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RinkAtlas Guide to the 2019 NCAA Frozen Four in Buffalo

KeyBank Center in Buffalo
KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York, on October 13, 2016. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images, Courtesy of Pegula Sports & Entertainment)

The NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Tournament Frozen Four take place on April 11 and 13 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.

The KeyBank Center opened September 21, 1996 and is the home of the Buffalo Sabres of the National Hockey League. It seats 18,690 people for ice hockey. There are 80 luxury suites, and about 5,000 of the 18,690 seats are considered club seats.

Nearby Shopping and Entertainment Districts

KeyBank Center is at the western end of Buffalo’s Cobblestone District, a historic district bounded by Illinois, Perry, and Columbia Streets, and South Park Avenue.

KeyBank Center is also immediately north of the HarborCenter, a mixed-use building complex containing two ice rinks (The Rinks at Harborcenter), a Marriott Hotel (Buffalo Marriott HarborCenter), Tim Horton’s Bakery Café, and several bars, restaurants, and retail shops.

KeyBank Center is within walking distance of Canalside, a complex of open spaces that includes a boardwalk and an entertainment pavilion.

Bars and Restaurants

  • The Labatt Brew House is new and a lot of fun.  It  just opened about four months ago at 79 Perry Street, about two blocks from the KeyBank Center.
  • Buffalo Ironworks is also across from street from the KeyBank Center at 49 Illinois Street. Ironworks has a regular schedule of musical entertainment in addition to on tap and canned beer. Left Coast Taco also operates a semi-permanent food stand in the Ironworks.
  • Cobblestone at 130 South Park Avenue is also very popular pub and night club.
  • 716 Food and Sport, located in the HarborCenter will be quite busy.  It is known for its giant 38-foot video screen and over 70 other video screens. It’s next to the Buffalo Marriott Harborcenter and close to the Courtyard Marriott.
  • Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, at 76 Pearl Street, is one of the most successful brewpubs in the City of Buffalo. It’s very popular both before and after games at the KeyBank Center. It’s not far from downtown hotels such as the Hyatt Regency and Adams Mark Hotel.
  • About a five minute walk south of KeyBank Center is the legendary Swannie House at 170 Ohio Street. Swannie House is the oldest bar in Buffalo at almost 100 years old. It’s always a fun place to stop, but they only take cash.
  • After the game, you can go to Chippewa Street in the nightclub district.  There are six to eight establishments there.  It’s about a 20-minute walk from KeyBank Center. In all likelihood, the owners of these properties will have free shuttle buses. This was done when the NCAA Basketball Quarterfinals visited Buffalo.

Buffalo Wings

No discussions of a trip to Buffalo would be complete without some guidance on where to eat Buffalo Wings.

There are many places in the City of Buffalo and its suburbs. All have their supporters, but the top suggestions are:

  • Anchor Bar at 1045 Main Street. Anchor Bar considers itself the Home of the Original Buffalo Wing. It’s about a two mile walk north of KeyBank Center. The easiest way to get there without a car may be to Uber or take the Metro to the Allen / Medical Campus stop and walk three or four blocks further north on Main Street.
  • Gabriel’s Gate at 145 Allen Street, which is nearby Anchor Bar, possibly just a bit further away. Take the Metro to Allen / Medical Campus stop and walk west on Allen Street from there.

Healthy Choices

If you made a trip to Buffalo for the Frozen Four, and you want to impress your family with better meal choices than wings or lots of beer and bar food, check out The Healthy Scratch inside the Shops at Harbor Center facing Canalside. This is 75 Main Street.

Transportation

KeyBank Center is served by the Niagara Falls Transit Authority NFTA Metro, a small surface rail system serving the area between the University at Buffalo South Campus at Main Street and Kenmore Avenue in North Buffalo and Downtown Buffalo.

If you are not staying in a downtown hotel, one of the best ways to get to KeyBank Center is to park your car in the Park and Ride Lots at University Station or LaSalle Station, and ride the Metro to your game. Typical travel time between University Station and KeyBank Center is 11 minutes.

Parking

Parking near the KeyBank Center and at HarborCenter generally costs $10 to $20 per game. Bus parking is $30 and up. For more information, see KeyBank Center Parking Locations.

