Total Mortgage Arena – Bridgeport Islanders
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
Total Mortgage Arena 600 Main St Bridgeport, CT 06604
Year Opened: 2001
The More Things Change…
The 2021-22 season has been full of rebranding in Bridgeport. On May 10, 2021, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers announced that they would be changing their name to the Islanders to reflect their affiliation with the New York Islanders. Then on March 7, 2022, it was announced that the name of the team’s home would also be changed. Total Mortgage entered into a ten-year naming rights agreement with the facility’s owners, Harbor Yards Sports and Entertainment.
The Total Mortgage Arena, originally named the Arena at Harbor Yard and then Webster Bank Arena, is a multi-purpose arena located near downtown Bridgeport, CT. In addition to serving as home to the Islanders, the Fairfield Stags men’s and women’s basketball teams, the Sacred Heart Pioneers men’s hockey team and the Westchester Knicks of the NBA G-League (for the 2021-22 season) call the arena home.
The Sound Tigers have been affiliated with the New York Islanders, who own the franchise, since their inception in 2001. The team reached the Calder Cup Finals in their inaugural season, losing to the Chicago Wolves. They have not advanced past the first round of the playoffs since 2003.
Food & Beverage 5
A strength of the gameday experience at Total Mortgage Arena is the quality and variety of concessions available.
Several concessions stands line the inner edge of the concourse. All your arena basics can be found at these stands, including hot dogs, chicken tenders and burgers. Sides including loaded tater tots can be found here as well. The highlight of the concession experience at Total Mortgage Arena are the portable carts lined up around the outer edge of the concourse. These carts include Miner’s Andojitos Mexican Street Food, De Yuilo Sausage and Farmer’s Cow Ice Cream.
Coca-Cola products are featured at Total Mortgage Arena. Fans looking for an adult beverage will find a nice variety of beers, highlighted by local favorite Two Roads Brewing Company, which operates a portable stand near the main entrance. Mixed drinks and beer from national brands are available throughout the arena as well.
A highlight of the concession experience here is undoubtedly the Limerick Pub, located directly adjacent to the main entrance of Total Mortgage Arena. Not only does the Limerick Pub feature a full bar serving mixed drinks along with several brands of draught beer on tap, the pub features mac and cheese bowls with assorted proteins. Televisions around the pub show sporting events from around the country, making this a popular spot to hang out during intermission.
Veteran minor league hockey fans will find the gameday experience at Total Mortgage Arena a familiar and typical one. All the typical elements are here, including an in-arena emcee presiding over various contests and giveaways, loud music over the speakers during play stoppages, a mascot roaming the stands (Storm the Sound Tiger survived the rebrand), and hockey games by peewees during intermissions. If there were larger crowds here at Total Mortgage Arena, this would provide a solid home ice advantage.
The most prominent feature of Total Mortgage Arena is the giant video board that hangs over the ice, stretching from blue line to blue line. It’s used to good effect here, showing game highlights, fan cams and some contests during play stoppages.
Younger fans will gravitate to the inflatable games on the concourse, including a giant connect four game and shooting cage. Older fans will visit the booster club table for 50/50 raffles and chuck a pucks.
Downtown Bridgeport has suffered from a really bad reputation, and in the past it may have been a deserved one. However, like many other cities in the region, the city’s leaders have worked hard to revitalize the downtown area. The building of the ballpark (since converted to an outdoor concert venue) and hockey arena were to be the anchors of this revitalization when they opened in 1998 and 2001, respectively. Unfortunately, the development of the Harbor Yard area never happened. The lots that were ticketed for development of a retail center next door to the sports complex remain empty. They are presently used for parking at game events. While this development has not occurred as hoped for, the downtown area does have a lot going for it.
Downtown Bridgeport proper is located on the other side of Interstate 95. The area is home to many of the city’s arts, entertainment and cultural offerings including the newly renovated Bijou Theatre, the Downtown Cabaret Theatre, the Barnum Museum, City Lights Gallery and the Housatonic Museum of Art. McLevy Green plays host to cultural events throughout the year, including the Bridgeport Arts Fest, Downtown Thursdays and the Holiday Tree and Menorah Lighting. The neighborhood is also home to many municipal, state and federal buildings.
In addition to an increasing number of businesses in the downtown area, there are several restaurants worth visiting, with Ralph N Rich’s serving up fine Italian fare. Located just a couple of blocks from Total Mortgage Arena is Brewport, a large brew pub serving up quality craft beers and brick oven pizzas.
Meanwhile, on the other side of Bridgeport Harbor, the long-awaited Steelpointe Harbor development project is finally taking shape. Several retail shops, including a Bass Pro Shop, a Chipotle restaurant and a Starbucks will soon be joined by more shops, condominiums, hotels, and a movie theater.
Bridgeport regularly ranks down near the bottom of the AHL rankings in terms of attendance, averaging around 3,500 fans per game. While attendance figures are down across the league for the 2021-22 season, they have really bottomed out here in Bridgeport, where average attendance is only about 2,000 fans per game. While Saturday night games draw decent crowds, getting your preferred seat just a few minutes before game time is never an issue here.
Those fans who do frequent Total Mortgage Arena are hockey fanatics. Hockey fans in the Greater New York area know their stuff, are dedicated, and contrary to their reputation, are friendly and welcoming to visiting fans. As is the case at most minor league hockey games, much of the crowd consists of families and youth groups.
Arenas don’t get any easier to find than Total Mortgage Arena. Located directly off Interstate 95, all one has to do to get to the rink is take exit 27 (whether traveling northbound or southbound), follow the signs for a block, and you are there. Parking is available in a surface lot across the street from the arena or in a parking garage next to the arena. Those looking for free parking can find on-street parking within a short walk of the arena. Despite downtown Bridgeport’s less than sparkling reputation, the area around the arena is safe.
Getting to Bridgeport is a snap, as Interstate 95 passes directly through downtown. The city is located 60 miles northeast of New York City, an hour’s drive south of Hartford, and 20 minutes from New Haven. Amtrak’s northeast corridor trains pass directly behind the arena, with the station only a couple of city blocks from the arena.
Total Mortgage Arena’s concourse is on street level, and fans walk up from ice level to their seats in the seating bowl. This setup means that handicapped seats are located right on the glass. All seats at Total Mortgage Arena are blue folding stadium seats. With the sparse crowds present at Total Mortgage Arena, it is possible to move around and spread out if you wish. Likewise, lines to concession stands and restrooms never get very long, and the concourse is easy to navigate, even during intermissions.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets for Islanders games start at $25 for end zone seats and progress to $50 for glass seats at center ice. With the small crowds present at Total Mortgage Arena, it’s possible to spread out and move around a bit. Parking costs $10 in the garage adjacent to the arena and the lot a block away. There is free on-street parking available for those who wish to search for it. Concessions are a bit on the high side but in line with other venues in the New York City area.
Fans wishing to save a few dollars can purchase a family four pack, which consists of four meals, chips, drinks and tickets for between $89-$109.
Total Mortgage Arena is a very attractive and clean facility. Recent renovations have had the effect of making this facility very bright, clean and pleasing to the eye. Banners honoring the Sound Tigers division and conference titles hang on the west end of the arena.
With both the team and the arena rebranding for the 2021-22 season, one would be tempted to think that big changes are afoot in Bridgeport. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The only real changes have been to the jersey crest and the name on the marquee. The Total Mortgage Arena remains a nice place to catch quality minor league hockey, with small crowds taking in the action. The more things change in Bridgeport, the more they stay the same.