STADIUM DUDE’S NHL ARENA RANK: #21
- Location: Newark, New Jersey
- Opened 2007
- Capacity 16,514
- Games attended: 1
- Last attended: 2019
There has been a lot of gentrification in American cities during the economic boom times of the 2010’s. Despite a concerted effort by local officials, much of that renewal has escaped downtown Newark. The walk from your parked car to the Prudential Center gives you an old school adrenaline rush (I have no idea how dangerous it actually is, but it looked really, really seedy). In fairness, the area immediately around the arena is OK with a decent little selection of restaurants, bars and shops, but that radius is pretty tight compared to every other arena in hockey.
The arena itself is gorgeous. The exterior brick is devil-red and features two glass cylinder towers that provide natural light inside while illuminating vibrant red during night games. A large LED exterior display is split into thin panels with space in between to allow fans to enjoy views from the bright concourse. There are extremely high ceilings that make the building seem even larger than it is. The interior features murals on its walls, grey & white terrazzo tile on its floors, and memorabilia all around.
Concessions reflect the region: eaters can choose from zeppoles, Taylor ham, disco fries, Jersey-style pizza, Portuguese delicacies like bifana, and Italian hot dogs (deep-fried hot dog stuffed into pizza dough and topped with home fries, peppers, and onions). There’s a bounty of Jersey craft beer, and a live sports book right in the arena itself. You have a good sense of place.
The biggest issue here is fan support. The New Jersey Devils are probably the 10th most popular sports team who play in the New York Metropolitan area (after Yankees, Knicks, Giants, Jets, Mets, Rangers, Nets, NY Red Bulls, and Islanders). They struggle to fill its barn, especially in the numerous down years the team has endured after their Stanley Cup runs in the 2000’s. As such, you have this glorious facility with a very mediocre Game Day atmosphere, thus dragging the score down. It’s like an anti-Saddledome.
When the team turns things around again, and puts a consistently high-quality product on the ice, I suspect fan support will return in full force and make The Rock rocking again. For now though, it’s a great building with a fairly average experience.