KeyBank Center History

KeyBank Center used to be referred to be several other names, all of which refer to the same bank as it was acquired by different bank holding companies. Initially it was called Marine Midland Arena, it’s name from 1996 to 1999. After that, it became HSBC Arena.  HSBC was Marine Midland’s parent company until 2011.

In 2011, First Niagara Bank acquired most of HSBC’s bank branches in New York, and bought the naming rights to the Arena, so it became the First Niagara Center. Five years later, KeyBank bought First Niagara, and changed the name of the arena to KeyBank Center.

Thanks

RinkAtlas is indebted to Denny Lynch, Colleen Lynch, and Brian Lynch for their help in putting this guide together. They chose the places, we chose how to describe the places and provided location information.

Have a great time at the Frozen Four. We wish we were there to enjoy the games and related festivities with you. And remember RinkAtlas whenever you need the latest hockey arena information for anywhere in North America.

RinkAtlas Guide to NCAA Regional Tournament Sites

The NCAA Men’s Division I Ice Hockey Tournament Regional Playoffs take place on March 29, 30, and 31 at four arenas across the country. Here is a guide to those arenas:

Northeast Region

SNHU Arena
SNHU Arena, photo by Sam Schildkraut

SNHU Arena, Manchester, New Hampshire

SNHU Arena is an arena that opened in November 2001 located in Manchester, New Hampshire. It seats 9,852 for ice hockey. During the regular season it’s the home of the Manchester Monarchs of the ECHL.

Nearby bars and restaurants worth checking out are El Rincon Zacatecano Taqueria across the street on Lake Avenue and Central Ale House, about two blocks north of the arena on Central Street.

For more ideas see the RinkAtlas page for SNHU Arena.

East Region

Dunkin Donuts Center
Dunkin Donuts Center, photo by Peter Galvin under a Creative Commons BY 2.0 License.

Dunkin Donuts Center, Providence, Rhode Island

Dunkin Donuts Center is a 14,000 seat arena in Providence, Rhode Island that opened in November 1972 and was renovated in 2008. During the regular season, it’s the home of the Providence Bruins of the American Hockey League.

Bars and restaurants that look promising are The Vig located in the Hilton on Atwells Avenue, or Murphy’s, an Irish pub on Fountain Street.

For more ideas see the RinkAtlas page for the Dunkin Donuts Center.

Midwest Region

PPL Center
PPL Center, photo by Dave Aiello

PPL Center, Allentown, Pennsylvania

PPL Center is an 8,420 seat arena in downtown Allentown, Pennsylvania completed in September 2014. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the American Hockey League call the PPL Center home.

Parking in the garages close to the PPL Center is really affordable for most events, although we’re not certain if the rates are different for the NCAA Tournament than the AHL games. If you arrive early and park in a garage, you can easily walk to bars and restaurants discussed below.

The PPL Center has quite a variety of restaurants within walking distance of the arena. Two restaurants we recommend in the immediate vicinity are The Hamilton Kitchen and Bar about a block east on Hamilton Street, and Fegley’s Allentown Brew Works about a block west on Hamilton Street.

We wish we could recommend Chickie’s and Pete’s, which is a bar/restaurant that’s very popular regionally and in the same building as the arena itself. But most of the people we’ve talked to disliked this location. There is also a Tim Horton’s café located in the same building, which is pretty unique for this part of the U.S., but it serves mostly donuts and bakery items, and it’s only open 6:00am to 4:00pm.

See the RinkAtlas arena detail page for PPL Center for more bars and restaurants from which to choose.

West Region

Scheels Arena
Scheels Arena, photo courtesy of Fargo Convention & Visitors Bureau

Scheels Arena, Fargo, North Dakota

Scheels Arena is a 5,000 seat arena in Fargo, North Dakota that opened in 2008. It is home of the Fargo Force of the USHL.

Scheels is the only one of the NCAA Regional venues that’s not in a neighborhood where you can walk to a bar or restaurant after you park before the game.

Some of the more highly rated places within a mile of the arena are The Tavern Grill on 32nd Avenue South, Famous Dave’s on 45th Street SW, and the Blarney Stone Pub on 9th Street East in West Fargo. You must be 21 to enter the Blarney Stone Pub.

