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  • Jared Goodman

Berglund Center – Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

Photos by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

Berglund Center 710 Williamson Rd NE Roanoke, VA 24016

Year Opened: 1971 Capacity: 8,672


Skates and Sticks in Star City

In 1971, three premier sports venues were constructed throughout Virginia, including the Norfolk Scope, Richmond Coliseum, and the Berglund Center in Roanoke. The latter, as the premier sports and entertainment venue in southwest Virginia, has hosted several hockey and basketball teams over the years.

Today, Berglund is currently the home of the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the independent Southern Professional Hockey League. It has a capacity of 8,562 fans for hockey and features eight restrooms and six concession stands at the arena. The building received $6.2 million in renovations that included a new heating system, an upgraded electrical system, and, the replacement of all of its seats.

The building had hosted hockey in the past that included the Roanoke Express (ECHL) and the Roanoke Valley Vipers (UHL). The Yard Dawgs entered in 2016 and its nickname and logo pay tribute to the region’s railroad heritage. The city has a long history as a railroad hub and the arena is near the nearby Roanoke Shops and train lines operated by Norfolk Southern Railway.

Food & Beverage 4

There are plenty of options at Dawgs games to satisfy a variety of appetites. Cheesy favorites seem to be the best-selling concession item, from mac & cheese ($4) to grilled cheese ($5) to fried cheesecake ($7). There’s also a cheesy hot dog, cheese curds, BBQ mac & cheese, and finally, cheese sticks. Of course, the classics are still up for grabs as well. They include pretzels ($5), popcorn buckets ($10), nachos ($5), Polish sausages ($5), jumbo hot dogs ($4), chips ($2), candy ($3), and sodas for $4.50 each. Bottled water is $4.

Alcohol is also on tap, ranging from domestics for $7 to crafts for $9. The Big Lick Brewing Company, a local joint, has a special “Paws & Pucks” beer available for $7. Last but not least, stop by Gate 3 for a breakfast treat – you can get a delicious waffle loaded with the toppings of your choice for just $8.

Atmosphere 3

A railroading town through and through, Roanoke is undoubtedly proud to have a hockey team that capitalizes on the city’s Steamtown lore. The Rail Yard Dawgs tend to put on a good show for their crowds, beginning with the blue smoke that pours into the seating bowl during the Dawgs’ entrance. Enter Sandman, whether an ode to nearby Virginia Tech or not, is still good listening and accompanies the team onto the ice.

Speaking of the ice, it’s a bit swampy and watery – but what sheet in the South isn’t? Another potential detractor is the noise level of the PA announcer. No, he’s not too loud; rather, he’s much too quiet and is often drowned out by the crowd, the game, or both.

But don’t let any of that stop you from getting up and getting loud when the home team scores – an electric diesel horn sounds when the Dawgs find the twine. It’s a very slick sound that’s apt for a locomotive-minded city such as Roanoke.

Neighborhood 4

The Berglund Center is located near downtown Roanoke and all that the city has to offer. Two main attractions are located here and are worth a visit if you have time. Railroad geeks will want to stop at the Virginia Museum of Transportation, which only seems fitting if you’re also visiting for a Rail Yard Dawgs game.

This large station contains over fifty pieces of rolling stock, including two Norfolk & Western Engines, along with many other steam and electric trains. There are also wings dedicated to both automobiles and the aviation industry in the state of Virginia. A few blocks from this gem is the Taubman Museum of Art, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2008 and contains ten galleries showcasing primarily 19th- and early 20th-century art.

Downtown Roanoke is also home to a plethora of dining options, from laid-back burgers and barbecues to fancy steakhouses and fine dining establishments. It all depends on your tastes, but it’s rarely necessary to wander into the suburbs for a meal at a national chain.

Fans 4

There aren’t many fans to pack Berglund Center during any given home game, but the loyalists who stick around are amongst the most engaged in the SPHL. From the typical “you suck!” chants to jeering the opposing players that find themselves in the penalty box…er,… dawg pound, there’s never really a dull moment on hockey night in the Star City.

Access 3

Roanoke is the cultural and commercial hub of Southwest Virginia, nestled along Interstate 81 in the Roanoke Valley. I-81 begins at the Canadian border and passes through four states before stretching across western Virginia, ultimately terminating near Knoxville, TN. I-581 provides direct access from the interstate to the downtown core and the Berglund Center is conveniently located just off this spur.

The center is surrounded by a massive parking lot, and there’s a $5 charge to park here. If the parking lot sells out (or if you’d just like to nab some free parking), you can park for no charge at a few downtown garages and take the complimentary shuttle bus to the arena.

The arena itself is interesting to navigate. Fans aren’t able to walk around the concourse, as it’s closed off at Gates 1 and 12. This is because part of the concourse is used as a non-ticketed lobby of sorts, housing the box office and ticketing windows.

Return on Investment 3

The cheapest seats in the coliseum start at $11 and go up to $24. It’s recommended to buy your tickets on the day of the game since they never sell out. By purchasing them online in advance, you’ll be subject to lots of additional fees. The Dawgs occasionally hold $7 discount days, which is an absolute bargain that you should take advantage of. Parking is $5; or, if you’re willing to walk or take the free shuttle from downtown, it can be free. Combined with concessions, a family of four is looking at spending approximately $150 for a hockey outing in Roanoke.

Extras 2

The Star City’s most famous landmark, the Mill Mountain Star, is featured on the underside of the center-hung scoreboard – a simple, yet nice touch. The Dawgs have their very own mascot (or perhaps, conductor?) named Diesel, a loveable railyard dog. What else would he be?

Final Thoughts

It’s a bit pricey to see independent hockey in Roanoke, but if you love old barns and quality gameplay, then it might just be the place for you. Consider chugging on down to the Star City and stationing yourself at the Berglund Center.

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