Bojangles’ Coliseum – Charlotte Checkers
Photos by Jared Goodman, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Bojangles’ Coliseum 2700 E Independence Blvd Charlotte, NC 28205
Year Opened: 1955
Checking out in Charlotte
“BoCo,” or “The Biscuit,” as it’s known locally, is home to the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers and is perhaps one of the best minor league hockey venues around. However, Charlotte is far removed from the rest of the league, as they’re the only AHL team east of the Mississippi River that doesn’t play north of the Mason-Dixon Line.
Despite their remoteness, the Checkers are enjoying a plethora of success both on and off the ice, proving that the Queen City has the potential to be a true hockey town. The Checkers have the advantage of playing very close to their affiliated club, as the Hurricanes play just three hours away in the state capital of Raleigh. The team’s achievements on the ice in recent years, including winning the Calder Cup in 2019, has certainly helped to boost attendance as well.
Food & Beverage 4
It should come as no surprise that one of the concession highlights at the Coliseum is Bojangles’, the namesake of the building. Their famous Chicken Supremes, Seasoned Fries, and Legendary Iced Tea are served at several stands around the arena, though they’re billed at slightly higher prices than you’d find in one of the chain’s restaurants. In addition to Bojangles’, you’ll find the typical arena concessions available at multiple locations on the concourse. Hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza and nachos are just a few of the items offered. There’s also a Beer Garden located between sections 115-117.
The Checkers offer fans both unique game day and dining experiences in the form of The Red Line Club, a restaurant located on the lower level between the ice and Charlotte’s locker room. This enables fans to interact with the players before and after the game, as well as during period breaks. There’s an extra cost to dine at the Club and requires same day reservations, which can be made up to 90 minutes prior to puck drop. Walk-ups are also welcome, but for games with heavy attendance and especially during the postseason, the restaurant tends to fill up quickly.
Since moving back to Bojangles’ Coliseum after a short stint at nearby Time Warner Cable Arena (now Spectrum Center), the Checkers have enjoyed having a facility to call their own. They’ve also benefited from the increased attendance that comes along with playing at a hockey-specific venue with improved sight lines.
The team has done a tremendous job in the PR department, especially as the success of the franchise grows. The Checkers have presented all kinds of unique promotions as of late, including but not limited to: opportunities for fans to skate on the ice post game, $1 tickets and $1 hot dogs on “Throwback Night,” and giving fans $1 per shot on goal the Checkers take during a single game. Combined with the on-ice entertainment, which usually features the team’s cheerleading squad and lovable polar bear mascot Chubby, the team is doing everything right to keep the fans coming back.
Prior to the player introductions, a fantastic pre-game hype video rolls on the jumbotron – this usually gets the fans in attendance fired up and ready to cheer. While regular season games (with the exception of Opening Night) are never usually sellouts, the city turns out in droves to support the squad during playoff games. During the Calder Cup Final game attended for this review, the Coliseum was completely sold out and the only space available was standing room only.
Despite everything the interior of BoCo has going for it, the location of the arena isn’t exactly prime. The entertainment complex that consists of both the Coliseum and Ovens Auditorium is surrounded by massive parking lots and office spaces, including the Park Expo & Conference Center and some local TV stations. However, the complex is only a few miles south of Uptown Charlotte, where you’ll find a wide variety of restaurants and retail shops. Nearby Central Avenue is also home to several great eateries and is a happening spot, especially when the sun goes down.
Whoever said hockey wouldn’t do well in the South has obviously never been to Charlotte. Again, while the Coliseum rarely fills up during the regular season, those who do show are die-hard hockey fans who know their stuff. Stadium horns and cowbells can be heard throughout the game, even without prompting. The crowd is also capable of starting their own chants, as unique as they may be, and keep it going for quite a bit. During the playoffs, the crowd noise is amplified tremendously by the enormous convex tin dome, making it impossible to hear the person beside you – even when they’re yelling. Of course, when the team is in the postseason, the crowd is consistently on their feet and cheering… or booing, whatever the case demands.
Bojangles’ Coliseum is located right off US-74 (Independence Boulevard) just a few miles south of Uptown Charlotte. To the north, US-74 takes you to Uptown’s ring road, I-277 (John Belk Freeway), which ultimately connect to I-77 on both ends. Any travel on I-77 north of Charlotte can be impeded by the heavy traffic that is typical of that highway – even during non-rush hours. I-85 is also easily accessible from the Coliseum and provides access to other cities in North and South Carolina, in addition to the metropolis of Atlanta in the south. Raleigh, the home of the club’s affiliate, the Carolina Hurricanes, is three hours away via I-85 and I-40. Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is a mere 10 miles to the west.
Parking at the venue couldn’t be easier. $8 is the going rate for a spot at the complex, whether that’s in the massive lot right outside the main entrance or in the secondary lot across the street. The latter isn’t far away and in fact, there’s no need at all to cross the busy road since there’s a pedestrian tunnel that runs underneath.
During the regular season, bathroom lines typically aren’t an issue. However, if and when the Checkers have postseason games at home, the restrooms can quickly become an issue. It’s best to get them out of the way when you first arrive – they clog up quickly during intermissions and despite being rather large inside, don’t offer very wide egresses. The same can be said about the concession lines. They get long during intermissions and aren’t too short even during the game when it’s the playoffs. When the team runs their $1 hot dogs/$2 sodas promotion, the lines can become frighteningly long and tend to wrap completely around the concourse. On these days, it’s not uncommon to spend an entire period of the game standing in line, so it’s recommended to arrive right when the doors open and grab a bite beforehand.
Return on Investment 2
Tickets to regular season Checkers games start at $18, not including service fees and other extra charges. The price per ticket increases by $2 for every round of the Calder Cup Playoffs, culminating in a $24 ticket for a Finals game. The Checkers do offer ticket packages for both the regular season and the playoffs; that could save you some money, depending on how many games you’ll be attending each season.
The Coliseum’s seating bowl design offers every fan a great view of the ice. In fact, it can even be said that it’s harder to see the action when sitting closer to the ice and that the seats higher up provide a much better perspective. The last 10 rows or so in each section of the upper bowl aren’t even available for purchase during the regular season, so if a center-ice TV camera view is your thing, you’re more than welcome to move up high.
A game ticket, concession item and drink, plus parking for a family of four runs about $160 – that’s not all that bad when you consider that $160 might not even get you a single ticket to a game at some NHL venues.
Free game programs is a definite bonus, as you don’t see this at a lot of other minor league hockey arenas. Another point for the enthusiastic PA announcer, who likes to do a Ric Flair “woooo!” after each goal and excites the crowd when he announces power play opportunities.
The Charlotte Checkers, both the team and the folks behind-the-scenes, have created a phenomenal game day experience for hockey fans deep in football and NASCAR country. They’ve worked diligently to promote the sport throughout the region and have succeeded in piquing the interest of both die-hard and non-hockey fans alike. When visiting Charlotte, a stop at the unique and historic Bojangles’ Coliseum for a Checkers game should not be missed.