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  • Writer's pictureMeg Minard

The Monument – Rapid City Rush

Photos by Meg Minard, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00

The Monument 444 N Mt Rushmore Rd Rapid City, SD 57701

Year Opened: 2008

Capacity: 5,132


Welcome to Rush Nation

The Rapid City Rush are a minor league hockey team currently playing in the ECHL. The ECHL used to be the East Coast Hockey League but they rebranded to just the initials ECHL after the league expanded across North America. The Rapid City Rush originated in 2008 as part of the now defunct CHL (Central Hockey League). When that league folded in 2014, the Rush transitioned to the ECHL.

While in the CHL, the Rush won the Ray Miron President’s Cup in the 2009-2010 season, and the division championship in 2010-2011 but they have not seen any championships yet since moving to the ECHL. Their time is due.

The Rush are currently affiliated with the NHL Calgary Flames.

They play their home games at the massive Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The Civic Center is a hubbub of activity in Rapid City and it includes a banquet hall, large meeting rooms, basketball court, ice arena (which can be set up as a concert hall), and theatre.

Stock shows, rodeos, concerts, plays, truck monster jams, auctions and a variety of other entertainment and activities are provided at the Civic Center.

The ice arena in the Civic Center is a splendid venue in which to watch a minor league hockey game and one worth visiting if in the Black Hills area of the country.

Editor’s Note: The venue was remodeled in 2021 after this review. The name changed from Rushmore Plaza Civic Center to The Monument after a naming rights agreement with Monument Health Rapid City Hospital.

Food & Beverage 4

A good variety of food choices are available at standard prices for Rush games at the Civic Center. Several permanent stands are installed and a wide variety of portable carts line the concourse.

Entree combos (choices of pretzels, hot dogs, cheeseburgers, chicken strips, fries, soda, beer, popcorn) range from $6 – $18.

Tacos and chips and guacamole are on hand ($3.50 – $9) as well as pizza from Pizza Ranch ($3.50/slice).

Snacks include shaved ice, caramel apples, frozen bananas, and funnel cakes. Other goodies include popcorn, soft pretzels w/cheese, homemade chips, pickles, and candy ($3 – $6).

There’s an interesting mini-donut concession stand where you can watch the donuts being formed, then dipped for frying, and watch as they travel through the frying process to an output tray where they are flipped and ready to be packaged for a fan’s purchase.

Subway make its presence with 6″ sandwiches for $5.75 and a foot long for an additional $3.50.

The best or recommended dinner choice comes from The Carvery. This stand offers hand carved sandwiches on a variety of breads along with a side of homemade chips and runs $8 – $10.

Beverages include Coca-Cola fountain drinks ($3.25/$4/$4.75), bottled water ($3), and coffee, hot chocolate, lemonade, iced tea ($2.50 – $3.50). Domestic beers are available for $6 and include brands like PBR, Bud, Coors, Michelob, and associated light varieties. Mixed in are Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Henry’s Hard Soda and Redd’s Apple Ale. Angry Orchard cocktails are also available. An alcohol special at a Rush game is a Miller Lite or Henry’s Hard Soda for $4 from when the gate opens to the first puck drop.

Beers from two local Rapid City breweries (Lost Cabin Beer Co and Firehouse Brewing) are on sale providing an unexpected, nice surprise for craft beer lovers.

One thing that is different (not bad; just different) is in front of every concession stand selling alcoholic beverages, several individuals in blue shirts request IDs and place a wristband after ID has been examined. I’m used to venues where fans go to a centralized table on the concourse to get a wristband to purchase alcoholic drinks.

Atmosphere 4

The ice arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is a fine facility in which to watch a minor league hockey game.

The seating area is U-shaped. There is no center hung scoreboard allowing the passionate Rush fans the ability to see each other throughout the arena. A large, flat-screen video scoreboard is posted on the wall on the top end of the U and provides basic scoring stats and a visual broadcast of the game along with replays.

There is one level of seating. Depending on section, rows go up to 14 or 16 with entry beginning at the bottom from rows 3 or 4. Hand rails are available when walking up/down the steps. Suites are above sections R through M on the player’s bench side of the rink. The Bankwest Club Level is above sections K – L behind one of the goals.

To sit center ice facing the benches, section C, row 16 is the best bet. I’d recommend sitting high in this arena as people’s heads often get in the way when sitting in lower rows.

The sound system is average; fortunately the volume is not excruciatingly loud making it easy to converse with neighbors. It is hard to understand the announcements as they are muffled.

The temperature in the rink is surprisingly warm; a long sleeve t-shirt or hockey jersey would do the trick. NOTE: I was told this is not always the case as it is hit or miss with the temperature and to come prepared with warmer clothing.

Lots of promotions are implemented at Rush games: Pink at the Rink (including paint the ice pink the night before the game) (fight against cancer), Zombie night, Military appreciation, Star Wars, and more. The night I attended was Slap Shot night and the Rush players all wore the Johnstown Chiefs jerseys as depicted in that famous hockey movie.

