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  • Steve Ohnsman

Trinity Health Arena - Muskegon Risers




Photo by Steve Ohnsman, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71

Trinity Health Arena 955 Fourth St Muskegon, MI 49440

Year Opened: 1960 Capacity: 3,500

 

Rising Up to the Occasion in Muskegon

The L. C. Walker Arena was dedicated to the City of Muskegon on October 27, 1960. Louis C. Walker, the founder of Shaw-Walker Office Equipment, wanted to provide for the recreational needs of his employees and residents and donated a generous $1 million for its construction. The city then spent an additional $1.5 million on the land, utilities, parking, and some furnishings. Walker would help create at least 14 other recreational fields and parks in Muskegon during his lifetime.


The arena has been home to a variety of events that have included concerts, trade shows, and sporting events. The arena also houses the Muskegon Lumberjacks of the United States Hockey League and the West Michigan Ironmen of the American Arena League; its newest tenant is the Muskegon Risers of Major Arena Soccer League 2 who call the building home for six games during the winter months.


The Risers were founded in 2014 and its nickname was inspired by the ‘Muskegon, Together Rising’ sculpture that stands in the heart of downtown. The club also operates in the United Premier Soccer League Midwest conference during the summer at Kehren Stadium.


According to its website, the colors of blue and gold reflect the city’s natural beauty as a lakeside community during the spring, summer, and fall seasons but change to black and white during the winter indoor season when Lake Michigan freezes and lake effect snow blankets the community.


The Risers also function as the primary player development partner of the Milwaukee Wave of MASL and the unique partnership includes cross-promotions, player development, tactical mentoring, game-day operations, and MASL call-ups. The Wave will also provide players who need additional playing time to the Risers when needed. It was the first and only such agreement in the two leagues of arena soccer.


The arena has a capacity of 3,500 for indoor soccer games and features a playing surface that is gray with white lining. There is also an artistic flair to the inner concourse from colorful chairs and tables, local artist paintings, and social hang-out spots. With the arena turning 60 years old at the beginning of the next decade, it is still a hip place to enjoy a soccer game.


In 2018 $1.7 million of renovations improved the fan experience and created a broader entertainment hub for patrons attending events in the building. These renovations included Rad Dad’s Taco & Tequilla Bar, a pavilion/beer garden, an enlarged concourse near the Western Ave. entrance, new suites and club-seating areas, a Kids Zone, and party decks on the northwest and southwest corners of the arena. The renovations decreased seating by 400 but fans are now able to enjoy events in the building in a myriad of options allowing for an open environment seen at much larger buildings across the nation.


in January 2020 the building will change its name to Mercy Health Arena at the tune of $1.5 million over 15 years. The sponsorship will begin with a sports-theme restaurant called Carlisle’s, Walker’s middle name, and include patio seating with local sports memorabilia on its walls.


Food & Beverage 3

The traditional concession stands offer $2 hot dogs, $6 cheddar brats, $10 brisket sandwiches, mac-n-cheese for $5, pizza by the slice or whole pie, and Pepsi products with unlimited refills for $4. Two bars offer domestic and craft beers for $4-$7 along with $7 mixed drinks and wine.


That’s nice enough but in the summer of 2018, interior space was used to create a new restaurant called Rad Dads, a high-end taco restaurant featuring a wide selection of tequilas. They serve food and drink in two plastic outdoor heated igloos and an indoor space. There are also skateboards, classic pinball, and video games along with a wall of cassette tapes that creates a lively and unique décor.


Along the stadium perimeter walls, small portable stands offer items such as classic Hawaiian shave ice (highly recommended) and ice cream.


Atmosphere 2

The renovations have created a building that stands out not only in the M2 but could also hold its own in the MASL. Spectators who enjoy watching soccer from their seats still have that option while others who want to mingle or be seen by others can find a spot at the bar or numerous party decks on the concourse. The changes have indeed created a “hub” for entertainment in town during the winter season.


There are some exterior and interior decor that show their age from when the building debuted in 1960. However, there is a colorful array of art inside the building that injects much-needed life into the old place. The most eye-popping aspect is the gray field turf that Risers play on during games that is not your typical green-colored surface. It was installed in April of 2017 and is also utilized by the indoor football team that occupies the building during the spring and summer, so you will see a few grid marks on its surface.


Approximately ten rows of reasonably comfortable red/purple padded seats surround the oval playing surface. There are not any cup holders available. The sight lines are good and seats are close to the action. A few special seating areas are available for groups and a kids' play area will keep the little ones busy. These two areas were part of recent renovations to the arena that also include a beer garden with 8 flat-screen TVs and a social area.


A scoreboard is over the center of the playing field that provides an average-quality sound system and good music during timeouts and between periods. The Risers do not have an official mascot. There is a small area offering team shirts and other merchandise.


Neighborhood 3

The area around the arena is mixed residential/commercial with several choices for food, drink, and entertainment. Rad Dads is a part of the building and fans can have dinner there and have great views of the action on the turf.


Nearby dining choices include Rebel Pies for pizza, 18th Amendment Spirits Company for a wide-ranging menu including wood-fired pizzas, and an old-school burger joint named Hamburger Mikey. Two well-rated breweries are Pigeon Hill Brewing Company and Unruly Brewing Company.


Three state parks on Lake Michigan are great to visit in the summer. Other attractions include the Muskegon Heritage Museum, the USS Silversides Submarine Museum, and the Monet Garden.


Fans 2

The Risers are working to create a fan interest in indoor soccer. Given the 3,500 seats, the fan support is limited right now. They have many families who attend along with several groups. The noise level is pretty low, but don’t blame The Port City Supporters, a group of four guys doing their best to get fans involved. An interesting twist that goes along with the vibe of the building, in one corner, multiple bed sheets have been painted as flags of the players’ nationalities. A total of 25 out of the squad’s 31 players are from the area or have attended a West Michigan college or university.


Access 3

Located on Business US 31 downtown and about two miles west of US 31, driving to the arena is pretty easy. Parking is a bit of a challenge as there are a few lots nearby so consider street parking. Handicap parking is at Fourth Street and Western Avenue and they have a handicap entrance with an elevator at the small back parking lot. There are two entrances; Western Avenue is handicap accessible and there are three handicap seating sections.


Gates open one hour before the game starts. A concourse surrounds the seating area which allows fans to follow the action everywhere. They are updating and adding new restrooms.


Return on Investment 3

Loge seats are $15; section seating is $11 and $9 tickets are offered to seniors, children under 17, and military members. Food and beverage prices are very reasonable and parking is free. The club does not offer a program but does offer free roster sheets showcasing the players’ names and uniform numbers.


Extras 3

Any arena that has a taco joint named Rad Dads is certainly worth a point, as well as real Hawaiian shave ice for another. Outdoor igloos in winter are fun for a small group, especially in the frigid temperatures of Michigan. The local art, grey turf, colorful displays around the concourse, and local eateries add to an interesting vibe to the arena that sets it a party for your typical M2 venue. This might be the crown jewel of the league.


Final Thoughts

Muskegon’s citizens are working hard to use L. C. Walker Arena as a local entertainment opportunity at a reasonable price. It is a nice spot for families and groups to enjoy a night out. As for the game of indoor soccer, the arena is the ideal size for the sport and the Risers hope to hang their hat along with minor league hockey and indoor football as a sports and entertainment option in the city. The local art, grey turf, colorful displays around the concourse, and local eateries add to an interesting vibe to the arena that sets it apart for your typical M2 venue. This might be the crown jewel of the league.




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