STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #29
- Location: Raleigh, NC
- Opened 1999
- Capacity 18,680
- Games attended: 2
- Last visited: 2023
With its temperate climate and fun downtown, Raleigh made a very positive impression on me.
But it’s not a hockey market. You’re in (college) basketball country. Attendance is directly tied to the on-ice performance, falling drastically in poor seasons, rebounding in strong ones. Add a non-central arena location, and the result is an often partially-filled rink.
Fun Game Day Atmosphere… Even When Not Sold Out
The fans who DO show up tend to be festive and friendly. Fans’ hockey knowledge varies from “die-hard” to “person who would try an open a puck if they caught one”. The sounding of the pregame hurricane warning siren helps get the crowd pumped up. They have a pig mascot (Stormy) and a live pig “good luck charm” (Hamilton) to honor North Carolina BBQ. The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like a Hurricane” gets used appropriately throughout the game. And they use attractive cheerleaders to bring a little extra oomph to the in-arena experience.
Most notable about the fans is their volume. One of the things I love about the South is the people know how to let loose and have a good time. They are boisterous, happy and incredibly high-energy. When the house is full, I’m not sure there’s a louder venue (Vegas and Nashville tend to be louder, but they are almost always full; even 13,000 Caniacs can make some noise!).
A Quality “Get In, Get Out” Rink
The barn itself, like most, is quite nice. Built in the 20th Century, it seats nearly 19,000 and may be a little big for the market. The fans there enjoy wide concourses and comfy padded seats. Concessions are solid as they include a Shake Shack, a PDQ chicken tenders, a good BBQ stand, and access to a few local craft breweries.
Location isn’t great, though parking is plentiful. It’s next to the NC State football stadium in West Raleigh, but there’s not much else around there. There are only a couple of notable watering holes within walking distance as the rink is adjacent to the NC State football stadium and a lot of surface parking lots. But given you are in the South, if the weather is OK, you could get your pre-game going by tailgating with some of the other Canes fans. On weekend games, it’s common to see full blown smokers as you would at College Football games.
Word of note: because the sport is still growing in these parts, fans are still collecting Canes gear. As such, the Team Store seems to always be very busy on Game Days. If you are looking for some swag, go right when the gates open.
Out-of-towners should time their visit to see a good on-ice Canes team in a full building for much better experience. Or if the schedule permits, tack a Canes match onto a Duke-North Carolina rivalry game to make for a fabulous sports weekend in a cool city.