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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Cool Insuring Arena – Adirondack Thunder

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.28

Cool Insuring Arena 1 Civic Center Plaza Glens Falls, NY 12801

Year Opened: 1979

Capacity: 4,744


Third League’s a Charm?

Surely you will understand if the hockey fans of the upstate New York town of Glens Falls have become somewhat jaded. This small town of 14,700 residents built an arena in 1979 to house the top farm team of the Detroit Red Wings. After 20 years and four Calder Cup Championships, the Red Wings folded the team and moved their affiliation to Grand Rapids.

The United Hockey League’s Adirondack IceHawks (later renamed the Frostbite) moved into the Civic Center in 2000. The Frostbite suspended operations in 2006, and it looked like the Civic Center had seen the end of professional hockey in Glens Falls.

The city and arena got a second chance when the Philadelphia Flyers, looking for a temporary home for their American Hockey League Phantoms, placed the team in Glens Falls in 2009. What was originally planned to be a two-year stay in New York turned into five seasons. The overwhelming support given to the Phantoms by Glens Falls made the city a legitimate option for teams looking for a minor league home.

The Calgary Flames stepped in with their AHL affiliate for the 2014-2015 season. The Flames signed a three-year agreement with the Civic Center, but from day one, there were rumors that the Flames would be part of a group of western conference teams that would move their affiliates to a new, Pacific Division of the AHL. This Pacific Division became a reality for the 2015-2016 season, leaving the Glens Falls Civic Center once again without an AHL tenant.

Luckily, the building did not go without a team for long. The Flames placed their ECHL team in Glens Falls, christening them the Adirondack Thunder. With the Flames organization’s dismal track record in keeping their farm teams in one place for any significant period, only time will tell if Glens Falls third different minor league will have any staying power. So far, Adirondack hockey fans appear to be taking a ‘wait and see’ approach.

Food & Beverage 3

Concession stands are set up in each corner of the arena, with each stand featuring a different theme (Pie in the Sky Pizza, Hot Dog Nation, Black Angus, and Fresh Classics). The menus don’t stray very far from your typical arena fare, and the prices are typical for this level of hockey. You won’t get any gourmet offerings here, but you also won’t need to take out a mortgage to feed yourself at a Flames game, either.

There is a decent selection of beers available in bottles at the main stands and draft stands located throughout the concourse. Bud Light, Shock Top, Stella Artois, Labatt’s, and craft brews from local favorite Davidson Brothers can all be found here. Prices start at eight dollars. Thunder fans seeking non-alcoholic beverages can choose from various Pepsi products.

Davidson Brothers also operate a pub in Heritage Hall, located underneath the stands during game nights. The Birch room, also located in Heritage Hall, offers a space for birthday parties, events, and buffet-style meals for fans before Friday and Saturday night games. The Ice Lounge, located here, offers discounted drink specials to season ticket holders.

Unfortunately, the arrival of the Thunder meant the exit of the classic flaming “A” logo sported by the Adirondack Flames. Fans looking for Thunder merchandise will find a small area of the lobby set aside for sales of the new squad’s gear.

Atmosphere 3

The Glens Falls Civic Center has a wonderful old-school feel to it. Part of that feeling is because the arena lacks many of the modern amenities that so many of the newer rinks possess. The center scoreboard is the old dot-matrix style of unit, and two large video screens hang in opposite corners of the rink.

One of the highlights of attending a game at the Glens Falls Civic Center in the past was the noise and excitement generated in the old barn. While very little has changed in the game day presentation from the days of the Phantoms and Flames, the atmosphere at the GFCC feels very different this year (2015-2016).

While there are still some old-school fans who try to make their presence felt with their non-stop heckling of the opposing team and officials, for the most part fans seem quieter and more subdued than in years past. Perhaps with some on-ice success and continued presence in the community, the team can regain the support of Glens Falls hockey fans.

The Thunder employ a mascot, Gunnar, who isn’t too much of a presence during the game, and an ice crew who also take some time to throw t-shirts into the crowd. The team offers 50/50 raffles and jersey raffles to benefit local charities. Overall, the Glens Falls Civic Center and the Thunder put on a very family-friendly event.

Neighborhood 4

The Civic Center is located right on the edge of downtown and is easy to get to from all parts of Glens Falls. I know what you may be thinking, what kind of downtown can there be in a town of 15,000? Despite the city’s small size, there are a surprising number of places to eat within walking distance of the Civic Center. Local establishments such as Dango’s, Davidson Brothers, Sandy’s Clam Bar, Sully’s West, and O’Toole’s Pub all attract Adirondack hockey fans before and after games.

Fans who visit Glens Falls during hockey season may choose to travel a couple of hours north to the ski areas of the Adirondacks. Hockey historians will be drawn to Lake Placid, home of the 1980 “Miracle on Ice.” During the summer months, the nearby village of Lake George is a popular tourist attraction.

Fans 2

Adirondack is averaging a shade over 2,400 fans per game two-thirds through their inaugural season in the ECHL, which ranks them 27th out of the 28 teams in the league. This mark also represents a decrease of 33 percent from their attendance in their final AHL season.

Fans in this region are passionate and knowledgeable about their teams, so there is hope that they will return to the GFCC. Some fans at the Civic Center may be a little too loud and vulgar, but their passion is contagious throughout the building. Many fans choose to stand along the railing at the top of the seating bowl throughout the game. With the steep pitch of the stands, it’s a great vantage point from which to take in the game.

Access 4

The Glens Falls Civic Center is located in downtown Glens Falls, just a couple of miles from Interstate 87, at the intersections of Routes 9 and 32. While the Greater Glens Falls Transit Company has several routes that serve downtown, most fans drive to the Civic Center for games. There are numerous lots within walking distance of the arena, most charging under $10. There are also many options for on-street parking nearby for fans who arrive early.

There isn’t a whole lot of room to maneuver once inside the Civic Center. There is a small entry lobby that contains a concession stand, the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame, and the Adirondack Hockey Hall of Fame. Pass through two sets of doors and you will enter the top of the sharply-pitched seating bowl. There is a single concourse that circles the top of the seating bowl. This walkway can become quite crowded at times, but crowds move around without too much backup. There are restrooms located underneath the seating area which are accessible by stairs at all four corners of the building.

Return on Investment 3

Tickets to Adirondack Thunder games range in price from $15-$27, which is a small increase over prices charged last year. Purchasing your tickets on game day will cost you an extra two dollars. Youth tickets can be purchased for $13 and $15 on game days.

Since charging more money for a lower level of hockey may not be the best business strategy, the Thunder have come up with some ways for fans to save some money. Buy one get one deal and reduced ticket specials on selected games have been instituted. Factor in inexpensive parking and concessions, and the Adirondack Thunder continue to be an affordable entertainment option for local hockey fans.

Extras 2

An extra point is awarded to the Adirondack Hockey Hall of Fame and the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame, which are both located on the concourse outside of the seating bowl. Another extra point is awarded for the Calder Cup Championship Banners still hanging from the rafters of the Civic Center 15 years after the Red Wings left town.

Final Thoughts

Adirondack hockey fans have been slow to embrace the Thunder and AA hockey after many years in the AHL. The team has stepped up its community presence and the organization is beginning to understand that it will take increased effort to bring local hockey fans back to the Glens Falls Civic Center. The GFCC is a great old hockey barn, and having a stable tenant occupying the building should go a long way toward ensuring a successful franchise after so many years of uncertainty.


Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.

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