Photos by Aaron S. Terry, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Crown Coliseum 1960 Coliseum Dr. Fayetteville, NC 28306
Year Opened: 1997 Capacity: 8,500
Making its Mark in Fayetteville
While not built specifically for hockey, the Crown Coliseum has been home to minor league hockey since it first opened its doors in 1997. Until 2001, the Fayetteville Force kept the Coliseum full and the fans made it loud. Unfortunately, the novelty of hockey wore off with the locals, and the team folded along with many when the CHL condensed. The next year, the FireAntz came to town and several years later, the team continues to rank in the upper half of Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) attendance.
The club acquired its current nickname after the 2016-2017 season when new ownership changed the name of the FireAntz to the Fayetteville Marksmen. The change reflects the city of relationship with the local United States Army post, Fort Bragg, as well as the native Carolina red fox.
“The fox identifies with the Marksmen, as it is indigenous to the area, but is also wild, cagy, and ferocious characteristics showcased on the ice. And, much like the team, the fox exhibits a softer, cuddly side for kids, school events, and non-profit atmospheres,” team President Jeff Longo said. “With the community involvement, our mascot will be a role model for kids in Fayetteville, help bring attention to fundraising initiatives and provide entertainment at every game.”
Food & Beverage 4
Crown Coliseum has an impressive spread of concessions. Just about anything you would want to find at a sporting event, the Coliseum is bound to have it. There is a huge, open area that the staff affectionately calls “the food court.” The food court features four different stands along with numerous carts. Coca-Cola is the beverage choice. Outside of the usual concessions, there are nuts, pastries, smoothies, and BBQ sandwiches. If you can’t find something you like at Crown Coliseum, you probably aren’t looking hard enough.
Even when the fans are into it, the Coliseum is bigger than most minor league arenas and it tends to drown out some of the energy. The Marksmen bring in an above-average amount of fans, yet it feels like less because the Coliseum is so big. The emptiness aside, the club knows how to make fans happy. There are theme nights, promotions galore, and many other ways for fans to get involved.
The theme nights are all listed on the team’s website. There is scout night, military appreciation night, star wars night, and kids night, which is when I attended. For kids' night, each kid that bought a horn is invited to come onto the ice at intermission and blow as loud as they can.
The promotions and games are generic (chuck-a-puck, dance-off, etc.). One issue the Coliseum has is the lack of multiple cameras. During games that focus on individual fans, it is hard to see them due to the lack of cameras. The Marksmen only have one camera, and it cannot focus on any one fan.
In 2013, the Marksmen added an area for fans that is called “The Pub.” A simple idea, an open spot on the club level features a bar, a TV, and several tables. This offers fans a different perspective on the game at no extra charge to them.
The coliseum itself is part of a much larger complex called the Crown Center. Much like the Greensboro Coliseum Complex, the Crown Center has a small arena, ballroom, expo center, theatre, and the coliseum itself.
The only problem with the Crown Center is the lack of business around it. The area offers ample parking, but few options for post-game festivities. The team tries to combat this by organizing post-game hangouts at Carolina Ale House, located not too far from the Crown Center.
Although you may not believe it at first, these fans know a thing or two about hockey. They are loud and behave like some of the best puck heads around. The only problem is that there aren’t enough fans to fill the Coliseum. The fans that do come are excellent, banging on the boards, starting their cheers, and wearing the team’s jerseys. The only thing that detracts is the fact that the fans don’t fill the Coliseum. The Marksmen rank near the top of attendance numbers in the SPHL, yet the Crown Coliseum makes this rather large fan base look relatively small.
Fayetteville, North Carolina is part of the state’s I-95 corridor, making it an easy city to visit from anywhere on the east coast. The Crown Coliseum is only about 15 minutes off of the highway, an overall easy drive.
Once inside the complex, the availability of parking is subject to what else is happening at the Crown Center. The night I attended, Bill Cosby was performing at the theatre making parking a little challenging. When the team is the only event of the night, parking is much easier. It may be a good idea to check schedules and see what else may be going on before you head out to a Marksmen game.
Return on Investment 3
Even though it’s about on par, I can’t help but feel like $14 is a bit much for an upper-level ticket to a minor-league hockey game (a lower-level league as well). The story is the same with concessions. While not much more expensive than the average concessions, it just feels like you’re paying for more than what you are getting in return.
The management goes to great lengths to try and get the town involved. These events happen about once a month and are simple ways that the team interacts with the city. There are post-game hangouts at the local Carolina Ale House, pre-game pep rallies at Hooters, meet and greets at Fazoli’s, and post-game on-ice meet and greets.
One thing that amazes me about the Marksmen fans is the number of jerseys in the crowd. Normally, you expect to see a few of the team’s jerseys, but many other professional teams mixed in (especially with the Carolina Hurricanes being so close in Raleigh at PNC Arena). I don’t think I saw a single jersey that wasn’t a Marksmen one. I felt almost out of place not wearing one.
The Marksmen name and logo tie in well with the local area and is a very sharp-looking design in the world of minor league hockey, When other clubs in the SPHL offer hokey and goofy designs, Fayetteville makes its “mark” with its jerseys and logos.
The Fayetteville Marksmen are an example of what minor league sports should be about. With a pro team only an hour away, the team knows that they have to be different from them. They embrace the city of Fayetteville and in turn, it seems the city has embraced the team. No minor league arena (or major league arena for that matter) is without its flaws, but the Crown Coliseum is an overall great place to see hockey, even if it’s not in a typical hockey market. The Crown Coliseum may not be the greatest hockey venue, but it is certainly one of the SPHL’s best.