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.
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".
Webster Bank Arena has improved the food selection by adding some side carts from local restaurants. The cart hosted by Wilson's BBQ offers roast beef sandwiches ($9) along with pulled pork ($8), which I tried. The pulled pork was really good, though barbecue sauce may be preferable, as opposed to the juice added. There's also a stand from Sweet & Simple, which has a delicious offering of baked goods.
The rest of the concessions are decent, though nothing extraordinary. Typical items like cheeseburgers ($7), hot dogs ($3.75), french fries ($4.50) and popcorn ($3.50) can all be found easily. Specialty stands offer Mexican at Tampico Kitchen and personal pizzas at Al Fresco. National chain Rita's provides the ice cream and frozen treats.
For beverages, Pepsi is the soda supplier, while Bud products are most of what is offered on the beer side. The lone other type of beer I saw was Narragansett. Other alcoholic beverages are widely available, however, as the bars both in the concourse and inside feature a nice range of liquor and wine.
When walking through the tunnel between the concourse and the arena bowl, it is hard not to notice the glow that lies ahead. After not having a center-ice scoreboard for the first ten years of the building, Webster Bank Arena now has one of the biggest displays that would make even NHL teams blush. The sides of their scoreboard feature a giant 30' x 16' HD screen that displays incredible video and graphics. Although I thought it might be a distraction, this was certainly not the case. As the board was mostly used for live game footage and replays, the clarity was amazing. The ends of the scoreboard also feature high-quality video.
The rest of the arena is also pretty solid, with the one-level seating bowl circling the rink. There are a fair number of suites that line the top of the building. These suites hang over a little bit of the seating, which means some obstructed scoreboard views for the last five rows in much of the arena. Where the facility really excels is in the form of specialty seating that is open to the public. At the south end, there is a three-tiered structure, with the first two levels available for anyone to check out. Each has a bar, along with space to either sit and eat, or just mill around between periods. The highlight is the countertop seating, where fans can buy a ticket (similarly priced to the seats between the blue lines) and watch from a neat perspective in a comfy chair. Though the fans don't exactly create a decent hockey atmosphere, the building is an excellent place to watch the game.
The arena is part of Harbor Yard, a sports complex in the South End of downtown that also includes the ballpark right next door. Unfortunately, these facilities (built between 1998-2001) have not spurred much development. The area is sort of in its own little circle, formed by I-95 and several railroad tracks. Outside of that area is the industrial waterfront nearby and downtown Bridgeport, which is not all that exciting or inviting. It is within walking distance from the arena, as Main Street begins through the underpass of I-95. In this area is the Barnum Museum, dedicated to PT Barnum of circus fame. The museum features history on the man, the circus and the city of Bridgeport (note that the museum has been closed since a tornado struck in June 2010). Right across the street is a fine and popular Italian restaurant: Ralph 'n' Rich's.
Bridgeport has never been a big draw in the AHL, as fans don't exactly come out in droves to see the team. In fact, on the Saturday night game I attended in the middle of the season, the Sound Tigers had the lowest attendance out of the 13 teams hosting games that night (the announced paid attendance of 3,825 was closer to about 2,000 actually in the building). This led to a rather generic hockey atmosphere, as the fans pretty much cheered when expected. With that being said, there are many fans that come wearing Bridgeport jerseys, along with a nice cluster of season-ticket holders around center ice.
Webster Bank Arena is quite accessible both via car and public transportation. Driving in, you will find the arena right off of exit 27 on I-95. Staying straight on the access roads leads right to the parking garage that sits next to the arena (there are also other surface lots available nearby). Most Sound Tigers games aren't that well attended, so traffic isn't awful; however, be aware that stretches of I-95 can often become congested (especially on weeknights). There are other arrival options as the Metro-North's New Haven Line has a stop in Bridgeport and fans can use the train and walk a few blocks to the arena. Lastly, if you are an Islanders fan from Long Island and want to check out the farm team without driving around the Sound, the Port Jefferson-Bridgeport ferry has a terminal right near the arena. All of these options are very convenient.
There are several bathrooms available inside the concourse. Though it seems as though there are more women's bathrooms than men's, lines are generally not a problem.
AHL pricing has gone up in the last few years, but Bridgeport remains on the higher end of things. Paying $10 to park is something I would expect at an Islanders game and not the Sound Tigers. Inside, the tickets are also expensive, as the majority of seats on the side cost $32, while the ends are $21 or $27. That's not even counting the extremely high $9 - $10 convenience charge tacked on by Ticketmaster when ordering online (with games not that well attended, definitely buy them at the box office). Only a tiny sliver of the obstructed seats at the top end are $15. Overall, it is worth coming to see a game, but prices aren't exactly minor-league.
The Bridgeport Sound Tigers have shown themselves to be a truly classy organization. Connecticut has been hit with awful tragedies during the 2012-2013 season, one of those being Hurricane Sandy. A week after Sandy devastated the area, the team gave the public free tickets to a pair of weekend games. They came, warmed up, charged cell phones, and got their minds off of either not having power or thoughts of clean-up by watching some hockey.
Secondly, after the horrific tragedy in Newtown, the team wore jerseys with the names of each fallen child. There are other acts that the Sound Tigers have done through the years, and these all speak to the sense of community displayed by the organization.
*** Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium & Arena Visits.
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.
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.
815 Main St
Bridgeport, CT 06604
There are no local entertainment entries. Help us build with your expertise!
There are no local lodging entries. Help us build with your expertise!