December 27, 2008 - Richmond, Virginia
A Christmas weekend road trip found us seeking warmer temperatures and the 60 degree days in Virginia did the trick. We had wanted to catch a game in the SPHL for quite a while, and this was our first opportunity. We arrived at the arena in late afternoon to find a deserted downtown and an odd looking, yet interesting exterior to the Richmond Coliseum. The place looks like a space ship landed in the middle of the city, and its brick and concrete and metal construction is certainly eye catching, although not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Still this was a fun and unique place to see some hockey. The building opened in 1971, and started hosting hockey during that year with the Richmond Robins of the AHL. The arena holds over 11,000 people for hockey in its current configuration. The grounds are well kept and there is plenty of parking nearby. I purchased my $16 ticket and then headed out for some dinner. I returned about 45 minutes before gametime, and after having to lift up my shirt for the security guard to make sure I was not carrying a weapon I entered on the main concourse level.
The inside of the building has a quirky, yet appealing layout as the concourse circles all the way around the arena. The main concourse is actually at the top of the lower bowl as the arena main entrance is at ground level, but part of that same city block is at a lower grade. There are not a lot of food concession or souvenir stands, and the lone merchandise table was basically out of everything as they were having a clearance sale and had only children's sizes left. They did not even have any pucks for sale, so we were bummed not to be able to get a puck as I try to get one at every new arena I attend. The program book and line up sheet are both free however. The concourse has brick archways which you pass under as you walk around. Once you enter the seating area you are immediately struck by how big this place is. The arena looks huge with its high ceiling, and very tall seating. The lower bowl is pretty much the same height all the way around. There is a second level accessible by stairways off the main concourse, and that is surrounded by an upper concourse which also runs all the way around the rink, yet is narrower and has no concession stands. The upper seating on the sides extends very high and is extremely steep. There is also a third level on each end, which was unoccupied during this game. The sight lines on the sides are good, although the upper level seats directly behind the goals offer an obstructed view. The view there is so obstructed that you cannot see any of the net closest to you. That is not a big problem though as the Renegades have averaged a little under 3000 per game during their SPHL tenure, so you can certainly find a place to sit which will allow a good view of the action. All the seats are the padded individual chairs, and they have a haphazardly scattered color pattern with some yellow and light blue seats mixed in among the mostly navy blue seats. There is a center ice score clock which does not have video capability but is certainly sufficient.
This being our first time attending a SPHL game we were not sure what to expect from an entertainment or level of play standpoint. We enjoyed both. The ice is covered with so many ads that it gives the feel of being at a European game. There are even Heineken bottles on the ice. The players played hard, and the good scrap between Richmond's Brett Needham and Huntsville's Martin Kubaliak got the crowd riled up. The fans seemed to really enjoy their hockey, and made it a point to heckle the opposing goaltender and referees as much as possible. The fact that the Renegades did blow a 2 goal lead and lose 6-3 did subdue the crowd a little, but they were still into it at the end. I was not sure what to expect from hockey in the South, but found it to be a fun experience. This place would be a blast with a near capacity crowd, but as it was it was much louder than expected with only about 2700 fans in a giant 11,000 seat building. There are the usual minor league promotions, and intermission was organized chaos as at one time there were 2 go cart spinning around the ice, a Humvee with soldiers launching t-shirts with the t-shirt cannon, Hooters girls throwing t- shirts, and foam pucks flying through the air for their version of chuck-a-puck, called fire-a-tire, and sponsored by a local tire store. The coolest part about the game presentation in Richmond was without a doubt the cannon. Yes a Cannon! The Renegades forego the usual goal horn for a very LOUD cannon which is fired from the upper level after a goal. It is also shot off during the national anthem just to make sure the crowd is paying attention. I am sure other places have a similarly loud goal celebration, but the uniqueness of the cannon makes it a real treat to experience. We hope hockey in Richmond can continue for a long time as we liked the place a lot, although we usually prefer the much smaller arenas there was something about the place that made it fun. We hope they can draw better in the future though as it is a little bit of a downer looking around and seeing all the empty seats, although at least they don't try to pretend the place is a smaller arena and block off part of it with curtains like a few AHL rinks do.
Other information about the Richmond Renegades is available at: Team Info Page
Other information about the Richmond Coliseum is available at: Venue home
More photos of the Richmond Coliseum are available Here