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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

Idaho Central Arena – Idaho Steelheads

Photos by Meg Minard Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71

Idaho Central Arena 233 South Capitol Blvd Boise, ID 83702

Year Opened: 1997 Capacity: 5,002


Noisy in Boise

The Idaho Steelheads play in the ECHL (formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League) at the CenturyLink Arena in beautiful downtown Boise, ID. The team name comes from the rainbow trout that provides fisher-people in Idaho ample angling activity late summer or fall in Idaho, if not most of the entire year.

Note: The CenturyLink Arena was renamed Idaho Central Arena in Sept, 2020.

The hockey Steelheads are an affiliate of the Dallas Stars NHL team. They began their history as part of the West Coast Hockey League in 1996 and transferred to the ECHL beginning the 2003-2004 season. They have been quite successful on the ice winning the Kelly Cup their first ECHL season and again in 2007 with additional division and conference championships in other years for both leagues.

The CenturyLink Arena also hosts the Idaho Stampede (NBA Development League), as well as other entertainment events such as the Harlem Globetrotters, Front Street Fights, and concerts by Judas Priest, Godsmack, Luke Bryan, and more.

It is part of a thriving downtown environment in Boise, ID and even the city itself is worth a visit if in or near the area. A hockey game just adds something extra.

Food & Beverage 4

There’s a wide assortment of food and drink available at a Steelhead’s game. Papa Murphy’s pizza is open with slices going for $4.50 – $5 or you can get a two slice special for $8 or $9. Beer includes Bud Light and Coors Light $4 – $6 and wine is available $6.50 – $7.50 at the Papa Murphy’s stand.

There’s a Double R Ranch concession stand open that provides burgers, fries, popcorn chicken with fries, chicken Caesar wraps, hot dogs, nachos (they call it chips and cheese), pretzels, and candy at prices from $3.50 – $8. There’s also a Mexican food stand that offers tacos, super nachos, burritos, fajita wrap, and churros ranging from $2 – $9.

Another stand offers the basics: hot dogs – grilled ($4), nachos (chips and cheese) ($4.), pretzels ($3.), candy ($3.50), and popcorn ($2/$4). Beers on offer are Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, 90 Shilling, and an exceptional IPA called City of Trees IPA from local Boise brewery Woodland Empire. Beers price from $4 – $8 depending on size and offering. There’re also subs and salads available at another concession. CenturyLink Arena is a Pepsi venue and offers soda for around $3.

For dessert, there’s a stand that has Dreyers ice cream selections with snacks, helmets, cones, and fizzes on offer from $4.50 – $6.

Three cocktail stands are along the concourse serving beer, wine, and mixed drinks.

My recommendation is to walk around the concourse first to see what’s available and then make your selection. Another recommendation – eat at any one of the fine pubs or restaurants within a couple blocks walk of CenturyLink Arena prior to attending a game.

Atmosphere 3

There are two levels of seating at CenturyLink Arena with suites above the second level. There are no cup holders provided on the first level (those seats do not appear to be permanent as it is a multi-use arena). There is no concourse or restrooms on the second level, though cup holders are available in most of this area. There is low to average legroom in the seating areas.

A new center hung video board was installed prior to the 2014-2015 season at CenturyLink Arena. It shows the play in action, replays, scoring. During breaks in action, tweets from fans are displayed. It is placed very high on the ceiling so it isn’t a distraction when watching the game. Those seated on the lower level may have to look up a bit to see what is being shown. The time, shots on goal and penalties are not displayed on the center hung board. Other scoring displays include a corner video board which is not very clear and two dot matrix boards on the upper level that show period, time, shots on goal, scoring, and penalty infractions (the # of the player and time left).

One downside when the game is over, is they immediately shut down the scoreboards and matrix boards so you’re not able to get the final shots on goal and score, take a photo, etc. It’d be nice if they left those displayed for at least 5 – 10 minutes after the game.

To sit center ice, above the glass, facing the players’ benches choose section 212 in the upper level. On the lower level shoot for section 113 for center ice and choose a higher row (above G or H) to be above the glass.

On the concourse behind one of the goals near section 108 is a small souvenir area that offers jerseys, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and caps. No hat pins or pennants are for sale. There was a flurry of activity going on at the stand the game I attended. It did stifle some pedestrian traffic on the concourse. The souvenir area is gone at the end of the game so get your merchandise before or during the game.

There is a wide array of banners for the Steelheads placed on one wall of the rink from both their days in the WCHL and now the ECHL. Two autographed retired numbers are displayed as well; # 22 Cal Ingraham (a leading scorer for the Steelheads and now the coach for the hockey club at Boise State) and # 4 Jeremy Mylymok (a three-time captain and defenseman of the Steelheads).

