders have worked hard to revitalize the downtown area. The building of the ballpark and hockey arena next door were to be the anchors of this revitalization when they opened in 1998 and 2001, respectively. Unfortunately, the development of the Harbor Yard area never happened. The lots that were ticketed for development of a retail center next door to the sports complex remain empty. They are presently used for parking at game events. While this development has not occurred as hoped for, the downtown area is not the wasteland it was once.
Downtown Bridgeport proper is located on the other side of Interstate 95. Access can be gained through several underpasses near the arena. There are several restaurants worth visiting in the area, with Ralph N Rich's serving up fine Italian fare, and the newly opened Barnum Publick House serving a traditional bar menu. For those willing to travel a bit, I wholeheartedly recommend Dinosaur BBQ, located 20 minutes away in Stamford. For those looking for other things to do while visiting Bridgeport, the P.T. Barnum Museum is located a short walk from the arena. Unfortunately, this museum has been closed since being damaged by a tornado in 2010. The building itself is still worth a look in the meantime.
Bridgeport consistently ranks in the lower half of the 30 team American Hockey League in attendance, with an average attendance in the 4,000-5,000 range. I attended a game in Bridgeport on a fall Saturday night in 2013, and I could have my pick of seats in the arena. The crowd was announced as 2,500, but the actual attendance could not have been more than 500, and that figure is being very generous. As you can imagine, a crowd that small in an arena of that size seems even smaller, and the arena has all the energy of a local pee-wee match. Those fans who are there are friendly and supportive of their team. Even when at full capacity, Bridgeport fans are not known to be among the more boisterous fans around, except when in-state rival Hartford is in town.
Arenas don't get any easier to find than Webster Bank Arena. Located directly off Interstate 95, all one has to do to get to the rink is take exit 27 (whether traveling northbound or southbound), follow the signs for a block, and you are there. Parking is available in a surface lot across the street from the arena or in a parking garage next to the arena. Those looking for free parking can find on-street parking within a short walk of the arena. Despite downtown Bridgeport's less than sparkling reputation, the area around the arena is safe.
Getting to Bridgeport is a snap, as Interstate 95 passes directly through downtown. The city is located 60 miles northeast of New York City, an hour's drive south of Hartford, and 20 minutes from New Haven. Amtrak's northeast corridor trains pass directly behind the arena, with the station only a couple of city blocks from the arena.
Webster Bank Arena has a somewhat unusual design in that the concourse is on street level, and fans walk up from ice level to their seats in the seating bowl. This setup means that handicapped seats are right on the glass!
Restrooms are plentiful and clean. There were no lines anywhere in the arena during my visit, but that could be entirely due to the small crowd on hand that night. I actually was able to venture into one of the restrooms during intermission without waiting in line. In fact, there are more urinals and stalls than people needing to use them. Believe it or not, there were even two arena staff in the restroom cleaning the facilities. During intermission!
Sound Tiger tickets range in price from $19-$34, with premium seating costing up to $49. For those fans looking to avoid Ticketmaster surcharges by getting tickets at the box office, there is a $3 ticket charge at the gate. For comparison, the parent New York Islanders sell selected seats for $24. Parking in the unpaved parking lot across the street will run you an additional $10. Food, while plentiful, is pricey as well. This is minor league hockey at major league prices.
The frugal hockey fan can find hidden deals at Webster Bank Arena. The Sound Tigers offer a $2 discount for AAA members at the gate, and anyone willing to wait until the third period to buy their soda can get a free donut with their large drink.
The Limerick Pub earns the Webster Bank Arena a bonus point for its nice menu as well as its variety of sporting events on their television screens. It's not often that you can catch baseball, basketball, hockey, football, and NASCAR at the same time in the same place.
Another bonus point is given for the new video board. The screen is so impressive that on a couple of occasions I found myself watching the action on the scoreboard instead of on the ice.
Webster Bank Arena is a nice arena, one that is much improved since recent renovations. Put this arena in a downtown area, or in a city that would support their team more enthusiastically, and this ranking would rise dramatically. As it stands now, Webster Bank Arena is a decent place to catch a game, just a place that has something missing---fans.
Webster Bank Arena at Harbor Yard is the home of the New York Islanders' American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. For the 2010-11 season, they're celebrating their 10th anniversary in Connecticut's largest city.
The arena is conveniently located right off Interstate 95, exit 27. In addition, you can take the Metro North railroad, New Haven line. Furthermore, if you're coming from Long Island you can take the Ferry from Port Jefferson to get there. These alternate options leave you within a short walk of the arena.
This is an ideal place to take a family for a day or night out. They offer a more affordable entertainment value compared to attending a major league event such as going to see the Islanders play at the Nassau Coliseum.
As for the Islanders, many players have played and developed their skills right here in Bridgeport. For example, current Islanders like Trent Hunter, Bruno Gervais, Blake Comeau, Frans Nielsen, Rob Schemp, Jeese Joensuu and Trevor Gillies have played for the Tigers.
Since 2001, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers have been the anchor tenant in Webster Bank Arena, a busy facility in downtown Bridgeport. The AHL franchise is affiliated with the team that sits right across from them on the Long Island Sound, the New York Islanders. Both franchises have the same owner, and the Tigers have seen many future Islanders come up through the ranks. However, like their NHL partner, playoff hockey has not lasted long into the spring as the Sound Tigers have been eliminated in the first round of the AHL playoffs their last five appearances. Though Bridgeport is not a destination city, the mid-sized arena is a high-quality facility, and a recent addition above center ice has made the Sound Tigers’ home a place to check out.
I attended a game here earlier this month. I did take the ferry ride over from Port Jefferson. A walk-on ferry ride there and back plus a game day ticket is $30.
The game I attended was a minor league Rangers vs Islanders game as the affiliates for both teams were playing. Always a good time.
Downtown Bridgeport is only 1/2 mile from the arena (I did not get an opportunity to visit the downtown area but it sounds like there are a lot of restaurants).
There were lots of giveaways at the game I attended. A program is handed out upon entering. Be sure to pick up a roster sheet at a fan table.
The temperature in the arena was comfortable; not too cold.
I always enjoy myself when I attend Sound Tigers games. However, I always leave though with a sour taste when I realize how much money I spent for a minor league game.
If you want a nice center ice seat you're looking at $34 plus $3 fees. Add in the outrageous $10 for parking and you're already at $47+ just to get in.....for the minors. The food has a nice selection considering the smaller size of the arena, however, again, it is very pricey.
I compared prices to a nearby AHL team, the Albany Devils, for comparison. Their ticket prices MAX OUT at $27. That's about the same cost as the CHEAPEST Sound Tigers ticket. Parking there is also only $6, essentially half the cost for the Sound Tigers. I would consider those prices to be a very fair price that I would be more than happy to spend and leave feeling like I didn't get ripped off.
The Sound Tigers only fill up roughly half of the arena, if that, for most games. They NEED to lower their prices a bit in order to get more attendance, especially since they aren't exactly a playoff team to where the ticket demand would be there regardless. They would make a killing on concessions if they were to get higher attendance on a regular basis. Personally, I would go probably twice as many times per season as I go now if this were to happen.
At the end of the night after food and everything I usually end up spending roughly $65 or so. That is INSANE for a single person to attend a minor league hockey game. The minors are supposed to be more of a working class attraction. They would be games that you could go to every weekend after work to have a good time. At those prices and especially in these economic times, that can't happen.
When I am there though, I do thoroughly have a good time. It is a fun atmosphere, it's just a shame at what it costs.
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