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  • Jared Goodman

Bon Secours Wellness Arena – Greenville Swamp Rabbits


Photos by Jared Goodman and Lloyd Brown, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Bon Secours Wellness Arena 650 N Academy St Greenville, SC 29601

Greenville Swamp Rabbits website

Bon Secours Wellness Arena website


Year Opened: 1998

Capacity: 13,951

 

A Storm is Burrowing in the Upstate

Bon Secours Wellness Arena (BSWA) is the premier sports and entertainment venue in South Carolina’s Upstate. The nearly 14,000-seat arena is the home of hockey’s Greenville Swamp Rabbits, the second ECHL franchise to call the region home. When it opened in 1998 as Bi-Lo Center, the venue hosted the Greenville Grrrowl. That team folded in 2006 and it would be four more years before hockey returned to the Upstate. The Road Warriors, as they were then called, moved to Greenville in 2010 and later rebranded as the Swamp Rabbits in 2015. The name comes from the “Swamp Rabbit,” an old Greenville and Northern Railway Line that opened in the city in 1920.

Greenville entered an affiliation agreement with the Carolina Hurricanes before 2019-20 season, strengthening the team’s roots in the Carolinas. Prospects in the Canes organization take to the ice at “The Well” on a nightly basis, putting on a show and working to secure hockey’s foundation in the Upstate for years to come.

Food & Beverage 4

Concessions at BSWA are pretty overpriced for ECHL hockey. That being said, the options available are both plentiful and unique.

Among the stands featured at The Well are: Bojangles’, Moe’s, La Mia Famiglia, King of Pops, and Dippin’ Dots. There’s also a cart called Carolina Smoke, which offers delicious BBQ placed on tantalizing trays. A barbecue sandwich is $7, and you can get two sides and drink for an additional $3. Pepsi is the beverage of choice in Greenville and each soda is $4.25.

As for alcohol, The Stella Artois lounge and The Motor Lounge by Harley-Davidson are the two premier luxury lounges that serve a variety of drinks. If you don’t have access to either of these areas, consider checking out the Craft Beer station outside section 112. Here, you’ll have 24 different craft beers to choose from.

Atmosphere 3

From the minute you enter Bon Secours Wellness Arena, you feel like you’re entering an NHL facility. The concourse is beautifully decorated and very wide, and all the restrooms are very well-maintained. The seats are comfortable and access to both levels of the bowl is easy. It’s not too cold inside the building either, meaning you won’t find yourself freezing halfway through the game. There’s even a dedicated phone charging area, which is a nice little perk. The Swamp Rabbits are also joining in on the “stay in your seat when the puck’s in play” policy.

However, a lack of fans really takes away from that major league experience. Most of the upper deck is curtained off due to low attendance. The VERY loud goal horn sounds even louder when it echoes off the thousands of empty seats in the building. The sound effects, which one must imagine are played at a normal level, tend to be jarring when there’s nobody to absorb their sound waves. There’s even a really good pre-game hype up, but it’s almost always sadly quiet due to the lack of a crowd. On top of this, there’s sometimes issues with the in-game audio, with songs skipping and starting at random.

One unintentionally hilarious promotion that occurs at The Well is the t-shirt parachute drop. Team staff launches parachutes loaded with t-shirts from the rafters and into the seating bowl below. Since the bowl is virtually empty, the parachute often lands in an empty section. It’s rather amusing to watch the few nearby fans scramble for the parachute as it descends.

Neighborhood 4

The arena is located just a few blocks from downtown Greenville, so it’s a short walk from the front door to the city’s Main Street. This area is very walkable and features loads of unique shopping and dining options. The Mast General Store, an old-timey place with a general store feel, is a must-visit. A bit further down Main Street is Falls Park on the Reedy, a cute little green space that hugs the Reedy River.

There’re plenty of hotels in the downtown area, from the Holiday Inn to the Hyatt Regency. No matter your brand preference, you’ll have lots of lodging to choose from.

Fans 1

The lack of fans at BSWA is perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the game day experience. The arena has thoroughly depressing attendance for Swamp Rabbits games, a real shame for such an elite venue. Apparently, the recent affiliation with the local Carolina Hurricanes doesn’t seem to be helping much on this front. Typically, there’s less than 300 fans at puck drop. In an arena with seating for up to 14,000 for hockey games, this is an abysmal number.

Some NHL teams in the South, such as the Predators, Hurricanes, and Lightning, have been exhibiting perennial success as of late. It makes one wonder what kind of future minor league hockey has in this region.

Access 4

The Greenville-Spartanburg region is served by two major interstates. I-85 connects the region to Charlotte in the north and Atlanta in the south, both of which are about the same distance away. I-26, an east-west highway that generally runs north-south, passes through Spartanburg on its way from Charleston, SC to Kingsport, TN. The I-385 spur goes straight into downtown Greenville and spits you out right at the main entrance to the arena, making access as easy as can be.

GSP airport, the region’s major aviation hub, is just 15 minutes away and is served by Allegiant, Delta, American, United, Southwest, and Frontier Airlines.

There’s ample parking surrounding BSWA and it’s available for as low as $6. That’s on-par with the rest of the ECHL. Some unofficial lots charge $10, which tends to be a bit steep.

The arena also has a clear-bag policy, which is slowly becoming the norm at sports venues across the country.

Return on Investment 3

The cheapest available tickets in Greenville are $15, and that gets you a good seat in either of the end zones. Or, you could splurge and get a good view from the glass for $30 per ticket. Honestly, your best bet is to buy the cheapest tickets and move around freely wherever you please – no one will stop you since attendance is so poor.

The dining options at BSWA are really pricey. Parking is $6 – $10.

All totaled, a family of four could cheer on the Swamp Rabbits for around $130.

Extras 2

One point for the neat hockey factoids that are featured on the walls of the concourse. These little tidbits cover both hockey in Greenville and the sport in general.


Another point for the tie-ins with local Furman University. Purple, one of the school’s official colors, is prevalent in certain areas of the building.

Final Thoughts

As a venue, Bon Secours Wellness Arena could be NHL caliber if it were larger, as much of a stretch as that may seem. However, as a product, the game day experience at the venue is rather poor. The lackluster attendance combined with the high prices makes for an overall vibe of disappointment. Nonetheless, diehard hockey fans will be able to place those setbacks aside and enjoy BSWA for what it is.

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