Covelli Centre

January 24, 2020
Covelli Centre (Capacity: 5,700)
Youngstown, OH
Youngstown Phantoms vs Green Bay Gamblers
Final Score: 4 – 3 (OT)


After seeing some football in the fall, I made a winter trip back to Youngstown to finish seeing the city’s sports facilities. Anchoring the Mahoning Valley in Eastern Ohio is this Rust Belt city. Y-Town has really struggled since the fall of the steel industry as they have lost more than 60% of their population over the last several decades. The city hasn’t really recovered as only small pockets of economic success exists. It’s debatable whether the Covelli Center can go in that category given the $47 million price tag when it opened in 2005. As for the Youngstown Phantoms, they began as a Tier II junior team in the NAHL in 2003. After starting in a tiny suburban rink, the team moved into the downtown Covelli Centre in 2009, when a professional CHL team folded. That move coincided with the Phantoms moving up to the USHL, the top junior league in the U.S. They’ve been there ever since and have done quite well in recent years. They fell just short of the Clark Cup Championship in 2018.
Prestige Ranking: 2.5 out of 5


The Covelli Centre is located downtown in an undeveloped section near the Mahoning River. This blah area features uninteresting scenery and a post office across the street. Some restaurants are less than a mile away on Federal Street, while my dinner choice was the historic MVR, which is near the campus of Youngstown State. The city’s limited attractions include a few museums with the main ones being the well-regarded Butler Institute of American Art and The Museum of Industry and Labor.
Location Ranking: 5 out of 10

Accessibility / Parking

Being between Cleveland and Pittsburgh means good interstate access to Youngstown. I-80 and I-76 are the major nearby highways with I-680 going into the city. Coming from the south, the exit from I-680 to downtown takes you a roundabout way of getting there. Any other arrival is straight-forward. Driving in the city is traffic-free, but pothole-ridden. Next to and behind the arena is ample parking for hockey (not so much for full concerts). Egress from the lots flowed well with a crowd of this size thanks to kind drivers following the zipper method.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 7.5 out of 8


This is a nice-looking building from the outside and the best spot to view it is at the corner atrium. An expansive sidewalk leads to this protrusion from the arena that is a mix of beige brick and glass windows. The front of the arena facing downtown is more straight-forward as the wall has a silver, metallic look. “Covelli Centre” is slapped on there in large font. Looking at the side, the arena appears taller and there’s a nice mix of materials used, including the introduction of dark blue siding and dark gray brick. There may be several different design elements, but it works overall. I also appreciate the silver element for much of the arena as that reminds me of steel, which this city was known for.
Exterior Ranking: 7 out of 10


The opening lobby contains ticket windows to the right and metal detectors in the middle before leading to the concourse. Gathering inside this area provides more space than the rest of the concourse, however it is not all that grand of an entrance. Cream colored walls outline the space with a heating duct snaking by overhead. Ads are all over the place and the only thing team related is near the opening of the team shop. The advertising theme continues down the right side of the concourse where tables are lined to give their piece of company literature while trying to attract you with candy or a squeeze ball. This does crunch the walking space somewhat as the other side is more open. Note that the concourse doesn’t go fully around the building. At the one end where the concourse doesn’t go, they do have an open space above the seating bowl. They actually had a “CrossBar” ax throwing game up here for $5 (that’s different!).
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5


Food options were mostly generic arena grub as only Gyros were notable. They did have an entire table for candy and I thought that was a good idea. Beer sold were all from national brands, though with an assortment. Bathrooms were on the small side, with just a couple stalls in each unit.
Food Ranking: 3.5 out of 8


