Jen's Ducks-Kings rivalry post inspired me in a way that I did not expect. It made me realize that the thing that's keeping me from attending a great game at Staples featuring two exciting teams playing a sport that I love is the fact that I don't know where to park, or what is good to eat in and around their arena. Wouldn't it be nice if there were some kind of guidebook detailing how to get to, park near, eat in, and enjoy the Staples Center? Well, there isn't one, but there's no reason we can't make something like that for the Ponda Center.
I'm not saying we need to roll out the red carpet for Kings fans, but there's no reason we can't share some of the tips and tricks regarding our beloved home ice and maybe at the same time offer a little reassurance that they won't be stabbed in the parking lot (though I am going to boo the s**t out of you once the game starts). I'll add some of my thoughts first, and if any other Duck fans would care to contribute, please add yours in the comments as well.
Traffic in the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Basin sucks. It aways has and it always will. Getting to a 7:00pm game/concert/event here is always going to pose a challenge and the Ponda Center is no exception. There is no real mass transit-- the bus does not count; if you've ever ridden the bus, you know why --there's no train stop, no helicopter landing pad and no zeppelin tether. Face it, you're driving there yourself.
Not knowing everyone's point of origin, I can't offer you directions or details as to the best possible way for YOU to get to the game. What I can offer is a few traffic tips for out-of-towners and some thoughts on the shared misery that is Katella.
Some things to avoid include: 22 eastbound between I-405 and anywhere, 55 northbound from I-405 to I-5 and well, pretty much anything to do with I-405 all together. The Orange Crush (22 meets 57, meets I-5) is a real charlie-foxtrot, but it can be avoided by exiting eastbound 22 at The City Dr. This turns into S. State College Blvd. and you can take it north to Katella. It's not that bad, and it can help you avoid that nightmare of an interchange.
One of the few bright spots is that the nearest freeway to our arena, 57, is usually pretty clear both northbound and southbound. Getting to 57 can be a challenge (I take 55N to 5N to 57N), but even 91 eastbound isn't terrible before you can get to it.
Now onto Katella. Katella sucks, and there's no real way around that. Ponda Center is bordered by Highway 57 on the west, by the Santa Ana River (if you can call it that) on the east, some inaccessible office park to the north and good ol' Katella to the south. There's pretty much one street and one street only if you want to get there, and it's Katella. Depending on where and how far away you wish to park, it can be alright. There's usually not much traffic between 55 and Glassell headed to the west, but getting off of the freeway and/or coming from under the freeway is pretty much hell. The police are there to keep things from turning into goddamn thunderdome, but there's no way around it, you're going to have to WAIT. Don't worry though, there's hockey (and maybe beer) in your near future.
Parking breaks down into four simple categories: get in, get out, proximity and price. The main parking lot at the Ponda Center is pretty convenient, especially if you're coming down westbound Katella. There's usually a line of about five to ten cars to get in and parking close is never really a problem. The problem is getting out of the parking lot. There are two lanes to get out onto Katella and between the drunk pedestrians, assholes trying to cut in line, and the police trying to keep the order, it can turn into goddamn thunderdome there in a hurry. The back parking lot is even worse. My advice is to wait it out in the arena until the traffic dies down.
Parking at the office buildings nearby is a fine option. I've seen the prices go up considerably in the last few years, but you can usually park for $10-$15 there. Make sure you're on westbound Katella and get there early because they fill up. I park at the sheriff's office (should I really be giving away my secrets?) and it is easily accessible from eastbound Katella as soon as you get off of 57 and cross the river. You have to play frogger to cross the steet (I'm sure the site authors do not condone, nor endorse jaywalking or any other crime) or you can go down to the traffic light, but it's pretty far away. It used to be $5 ($5!!!!!!) but midway through last season, they jacked up the price to $10. It's easy to get out if you're headed east. It's still a good bet.
The last option is to park at the shopping center on the other side of the river. I doubt they would like it if you parked there and then just bailed to the game, but I don't know their policy on parking and the patronage of the businesses there. Maybe somebody can enlighten me regarding that. Anyway, I'm going to talk more about that shopping center in the next section.
FOODSTUFFS (and DRINKSTUFFS)
An important part of any hockey game experience is eating and drinking. Ponda Center just kicked ass in an ESPN report on cleanliness of stadium food vendors by having the least violations in the state. I can tell you from my adventures last year where the best places to eat and drink in the stadium WERE, but now that the Ducks have a new deal with Aramark, everything's up in the air. Robby did a great write up that included the in-stadium food, but I just felt like I needed to add my personal opinion: Aramark sucks. So long fantastic meatball sub on the 400 level; hello heat lamp cooked hot dogs. Goodbye delicious (albeit expensive) Blue Moon with an orange slice; hello warm plastic bottle of MGD for only $2 less. If you want a frame of reference, Aramark does the food at Angel's Stadium and the food there is the worst of all the MLB ballparks I've been to (yes, even Oakland).
I would much rather focus on outside food, namely Lazy Dog Cafe. Lazy Dog kicks ass. Good beer and great food and a really fun bar are the perfect place to pre-game. If you have time for dinner, make sure you go. The meatloaf there is tits. Lazy Dog is located in the aforementioned shopping center and again, being unsure of the rules regarding game parking, I would say check with them before you decide to just leave your car. There is also King's Fish House there, a Starbucks and a few other places that make it a great stop, if not necessarily a convenient one.
Regarding the postgame, there really isn't a "Ducks Bar" that I know of where one can just go to hang out with a bunch of fellow fans to either toast our victory or drown our sorrows. I've been to the Jack Daniels Grill on the club level a few times, and it's kind of fun, but it's not really the kind of party I'm looking for after a game 7 win (know what I mean, Kings fans?).
There's really not a lot else to report about here other than the obvious. There's not really any must see things in the Ponda Center like there are in other stadiums and arenas around the country. It's not Fenway Park or Lambeau Field. There's no real historical value for a place that's not even 20 years old. There's also not a lot that makes the Ponda Center remarkable or in any way different from any other NHL arena. There are no stairway traffic problems, the bathrooms are clean and rarely crowded, the team store is vacant before the game and jammed during the intermissions. There aren't any obstructed views here that aren't the same in every NHL rink and on the same point, sitting center ice here is just as awesome.
Our stadium announcer, Phil Hulett is awesome (and a really nice guy with a great sense of humor if you ever have the chance to meet him). Our goal song is the Bro Hymn, which is alright, but at least it's not some SUPER ANNOYING GODDAMN REPETITIVE SONG (thanks, Blackhawks) or the stupid "Hey Song" -- Rock and Roll part 2.
So that's as much as I can think of, but if any of you have something to add that would be useful, please feel free to chime in.