More ideas on the Scheels Arena page on RinkAtlas.

Black Bear Sports Group Acquires Revolution Ice Gardens Arena Complex in Warwick, PA

Black Bear Sports Group acquires the Revolution Ice Gardens hockey arena complex in Warwick, Pennsylvania. Warwick is in Lower Bucks County, about 25 miles / 40 kilometers north of Center City Philadelphia. (“Center City” is a term Philadelphians use for “Downtown”.)

Phil and Devra Pulley, the previous owners of Revolution Ice Gardens announced the sale on March 1.

Revolution Ice Gardens arena complexRevolution Ice Gardens arena complexRevolution Ice Gardens arena complexRevolution Ice Gardens arena complex

This is the third arena complex in the Philadelphia area acquired by Black Bear within the past two years.

Black Bear Sports Group now owns Jersey Shore Arena (a three-surface arena in Farmingdale, New Jersey, east of Trenton), Ice Land Skating Center (two-surface arena in Hamilton, New Jersey, which is a town immediately adjacent to Trenton), and Revolution Ice Gardens (two-surface arena in Warwick, Pennsylvania), within a one hour drive of each other.

Black Bear owns two arena complexes in Maryland, four in Illinois, and one in the Pittsburgh area, in addition.

Spreading the Word About Schulz Rink of Dreams

Schulz Rink of Dreams
Schulz Rink of Dreams (via “Schulz Rink of Dreams” Facebook Page)

Last night we learned of a unique hockey rink in a giant farm shed on a farm in Madison Lake, a small town in Southeastern Minnesota.  It’s called Schulz Rink of Dreams in honor of the late Paul Schulz.

Schulz was a hockey fan of epic proportions.  His love of hockey was so great that when he needed to build a shed to store his farm equipment, he built one with floor space in excess of 200 by 85 feet, and overhead clearance of 15 to 20 feet; So that some day, in the winter, he could convert the shed into an indoor hockey rink.

At some point, Paul acquired a complete set of used arena boards and plexiglass from an arena that was replacing them.  Thirteen years ago– before he assembled the Rink of Dreams for the first time, Paul also bought a used, 1962 Zamboni ice resurfacer.

With great effort, he assembled all of this equipment into a complete ice hockey rink with natural ice.  He offered this ice surface to all comers in his community for free.

After the first season of operation, Paul died of a heart attack, while planting his fields for the growing season.

In the 12 seasons since he passed away, Paul’s widow Stacy Schulz-Pope, Paul’s family, and friends have reassembled and successfully operated the rink.

After seeing this story online, we decided to add Schulz Rink of Dreams as the 4,650th arena in RinkAtlas:

On Sunday, February 11, 2018, Boyd Huppert reported for KARE 11 Television from Madison Lake, Minnesota about this unique hockey rink.  The 5-minute video that presents this story is a must-watch. It’s the kind of news piece that gives you hope for the future of traditional television broadcasting.  It tells a story of a place that most people have never heard of, but would want to know exists even if they don’t eat, drink, and sleep the sport of hockey like we do.

Upon further reflection, we realized that a local news report, no matter how heartwarming, probably wouldn’t go viral without a little help in a lot of different places.  If there’s any purpose to having a blog on RinkAtlas, it should be to tell stories of people who can legitimately be called the builders of hockey’s future.  The Schulz Family are some of those people.

RinkAtlas Helps You Find Any Arena in North America, Not Just the Ones that are Easy to Find

Here’s the latest arena to be added to RinkAtlas. It’s a place called Shinapest Tooma Memorial Arena in Kawawachikamach, Québec.

This is an arena that you cannot reach by car from the populated parts of North America. You either have to take a train from Sept Îlles or you have to fly in to the nearby town of Schefferville.

A number of people have asked, “Why are you focusing on indoor hockey arenas in the Canadian sub-arctic?”

It’s not that I’m focusing on them. It’s that the goal of RinkAtlas is to include every arena in North America where hockey is played. And when I say that, I mean all of them. Not just the arenas that everybody knows about.