The PA announcer’s voice is muffled and a fan who is not familiar with the players cannot understand who scored a goal or an assist. The music level is fine in this arena. They do turn the lights off pregame and between periods which is quite annoying, but not uncommon. The temperature in the venue is comfortably warm; not too cold. A heavy sweater, jersey, or sweatshirt should do the trick.

Neighborhood 5

Downtown Boise is great! There are lots of restaurants, bars, coffee and tea shops, and the Capitol Building. There’s a Basque Museum, a couple breweries, a Trader Joe’s, and several hotels within walking distance. In the winter, it’s cold but if the sun is out, you’ll have a perfect afternoon to explore this delightful downtown. The sidewalks and roads can get icy so be careful where you step.

The Grove Hotel (an upscale lodging) is attached to CenturyLink Arena. In fact, there’s an entranceway from the hotel into the arena. New glass doors were installed in 2014 so that one can see the hockey rink from the hotel lobby which is a nice treat. They do close those doors prior to the game. Two blocks from the arena is a Hampton Inn & Suites and four or so blocks away is a Safari Inn.

Local breweries downtown Boise include: 10 Barrell Brewing (Good beer – try the Rye IPA – food is served at this location), Boise Brewing, and Woodland Empire Brewery (they specialize in IPA’s).

A recommended place for a hearty breakfast is Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro (a few steps from the arena). For a pint and a bite before (or after) the game, check out Bittercreek Alehouse which offers local brews and delicious pub food, is just two blocks away, and service is excellent. The Piper Pub & Grill (a traditional pub atmosphere) may also suit your fancy and is .1 mile away from CenturyLink Arena.

There are a wide variety of tea and coffee shops located in the downtown area. I tried the Dawson’s Downtown Coffee House and it offers a nice hot, bold cup of joe for a chilly morning stroll.

For places to tour, there’s nothing better than visiting a state’s capitol building and Idaho’s is an impressive one. There are self guided tours as well as guided tours. Check out the Basque Museum located one block from the arena for some enriching history lessons of this culture.

Around the winter solstice, the sun doesn’t begin rising in Boise until about 8am so if you’re an early bird, you’ll be taking your steps in the dark.

Fans 4

The team has consistently averaged at least 4,000 fans per game and average 80% of capacity. All fans (except the lady in front of me at the game I attended) demonstrate hockey etiquette by remaining in their seats while the puck is in play.

It’s mostly adults and couples; not a whole lot of kids, though the environment is quite family friendly. And, the fans stay till the end of the game.

They are dedicated, vibrant, and very conversant with their players and the game of hockey.

Access 4

Because the arena is located in the downtown area, there is plenty of parking available very close to the arena. Free parking, however, is pretty much non-existent. According to the City of Boise’s website, there are 3,500 parking spaces in the city-operated downtown parking garages. Visitors receive the first hour free in all garages except the Grove Street Garage, and each additional hour is $2.50. In addition, there are several privately owned surface parking lots available. Most of these lots charge a $5 flat fee for event parking.

There is construction going on in front of the CenturyLink Arena and this will be a new public transportation/bus transit depot and is expected to be completed in 2016. Currently, there are a few bus stops close to CenturyLink Arena. Check the Valleyride site for current bus transportation information.

The concourses can get a bit congested especially between periods. One point of note is the stadium doors only open 40 minutes prior to the first puck drop. Though it’s not a big arena, it doesn’t give stadium journeyers a whole lot of time to check out the arena and offerings.

If flying in for a game, the closest airport is Boise Airport – BOI (it’s a nice airport) and is a 10 – 15 minute vehicle ride to the CenturyLink Arena.

Return on Investment 3

Ticket prices range from $17 to $50 and they do tack on an additional convenience charge regardless of how/when they are purchased. The Steelheads do offer ticket promotions such as four tickets for $44 or a flex any day ticket plan. Concession prices are a bit less than other ECHL venues.

They provide a roster sheet (though it’s really too small to read especially when the lights are turned off/down which is much of the time) and a ‘Hockey makes downtown come alive’ magazine both free of charge.

For a day and evening of entertainment, a Steelhead game is worth the price especially being in downtown Boise.

Extras 3

Having an arena right in a hotel is worth a visit.

Having a winning team year in and year out makes being a Steelhead fan enjoyable and satisfying.

I can’t say enough about downtown Boise and what a fantastic area it is to visit.

Final Thoughts

Do check out the delightful downtown Boise area for a fun filled day. The Steelheads put on a good show, provide valuable sports entertainment, and it’s a rewarding place to watch and enjoy an ice hockey game.

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