Indiana Farmers Coliseum – Indy Fuel
Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43
Indiana Farmers Coliseum 1202 E 38th St Indianapolis, IN 46205
Year Opened: 1939
A Tradition of Hockey at Indy’s Coliseum
The Indiana Farmers Coliseum went through $53 million in renovations between 2012-2014 in order to welcome professional hockey back to the building. The Indy Fuel of the ECHL is affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League and has found a niche in a city that favors basketball, football, and minor league baseball during the winter months.
Indianapolis has had a strong history of hockey in its city and a majority of it has been played at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum. The building debuted the same year as the city’s first professional team in 1939. The coliseum is located on the Indiana State Fairgrounds and served as home to various minor league franchises up until 2012 when it was closed for major renovations that would alter its interior structure, but maintain its historic exterior.
The Fuel has tossed their hats to the list of professional hockey clubs that have called the coliseum home from the Indianapolis Capitals, Chiefs, Checkers, and Ice. The city’s biggest connection to hockey royalty is to Wayne Gretzky who began his professional career with the Indianapolis Racers of the World Hockey Association in 1978 for eight games before being sold to the Edmonton Oilers. The Great One would return to the city to drop the puck for the 2018 ECHL All-Star Game held at the building.
Gretzky is among a list of hockey legends who got their start or spent their time in the Circle City and include Dominik Hasek, Mark Messier, Dave Keon, Glen Hall, Alex Delvecchio, Marcel Pronovost, Terry Sawchuk, and Sid Abel. All of these men are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto.
Food & Beverage 4
The food at the Coliseum has improved over the past five seasons since the Fuel entered the league and there are some interesting items that are worthy of consumption when at a game. The concession areas, located on the main wraparound concourse, have a simple look, but some of the new food items are quite tasty.
The menu items have changed since our last visit two years ago and offer much more variety along with updated flat-screen monitors showcasing selections and pricing. The Legacy and Slapshot burgers, pork tenderloins, and pulled pork and spicy chicken sandwiches range in price between $10-$12, All sandwich items are served with a side of fries.
There are a few kiosks that offer more options including beef and chicken stir fry, grilled brats and Polish sausages, and nacho supreme. Hot dogs are served in adult and kid sizes at concession stands. Snacks and held bites include chili cheese fries, barbecue loaded fries, mini corn dogs, and chicken tenders and fries
The Jose Cuervo Bar is located at center ice in Section 209 and offers mixed drinks and draft beers in a bar-like setting, while at the same time, offering wide-open glimpses of the game. There are a few more wide-open spots on the main concourse where fans can stand and watch the game. In other areas of the building, fans can pull up a stool, enjoy food and drink, and take in the game.
The Coliseum offers 16 and 24-ounce domestic beers for $7 and $9. Craft beers from local Centerpoint and Sun King breweries are available in 16 and 24 ounces for $9 and $11. If you do prefer a pint or can of beer there are options for White Claw seltzer, Jack Daniels punch, and Bramble Mule cocktails. Local Whiskey Tango bourbon is also available. If you do not drink, Pepsi products are available in the arena.
The Coliseum has a seating capacity of 6,800 and has been retrofitted from its original designs that date back almost 80-years-ago. The interior’s aesthetics has been dramatically altered with the installation of the original terrazzo floors, exposed walls, and steel support beams, and the inclusion of 96 original wooden theater seats.
The upper concourse does not wrap around entirely around the building and that is due to the age of the building and construction efforts to keep the interior within the realms of historical value. However, the ones who are in this area do get a nice view of the ice, but there could be a few more concession points to serve some of the fans in this seating area.
The Jose Cuervo Bar is a nice spot to watch the game with a gathering of fans while enjoying something to drink.
The building’s main lobby is located on ice level and all fans must depart to their seats up to two flights of stairs at both ends. The lobby consists of ticket booths, the official souvenir shop “The Garage,” and a few nostalgic nods that include historical photos, original ticket booths, and a few wooden stadium seating. However, there could be more nods to the facility’s history with perhaps championship banners, more historical photos, and paraphernalia.