Neighborhood 5

The Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is only two blocks north of downtown Rapid City and is well within walking distance of the downtown area and all that has to offer. In addition, Rapid City is close (25 – 50 miles) to many national monuments.

For places to spend the night, a Holiday Inn is adjacent (a couple hundred yards) from the entrance to the ice arena. A Howard Johnson’s is right across the street from the Civic Center and offers Rush packages that include tickets, shuttle to arena and pre-game tailgating at the hotel. The shuttle is available to all hotel guests. But honest, the HJ is so close a shuttle isn’t really needed on most but the brutally cold evenings.

Two hotel choices directly in the downtown area are Hotel Alex Johnson (a historic hotel) and the Rushmore Hotel (a bit pricier than the others). I’ve stayed at both the Howard Johnson’s and the Alex Johnson’s and both are comfortable, safe hotels.

Life size US President statues dot the downtown Rapid City intersections and are well worth checking out. All 43 presidents are represented with President Obama’s (#44) statue location and sculptor to be determined (the weekend of this Rapid City Rush review was the first weekend of the transition of presidency from President Obama to President Trump, so a 45th will eventually need to be placed, as well.)

Places to eat within walking distance before a hockey game include Historic Freight House (Cajun), and Murphy’s Pub and Grill. Three breweries take residence in Rapid City: Lost Cabin (marvelous brews with a food truck outside to get a bite to eat), Firehouse Brewing Company (brews and food), and Hay Camp (they were in the process of relocating closer to downtown – so I didn’t get to taste their hops on this visit).

When visiting the mid-western border of South Dakota (besides a Rush game) be sure to include these remarkable parks and monuments as places to see during your visit: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Badlands National Park, Crazy Horse Memorial, and Minuteman Missile National Historic Site. And for something local in Rapid City, the Journey Museum is a worthwhile visit exploring the heritage of the Black Hills region.

Fans 5

Fans are genuinely passionate and loyal. And, they are welcoming and easy to converse with. And, they love their cowbells.

When the Rush played in the CHL, average attendance was 4,600 – 4,900 and they were generally in the top third of attendance ranking in that league. That has dropped a bit since moving into the ECHL as the average attendance in 2015 and 2016 ranges from 3,700 – 3,900 per home game. Except for a few more empty seats, it’s hard to tell as the noise and compassion are still very evident.

About every third fan has a cowbell and every fan uses it well. That means… they ring it at appropriate moments but for not too long. Yes, it can cause a slight headache but this is part of the architecture, beauty, and character of minor league hockey and the Rapids fans do it so well.

And there’s a non-offensive ribbing remark shouted after each goal scored by the opposing team is announced: “We don’t care!”

The Rapid City Rush fans are just classy. I rank them up there with the St Louis Cardinals fans. They love the game, love their team and even appreciate stellar performances from opposing teams. They root for their team to win and not so much for the opposing team to lose as is noticeable at some ECHL venues.

Access 3

Getting to Rushmore Plaza Civic Center is relatively easy. Moving around inside the ice arena concourse can be a tad difficult as the single concourse is narrow and lots of Rush fans congregate there pregame and between periods.

There is a Rapid Ride bus service in Rapid City but the schedule times are not conducive to hockey game start and ending times so car is the best bet. Of course, if staying downtown or near the facility, walking is the recommended choice. Plenty of free parking is available on the Civic Center property (from Mt Rushmore Rd and 5th Ave). The parking lot of Central High School just across 8th Ave (Mt Rushmore Rd) is available as well (approximately 1,000 ft from entrance).

The nearest airport is Rapid City Regional Airport, approximately a 15-min drive to the Civic Center. Since it’s a regional airport, flight choices may be limited.

It does not appear Lyft or Uber are available in Rapid City. There are several taxi companies that can be used if desired or needed.

Multiple entrances are handy to get into the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The closest to the ice arena is the 5th Ave entrance.

Return on Investment 4

Parking is free, food and drink prices are reasonable, tickets range from $7.50 – $37.50 depending are where the seat is located. Nearby hotels are affordable. Combine all of that with a good hockey atmosphere, seeing a Rush game is a great value.

Extras 3

A couple of other things are worth mentioning or reiterating.

A piece of the Berlin Wall is located on the grounds of the Civic Center. When visiting a Rush game be sure to visit this monument just outside the venue.

Be sure to check out the Booster Club table on the concourse. These folks sell some items and trinkets to help with their goal to make the Rush players comfortable in a new town and team. They’ll gladly discuss the efforts they perform and provide for the players and events they try to coordinate for players and fans alike.

I can’t say enough about the fans and their use of cowbells to cheer good plays, blocks, saves and goals.

Final Thoughts

People give me a puzzled look when I say I’m going to Rapid City to see a hockey game. Most haven’t been to Rapid City or witnessed a hockey game there. If travels bring you to western South Dakota, check out a Rush game and all the other attractions in this part of the country.

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