Besides that, two men I know through hockey and through my research, Joé Juneau and Nicolas Chalifoux, have worked in or on this arena and they take pride in it. I try to celebrate that as well.

Vernon Civic Arena Holding Final Vernon Vipers Game on January 6

Global News reports that Vernon Civic Arena in Vernon, British Columbia will hold an 80th anniversary celebration on Saturday, January 6, with a final scheduled BCHL (junior hockey) game between the Vernon Vipers and Prince George Spruce Kings.  The Vernon Civic Arena is considered the first indoor ice arena in the Okanagan.

The game is sold out, but tickets may be available at the gate “if some season ticket holders {who received tickets as part of their ticket distribution} don’t show up.”

Kal Tire Place, a nearby 3,003 seat arena, which is the current home of the Vernon Vipers is adding a second ice surface.  When this new surface is completed later in 2018, it will allow the City of Vernon to close Vernon Civic Arena and continue to offer the same amount of ice time to community hockey and skating programs.

Vernon Civic Arena Time Line

  • Later in 2018: Second ice surface at Kal Tire Place to be completed.  Vernon Civic Arena officially closed.
  • January 6, 2018: Scheduled game between Vernon Vipers and Prince George Spruce Kings.  This is expected to be the last BCHL game at Vernon Civic Arena.  The game is sold out, but Global News says standby tickets may be available.
  • April 24, 2017: Ground broken on second ice surface at Kal Tire Place.
  • November 28, 2015: Regional District of North Okanagan (RDNO) residents vote to replace Vernon Civic Arena with a second ice surface at nearby Kal Tire Place.  This referendum authorized borrowing of C$ 13.25 million ($10.6 million) to pay for the expansion of Kal Tire Place.
  • June 18, 2014: The Corporation of the City of Vernon and MQN Architects publish a Civic Arena Replacement Feasibility Study.  The study recommended adding a second ice surface to Kal Tire Place situated north of the main building, to be built in part of the current parking area.
  • April 3, 2014: Structural deficiencies were identified in the Vernon Civic Arena.  Vernon Recreation Services said that replacing the current ice surface in the event of a catastrophic failure would cost C$ 5.6 million ($4.5 million).  The other options that were explored were twinning (building a second indoor ice surface) at Priest Valley Arena or Kal Tire Place.
  • January 6, 1938: Vernon Civic Arena opened.  This was the first indoor ice arena in the Okanagan area of British Columbia.

The Oldest Operating Arena in the World Could Be Calumet Colosseum on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan

Calumet Colosseum
Calumet Colosseum in Calumet, Michigan.

Thanks to friends like Adam Wodon of College Hockey News, we are gathering historical information about arenas in North America.

One of the documents that Adam found and shared with us is Local Ice Rinks in the Copper Country.This is a history of ice rinks in the western part of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Ice Rinks in in the Copper Country talks about a few arenas that existed prior to 1900. But the oldest arena that still exists in that area may be the oldest operating indoor ice arena in the world.

The Calumet Colosseum in Calumet, Michigan was built 1913 and is still in use today.  It was featured in the article 100 Years Young: Calumet Colosseum in USA Hockey Magazine four years ago.

Built with Volunteer Labor During a Mining Strike

The USA Hockey Magazine article talks about the ice plant being built with volunteer labor. During a strike at the Calumet and Hecla (C&H) Mining Company, the striking workers volunteering to build the ice plant.

Indoor Ice Without Refrigeration Until 1968

The Colosseum only installed an artificial ice plant in 1968. It was only able to host indoor ice hockey from 1913 to 1968 due to the cold temperatures on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula during the winter.

Other Claims to Oldest Ice Arena

Some hockey historians claim that Galt Arena Gardens in Cambridge, Ontario is the oldest arena in hockey. But they call it the “oldest continuously-operating ice arena”, which may be a valid claim since Calumet Colosseum doubled as an armory for much of its history.

Local Ice Rinks in the Copper Country calls Galt Arena Gardens the second-oldest arena still in use, opened in January 1922, and Baker Rink in Princeton the third oldest, completed in 1923. These are all buildings that have not been destroyed by fire and rebuilt.

