Photos by Eric Moreno, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29
H-E-B Center at Cedar Park 2100 Avenue of the Stars Cedar Park, TX 78613
Year Opened: 2009
Texas Stars: H-E-B Center at Cedar Park
Located in the north Austin suburb of Cedar Park, H-E-B Center – since it’s opening over a decade ago – has quickly become a hub for numerous events and concerts, as well as the home for the majority of Austin’s indoor minor league sports franchises, including the Austin Spurs of the NBA G League, the Austin Sound of the Extreme League, and the Texas Stars of the AHL.
The minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Texas Stars, the Austin version has called H-E-B Center home since the facility opened in 2009. In that time the Stars have experienced a pretty good amount of success on the ice. The team has won two Division championships (2012-13, 2013-14), three Conference Championships (2009-10, 2013-14, and 2017-18), and the Calder Cup Championship (the AHL equivalent to the Stanley Cup) in 2014. The Stars also have the rare distinction of having retired the jersey of their former player, Travis Morin, who retired holding nearly all of the team’s important offensive records.
Texas, understandably, is not known as a hot bed for hockey – however, because of the makeup of the population in the city of Austin, the locals have fully embraced the Stars and turn out in droves in green and black for games. Read on to learn what make H-E-B Center at Cedar Park one of the premier stops in the AHL.
Food & Beverage 4
When it comes to food and beverage options, H-E-B Center has fans covered. All the concessions for fans sitting in the general admissions areas are on the main concourse, which is nice. Traditional game day standbys like burgers, hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, etc. are offered, and can come in your basic, run-of-the-mill variety or a little turned up, if you will. For example, at the 183 Chophouse stand you can get a standard cheddar cheeseburger, or you can get a Black ‘n Bleu Hockey Burger (with bacon and bleu cheese).
For hot dogs, at the 50s-themed diner Fairlane’s you can get a Nolan Ryan all-beef hot dog topped with whatever you want, or you can get, for example, a Janis Joplin dog (with Hatch green chilis and mac and cheese) or a James Dean dog (bleu cheese coleslaw and Frank’s Rod Hot Sauce) all for $6, which is a great bargain.
The Texas tried and true cuisine favorites of barbecue and Tex-Mex are also represented at the Texas Smokehouse and Rojo’s Mexican Hideaway stands. At these two stands you can get such classics as Frito pie, tamales, chopped and sliced beef sandwiches, street corn, and carnitas tacos. Also, chain restaurants such as Chick-fil-A, Pizza Hut, Bahama Buck’s, and Amy’s Ice Cream are on site and offer pared-down versions of their signature menus.
Quite frankly, minor league sports are a mixed bag when it comes to the atmosphere. You’ll always have your core group of hardcore fans, but, depending on the size of the market, crowd sizes vary wildly. However, for the most part in my limited experience, minor league hockey seems to be an outlier – even here in Texas.
In a city like Austin, where a good portion of the populace is transplanted from outside the state – many from places where hockey is a religion – the Stars have become a welcome reminder of their former homes.
Since formally adopting the colors of their parent club in the Big D, you will see the stands of H-E-B Center littered with green, black, and white. Many are wearing the sweaters of current and past Texas Stars players or current and former Dallas Stars players. You’ll also see random Detroit Red Wings or Quebec Nordiques sweater or caps, just for fun.
The team proudly flies its championship banners from the rafters, including Morin’s retired jersey and those of the Austin Spurs, and the crowd (more on them shortly) has responded to the team’s success in kind with enthusiasm and gusto. They cheer with every near goal and hard check. They have also carried down the parent club’s tradition of emphasizing “Stars” during that portion of the Star-Spangled Banner” – I’m not a fan of it personally, but to each their own.
Cedar Park is a suburb of Austin and is around a 25-minute drive from Austin’s downtown area. If you choose to come in for a game, you can’t go wrong staying in either town.