Inside is pretty good and my initial impression was an up class / sleek feel, mainly because of a darker approach. Walls are black, lighting isn’t super bright and the seats are a royal blue. The Covelli Centre has a standard bowl for seating generally geared for hockey with 14-19 rows that rise upwards decently enough for solid sightlines with no obstructions for all seats. There is an average amount of leg room, though one downfall is the lack of a cupholder. At the top of the seating bowl are a good amount of suites, plus a corner VIP lounge. Suite holders, plus those with club seats get access to the lounge. The “club” seats are just a pair of center ice sections that have a plusher seat with a cupholder.
Interior Ranking: 9 out of 14


In all my stadium visits, I had yet to see one like this. The board was actually on each side wall, located above the suites. Different, but good different as I enjoyed that set-up and it’s less obtrusive than a center-hung board. The screen featured red numbers (eh) and they were clear enough. There also was a video screen and it played the game throughout with a nice mix of replays, crowd shots and silly snippets during breaks. Size however was on the smaller side, making it tough to see the puck. A “Covelli Center” wordmark was at the top. Above the ends was a high-quality ribbon board and this displayed score/time during the game.
Scoreboard Ranking: 3 out of 4


Despite the building being decent, team/city displays were not a part of that. The best I could find in the concourse was some portraits of musical acts that played there in the upper end overhang. In the rafters are three larger banners for division/conference achievements.
Displays Ranking: 1 out of 6


Most of the tickets in the arena cost between $15 – $19, however there are some $12 and $24 seats. This seems more expensive than it should be for junior hockey in the U.S., however, most other teams in the Eastern Conference are similar to the $15 – $20 range. Do note that prices go up $3 the day of the game. Parking also feels higher than it should be at $5. Same thing for food as a burger costs $6.25, hot dog: $3.50 and a bottled water a pricy $4.25. A regular beer is $6.25. A program is $3.
Cost Ranking: 7 out of 8

Fan Support

USHL teams play in a mix of mid-size pro arenas and community rinks. While Youngstown falls in the category of the former, the crowd would fit the latter. The building was maybe at 15% capacity. Though clustered with other teams, attendance numbers annually see Youngstown in the bottom quarter of the league. Last year’s playoff series averaged 550 fans, the lowest attendance out of any postseason team. It is worth noting however that while the previous year didn’t do well in the playoffs’ early rounds, the Phantoms did a lot better in the Clark Cup Finals with attendance averaging 3,000. It’s too bad that more don’t come out to games because the front office runs a good professional outfit and there’s a lot to entice people to visit and become fans.
Fan Support Ranking: 2.5 out of 8


Those on hand weren’t all that into the game and this was especially evident during the late tying goal after being down big. This elicited a reaction only slightly better than if the score was 6-1. Many things that would have drew cheers just didn’t here. Only the overtime period felt like the crowd got into it a bit. There was at least one cluster of jersey-wearing fans that generated “Let’s Go Phantoms” chants and they were able to get a smattering of others to join in.
Atmosphere Ranking: 5 out of 14

Other Stuff

I was disappointed to learn that the “Phantoms” nickname is actually corporate-related. The co-owner of the team is Bruce Zoldan, who is the founder of Phantom Fireworks. Those in the Northeast will immediately see the connection as the company logo is nearly identical to the team one…..Why is it spelled “Centre” here? We’re not in Canada…..Outside, while walking to the arena, music was playing followed by the building’s procedures and policies. That’s a cool introduction if only we could just hear the music and not the standard rules…..Speaking of sound, the system in the arena is off balance as it was hard to make out at the ends, while on the sides it was overly loud…..I believe the goal horn was a steam whistle? Not sure.


Green Bay jumped out to a 2-0 lead and they tacked on another one early in the 2nd. However, through that period it became obvious this was not over as Green Bay took penalty after penalty. They also became whiners on the bench after perceived missed calls. Youngstown was able to make the impressive comeback by going 3 for 9 on the power play and controlling the game when at even strength. So much so, that the Ramblers had just six shots in the final two periods. The tying goal came with 6 minutes left in regulation and then the Phantoms got the win in OT thanks to a laser wrist shot from Georgi Merkulov.

Stadium Experience Ranking: 55.5 out of 100