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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

SNHU Arena - Manchester Monarchs

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.43

SNHU Arena 555 Elm St Manchester, NH 03101

Year Opened: 2001

Capacity: 9,852

Uneasy lies the Crown

Not that long ago, the Manchester Monarchs were one of the more successful teams in the American Hockey League. The team was a perennial contender for the Calder Cup, sent dozens of players to the parent Los Angeles Kings, and played to near capacity crowds night after night at the Verizon Wireless Arena (now named the SNHU Arena). The Kings’ 2012 and 2014 Stanley Cup teams consisted mostly of players who came up through Manchester.

In the summer of 2015 the Monarchs were swept up in the great western migration of the AHL. The Kings, who owned the franchise at the time, decided that having a team on the other side of the continent wasn’t working for them, and moved their primary affiliate to Ontario, California, 45 miles away from the Staples Center. The Monarchs, located over 3,000 miles away in New Hampshire, never stood a chance.

The Kings offered Manchester a consolation prize in the form of the Ontario ECHL franchise, which they also owned. New Hampshire hockey fans were slow to warm to the lower level of hockey. Attendance dropped by 20 percent in the Monarchs’ initial ECHL campaign, and has continued to slip in each of the team’s four seasons in the ECHL. In January of 2019, the team’s owners, PPI Sports, who purchased the team in 2016, announced their desire to sell the team.

The Monarchs have won one division title and made the playoffs in each of their first three seasons in the ECHL.

Food & Beverage 3

Only a pair of permanent concession stands are open, selling hot dogs, burgers, chicken tenders, Italian sausage and pizza. Some unique items, including meatball subs and Caesar salad are also sold at these stands. Snacks, including popcorn, pretzels and peanuts, as well as healthier snacks such as fruit cups and parfaits, round out the menu. Fans looking to save a few dollars can purchase a Kids Meal Deal, which contains a hot dog, kids popcorn, oreo cookie and Tum-E-Yummie.

Several portable stands sell Carvel Ice Cream and Dippin’ Dots. Check out one of the beer stands, where a carving station is set up selling freshly sliced roast beef sandwiches.

Coca-Cola products are featured at SNHU Arena. Several brands of beer, including Coors Light, Bud Light, Miller Lite, Sam Adams and Labatt’s are sold here.

Atmosphere 2

The game day atmosphere is where fans who have not visited Manchester in a while will notice the greatest difference. Not only have the crowds decreased, but many aspects of the game day presentation have disappeared as well.

The kids’ zone remains on the concourse, but now consists solely of a single inflatable slap shot cage. The team’s mascot, Max, is hardly seen during the action anymore. No matter how hard they try, a crowd of under 3,000 in a 10,000 seat arena just can’t generate a whole lot of sustained noise or energy. The closed-off upper deck, covered by tarps on both ends, remind long-time fans of better days in the past. The arena’s scoreboard, once considered state of the art, now looks woefully outdated when compared to modern video boards present in so many arenas today.

Neighborhood 5

Manchester is New Hampshire’s largest city, located about an hour’s drive northwest of Boston via Interstate 93. SNHU Arena is located on the western edge of the city, adjacent to the downtown region and the Merrimack River.

The area around SNHU Arena is safe and walkable. Visiting fans looking for places to eat or drink will find no shortage of options close by. The Central Ale House, located a block from the arena, is a self-serve, pay by the ounce bar with a wide variety of adult beverages to choose from. The Red Arrow Diner is perhaps Manchester’s most famous eatery, having been open for close to a century. During presidential elections, it’s a favorite stop for politicians campaigning in the area and locals alike.

There are many hotels located in the downtown area as well. Baseball fans will enjoy the view at the Downtown Hilton, which overlooks Northeast Delta Dental Stadium, home of the AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats.

Fans 2

Fans in New Hampshire have not warmed up to ECHL hockey after many years of watching the AHL. Near the end of the 2018-19 season the Monarchs were averaging just over 2,400 fans per game, which ranks them 26th out of the 27 teams in the ECHL. It’s a decrease of 50 percent from the team’s first year in the league, and a far cry from the several years the team averaged over 8,000 fans in the early 2000s.

New Hampshire hockey fans are very knowledgeable and passionate, and know their sport. A typical Monarchs crowd will look very much like most minor league hockey crowds, full of families and youth groups mixed in with the die-hard fans.

Access 5

SNHU Arena is really simple to find, located about a quarter mile off of Interstate 293 on the edge of downtown. Simply take exit 5 (Canal St.), cross over the Merrimack River, and follow Granite Street up the hill through three sets of traffic lights. The arena will be on your right at the corner of Elm Street.

There is a great deal of on-street parking available in the immediate area of SNHU Arena for those fans wanting to save a few dollars. In addition, there are ample garages and lots available for visiting Monarchs fans. A complete map of parking options can be found here.

There is no entry lobby at SNHU Arena, which is a glaring omission when visiting during the frigid New Hampshire winter. After passing through a stringent security check, fans will find themselves in front of the arena’s stage and pro shop. A pair of staircases lead to the main concourse.

The Monarchs have closed the upper deck due to the small crowds present at Monarchs games. The concourse circles the entire arena, and is easily passable, despite becoming narrow in some spots. Restrooms are more than ample for current Monarchs crowds.

Return on Investment 3

Tickets to Monarchs games are sold for $20, which will get you a seat anywhere in the lower bowl. Paying an extra dollar gets you a seat in one of the two center ice sections on either side of the ice. Seniors receive a two dollar discount, children a six dollar discount, and college students a ten dollar discount.

Parking in the many garages a short walk from the SNHU Arena costs ten dollars, but frugal hockey fans should search the area around the arena for on-street parking. Meters run until 8 pm Monday-Saturday. On-street parking is free on Sundays.

Concession prices are a bit on the high side, but are not unreasonable when compared to other venues in the area.

Extras 2

The Kings kept the Calder Cup Banner that the Monarchs won during their final AHL season in Manchester at the SNHU Arena. Hanging next to the Calder Cup banner are two banners listing all the players who played in both Los Angeles and Manchester. Located on the concourse is a display honoring the history of New Hampshire hockey.

Final Thoughts

It’s sad to see how far support for the Monarchs has eroded in this excellent hockey market. After years of declining attendance and interest, the team is being sold for the second time in three years. The outgoing owners have stated a desire to find local ownership that will keep the team in New Hampshire, but it may be too little too late. At this point, the only thing that may be able to save the team would be an affiliation with the nearby Boston Bruins.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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