Most NCAA Ice Hockey historians consider Matthews Arena in Boston the oldest arena in College Hockey. It originally opened as Boston Arena in 1910. But that arena burned in 1918 and was rebuilt in 1921. Boston Arena served as the first home of the Boston Bruins of the NHL from 1924 to 1928.

As a result of the articles that Adam has sent us recently, we have a good amount of historical information about arenas that can be incorporated into RinkAtlas.  We’re also beginning a trial project to document the closed arenas in New Jersey with an eye toward writing a history of arenas in the Atlantic District of USA Hockey in the future.

Dr. Pepper StarCenter in McKinney, TX Reportedly Planning Big Expansion

Dr. Pepper StarCenter McKinney Concept
Dr. Pepper StarCenter McKinney Concept Drawing, from the presentation to the McKinney TX City Council

Yesterday, Cassidy Ritter in Dallas-Fort Worth Community Impact reported that Dr. Pepper StarCenter McKinney will add an additional 1,800 seat NHL-sized sheet, with more parking and locker rooms.

What makes this article especially interesting is the details of what was said in the presentation to the McKinney City Council, the repurposing of space devoted to ball fields for indoor ice, and the grants coming from McKinney Community Development Corporation and the City of McKinney.

This shows that hockey and skating are growing in the State of Texas, and how committed growing communities in Texas are to continuing the expansion of recreation facilities. [ Thanks to Scott Wheeler for sharing the link where we could see it. ]

Is Louisville Laying the Foundation for an NHL Future?

The Louisville Kentucky city council and the chairman of their arena authority are discussing adapting the KFC Yum! Center for NHL hockey.

The KFC Yum Center is an arena now primarily used for Louisville Cardinals basketball games. It was originally built without an ice plant because the basketball floor might get slippery, and– why would a lot of people want to go see hockey “that far in the South”?

But then, the runaway success of the Nashville Predators two hours to their south happened.

This is a long shot, but Nashville – Louisville could become a Western Conference rivalry, because the distance between the two cities is easily drivable. [photo of KFC Yum! Center from the KFC Yum! Center website]

Total Fan Experience at Pro Hockey Arenas Impacts Attendance

As those of us who grew up in the New York Metropolitan area are painfully aware, the Ottawa Senators eliminated the New York Rangers to advance to the Eastern Conference finals on Tuesday night.  You’d think that, with their on-ice success, the Senators franchise would be turning fans away from their games, right?

That’s not exactly the case according to Melanie Pitman writing for TheHockeyWriters:

Their average game this past year tallied 16,744 attendees, compared to the 20,500 total people that can fit in the Canadian Tire Centre. And when the Sens played their first Round Two game in four years, only 16,744 seats were full – which was the first time in nearly 10 years that the team didn’t manage to sell out for a playoff game.

Baffling Attendance at Senators Games, Still There’s Hope

The number one issue that Ms. Pitman cites is the location of the Canadian Tire Centre.  This arena in a suburb of Ottawa called Kanata.  It’s not particularly easy to get to in a car from the center of Ottawa, where many people in Canadian government and related businesses work.  Although it’s surrounded by acres of parking lots, exit from those lots after the game is reportedly difficult despite efforts to improve it.

And, just like the other professional hockey arenas that we’ve identified that are similarly situated– places like Wells Fargo Center, PNC Arena, BB&T Center, and Scotiabank Saddledome in the NHL, and the Giant Center in Hershey, PA in the AHL, arenas that are surrounded by acres of parking lots don’t generally have the amenities outside the rink in the form of walkable bars and restaurants that make going to the game fun for people who are not yet the hugest hockey fans.

At RinkAtlas, we believe that the experience of going to a professional hockey game includes how much fun it is to travel to the game, what you do when you get to the arena before you enter the building, and how easy it is to get back home or to wherever you are staying.

We believe that there have to be ways to compare the total game experience at different arenas and say that, typically, you’ll have a better time at a Predators game at Bridgestone Arena than you will at a Senators game at Canadian Tire Centre, simply because of how much fun Lower Broadway in Nashville is compared to Palladium Drive in Kanata.

We’re working on ways to measure this sort of fan experience and we hope to soon have some metrics that help identify the truly fun places to experience a game.