Austin has everything you could want; the city is the de facto live music capital of the world with performances of every kind going on anywhere you can fit more than five people and a microphone. It’s also got museums, is a top destination for foodies, and has major league sports, as well as world-class hotel options to go along with all its entertainment and dining options.
Cedar Park, while it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles Austin does, is still a charming small town nonetheless. When looking for things to do before games, Cedar Park has quite a few options – for outdoor enthusiasts, the Brushy Creek Regional Trail and Balcones Canyonlands offer visitors the chance to see native wildlife, as well as feature hiking, biking, running, and paddling and canoeing options.
For a little family fun that’s off the beaten path, the Austin Steam Train Association offers train rides on weekends from their station in Cedar Park, including themed runs such as murder mysteries, as well as dinner ride options.
When it comes to dining options, there are many dining and hotel options available in Cedar Park that are not only unique to the area, but are also close to H-E-B Center. For dining, the Blue Corn Harvest Bar & Grill is a favorite due to its unique southwestern-themed menu, and offers up fare such as tinga chicken rellenos, blue corn crust crispy salmon, and Baja shrimp tacos. Another option to keep an eye out for is Lucy’s Fried Chicken – as the name implies it offers top-notch fried chicken in all its varied forms; a sneaky great option is the fried chicken spaghetti.
When it comes to hotels, there are numerous options depending on your budget, and many are within driving distance of H-E-B Center. These include the Springhill Suites by Marriott Austin Cedar Park and Westin Austin at The Domain.
For Stars games, H-E-B Center is set up in a horseshoe configuration with the east end seats being mostly removed. Still, even without these seats the team averages just under 5,500 fans per game. The arena normally seats around 8,000, so even at close to 75% capacity, this is pretty impressive on a regular basis.
The fans that come out show up decked in their green and black Stars gear, and are engaged from the minute the puck drops until the final buzzer sounds. It’s a passionate fan base that has proven to be knowledgeable, and that makes it fun to watch Stars games at H-E-B Center.
H-E-B Center is about a 25-minute drive from downtown Austin; it’s also about 28 minutes from Austin’s Bergstrom International Airport. The arena is located directly off state highway 183, though be forewarned that this is a toll road.
Once on site, parking for Stars games is plentiful and is free, which is a nice bonus. However, unlike Austin, public transportation options are few and far between in Cedar Park. There are currently no light rail or bus stops at H-E-B Center. Your best bet, if you choose not to drive to the game, is to look into utilizing a rideshare service.
Return on Investment 4
Single-game tickets for Stars games at H-E-B Center start at $21 per person. This is pretty much on par with the other teams across the AHL, which also goes for concessions; when you take into consideration the free parking, Texas Stars games at H-E-B Center can be quite a bargain, especially if you’re bringing a family.
Since the AHL is the last stop for most players before they get to the NHL, there’s a good chance you’re going to see some top-level players at highly affordable prices. It’s also a great way to introduce novices to the sport of hockey.
Like most minor league franchises, the Stars employ a lot of the traditional things to attract fans, and to keep them entertained while they’re in the arena. There are games during the intermission periods, there’s organ music of course, and there are giveaways and theme nights ($2 draft beer night, Halloween goalie mask night, Star Wars night, etc.).
All of these are great. Perhaps the biggest draw though is the team’s mascot, which is arguably one of the most unique that I’ve come across, Ringo the Ringtail. Ringo (Ringo…Stars, get it?) is a life-sized ringtail, which looks like a cross between a fox and a raccoon and is a species unique to south Texas. He’s become quite the legend across the AHL, and young fans flock to him whenever he patrols the stands of H-E-B Center.
I’ve been to several events at H-E-B Center, including several Stars games, and I have enjoyed myself every time. This is a great venue, especially for hockey. There is no such thing as a bad sightline here and it still feels new, somehow, even though it is now over 10 years old.
The Stars really do strive to put a great product on the ice, and they try to make sure they are worthy of the venue. I think anyone going will enjoy themselves. The arena isn’t necessarily bucket list worthy, but it is definitely more than worth your time to make a visit to Cedar Park.
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