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  • Writer's pictureMarc Viquez

Carver Arena – Peoria Rivermen

Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

Carver Arena 201 SW Jefferson St Peoria, IL 61602

Peoria Rivermen website Carver Arena website

Year Opened: 1982 Capacity: 11,442


Peoria Rivermen Hockey

Minor league hockey has been a staple in Peoria since 1982 with the opening of the Peoria Civic Center and Carver Arena. That first team was the Peoria Prancers, but in 1984 a new club has christened the Rivermen in the International Hockey League. For the next 35 years. whether the club has been the top affiliate of the St Louis Blues or a member of an independent hockey league, one thing is for sure, the fans enjoy their hockey regardless of affiliation.

The current Rivermen team is a member of the Southern Professional Hockey League and was born in 2013 after its AHL franchise was relocated to Utica, New York, by the Vancouver Canucks. At the time, the Canucks were looking to move its top farm club closer to its fan base in British Columbia but were unable to do so and decided to relocate the Rivermen to Upstate New York in favor of remaining in Peoria.

The Rivermen are part of a new wave of clubs outside the SPHL southern markets and since their arrival, new clubs in the Quad Cities and Evansville have established closer rivals in the Midwest market. Peoria has already represented the IHL, AHL, and ECHL and they might be running out of leagues, but don’t blame the fans. Peoria is a strong hockey market and its fans are some of the best in the SPHL.

Food & Beverage 4

There are two large concession stands on both ends of the Carver Arena that offer an impressive amount of tasty options. Fans can expect the regular items of hot dogs, nachos, and popcorn, but tenderloin sandwiches, pork sandwiches, and pulled pork barbecue nachos are also available. The list continues with corn dog bites, chicken tenders and fries baskets, and grilled cheeseburgers.

Beverages include Coca-Cola products and fans can also purchase beer, wine, and spirits at multiple stands throughout the building. A pint of domestic draft beer is $7 and that includes Alaskan Amber, a rare find at most buildings in the Midwest. The Spotted Cow stand offers freshly made ice cream sundaes and waffle cones in 12 different varieties.

Atmosphere 4

The Carver Arena has perfect sight lines for minor league hockey and is much brighter compared to the Bradley Braves basketball games. The narrow concourses are lined up with various tables offering local services, 50/50 raffle tickets, season ticket information, and, of course, Chuck-a-Puck.

The most impressive feature of the concourse is the large table that offers a wide range of team merchandise from t-shirts, caps, and jerseys. This area is usually busy with fans picking up a few items and looking around the seating bowl, many have returned wearing a variety of colorful team paraphernalia.

Peoria Rivermen Merchandise, Photo by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey

Players enter the ice through a giant inflatable sheep’s wheel but once the game begins the fans take their seats and focus their attention on the ice. They bang up against the glass, scream a few choice words at the opposing team, moan when a penalty doesn’t go their way, and erupt when the home team scores a goal.

The arena is not near capacity, but a healthy dose of fans takes residency on one side of the arena and creates a festive mood that is appreciated and provides a little edge of home-ice advantage.

Neighborhood 4

The Carver Arena is located a few blocks north of the Peoria Warehouse Historic District; the district is home to 68 buildings that were built from the 1880s to the 1920s and are home to many restaurants and bars. The location is also situated along Peoria Lake.

A few options include Thyme Kitchen & Craft Beer, The Blue Duck Barbecue Tavern, and Kelleher’s Irish Pub & Eatery. These places are usually packed with fans after weekend games and any one of them would be worth the time to have dinner and drinks.

The Rhodell Brewery and Bearded Owl Brewery are two local craft beer spots in the district and Sugar Wood-Fire Bistro has some of the best pizzas in town. A few miles north of downtown is Knuckles Pizza which specializes in Quad City-style pizza that is slightly different than your typical pizza.

Fans 4

Hockey and the Carver Arena date back to the building’s inception in 1982 and there has never been a season without the sport here in Central Illinois. Many fans are willing to tell you stories about the teams’ past glories in the various leagues they have operated in and many don’t seem to mind that they are an independent outfit these days, since winning hockey is still being played. The fans are passionate, loyal, and dedicated and appreciate a good fight, but also a better team on the ice

Access 4

The Peoria Civic Center is located several blocks south of I-74 and is surrounded by various on-street parking meters and a few parking lots. The traffic does not appear to be congested before games when compared to Bradley basketball games, and one could find a free spot after 6 pm on the street.

Once fans enter the Great Hall of the Peoria Civic Center, fans have to go through a somewhat elaborate security screening that can be somewhat congested. However, once inside the wraparound concourse provides everything a fan needs, and getting to and from your seats is rather simple with clearly marked signs throughout the seating bowl.

Return on Investment 4

Lower bowl tickets start at only $12 and increase to $18 and $21 (for tickets against the glass) if purchased a day in advance–add a buck if buying the day of the game. These prices are more than reasonable.

The Rivermen also employs a series of promotional nights that include eight different hockey theme nights, Sunday Family Days, and the usual Superheroes and Star Wars Night. There is even a Turn Back the Clock Night where all upper-level tickets are $5.

The price to park at the Civic Center lot is $10, but lots across the street are $5 and there is the chance of finding free street parking if you do a little searching. The prices of concessions are reasonable and a t-shirt starts at $25 at the team shop and concourse table.

Extras 4

The Rivermen receive a point for the various promotional nights that include eight-themed jersey nights that include 1980 Team USA and Hockey Fight Cancer sweaters that are auctioned off after the game.

The team receives a second point for the passionate fans who make watching the game entertaining. You are surrounded by a group of individuals who appreciate the game and have supported the sport since their days as the Peoria Prancers in the old IHL.

The arena receives the third point because it’s a bit brighter during hockey games compared to basketball games. It might be something little and perhaps overlooked by many, but it’s appreciated.

The final point is for the team branding that has been through numerous leagues since 1984. The Rivermen have played every season without interruption in the AHL, IHL, ECHL, and now the SPHL.

Final Thoughts

Peoria has been supporting hockey since 1982 and no matter what league the team plays in, they have already been part of four separate leagues, the fans show up and make their presence felt throughout the game. Peoria is a medium-sized market that offers enough to do before and after the game to make a night a pleasurable hockey entertainment.

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