The Fairgrounds are not located in the best part of the city; the best bet would be to drive less than 3 miles north to South Broad Ripple, or SoBro as the hipsters say it, where there are plenty of local restaurants, bars, and nightlife to entertain guests after a hockey game.
Twenty Tap features poutine, Bahn mi sandwiches, vegetarian buffalo wing bites, and fried cheese curds to go along with one of the more prestigious selections of beers on tap and a couple that is made downstairs in the basement. Next door is Fat Dan’s which specializes in smoked chicken wings, pulled pork and brisket sandwiches, decadent burgers with various fixings, and craft beer selections.
Also in this area is one of the Fuel’s official sponsors, The Sinking Ship. It’s a hockey bar with a menu that stretches from grass-fed stuffed burgers, and Cuban sandwiches, to seitan gyro wraps and wings. It is one of the area’s most eclectic spots and definitely a happening spot for hockey talk. Upland Brewing Company has a small taproom that is somewhat unassuming but orders a Champagne Velvet Pilsner or Free Time Lager on tap.
Indianapolis does have a niche hockey market that comes alive when rivals from Cincinnati and Ft. Wayne come to town. The crowd can become even more frenzied on promotional nights that range from Blackhawk Night to Nickelodeon Night at the Coliseum. Average crowds have been creeping towards 4,000 a game the past five seasons and when there are only 6,800 seats available, the near-capacity crowd might make one think that they are indeed in a hockey town.
The Coliseum is located at the Indiana State Fairgrounds at the corner of 38th Street and Fall Creek Parkway. There are two access points into the building that may cause a line on either street, but there are more exits available after the game for quick access out of the fairgrounds complex. At times, there may be other events taking place, it may get a little confusing navigating to your parking lot.
Inside the building, the main concourse does get a tad congested on busier nights in the building which may lead to the narrow corners of the concourse being somewhat cumbersome to maneuver through between intermissions. Thankfully, during game time, the concourses are quite clear of traffic.
After the game, various exits and interior staircases open up for everyone to exit quickly from the building to the front of the main entrance. There are plenty of staff members who guide motorists to various exit points and back on the main streets of 38th and Fall Creek Parkway.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices range from $12 to $45 per game, slightly higher than division rivals in Cincinnati and Ft. Wayne, but both teams play in much larger arenas. The majority of the upper-level tickets are $12 and $15 and that is a reasonable price for a minor league hockey ticket, along with secure $5 parking, not too much to ask for, or a night of ECHL hockey.
The return on investment increases with promotional nights that include Fuel Do317 Right which offers $3 beers and sodas, $1 hot dogs, and $7 limited edition t-shirts on select Friday nights, $2 Tuesdays where select concession items are just two bucks, and All-You-Can-Eat hot dogs, burgers, popcorn and nachos during each Thursday game. If with the kids, take them to Nickelodeon Night, or if it is guys' night out, the popular Blackhawk Night is an ideal choice, both games draw near-capacity crowds to the building.
The Coliseum gets an extra point for the renovated wooden seats that are available as a seating option in the building. It is a nice nod to the building’s history and the seats are quite comfortable for their age.
The Coliseum has improved its concession items from the last two visits and the variety has improved from the concession stand favorites to kiosks around the concourse. All items range in price from $8 to $12 apiece with the chicken sandwich served with a side of fries.
A third point for the team’s introduction on the ice through fire and Metallica’s song “Fuel,” is sort of what one expects from a team called the Indy Fuel.
There are times when the building is packed with hockey fans and one believes that Indianapolis is indeed a hockey town. The team does a grand job of providing various promotional nights to lure fans to the building. The exposed piping and steel beams provide aesthetics unparalleled in the ECHL. The Fuel does what it needs to do in terms of marketing itself to the populace of Indianapolis; it should continue that trend in the upcoming years.