March 24, 2023
The Colisée (Capacity: 3,675)
Maine Nordiques vs New Jersey Titans
Final Score: 3 – 5
I’ve always been fascinated with this place from afar…why the Quebec references? and what is Lewiston about? This city of 37,000 along the Androscoggin River in Central Maine is the second largest in Maine, despite the small population. Like many others in New England, Lewiston became a mill town thanks to their position on the river and it was a thriving one. Many French Canadians came to the area, hence the references and the Quebecois character seen in spots. Textiles and bedspreads were the popular creation in the famed Bates Mill and the downfall of the industry and eventual closure led to a significant downturn in the city. Signs of turnaround are increasing as buildings are repurposed and downtown sees sporadic growth. The arrival of Somali immigrants over the last few decades created tension initially as the town was already struggling economically from the Mills closing and the concern was a further strain on services needed for many residents. Things have improved somewhat with recent solutions.
There is a history of hockey in the city as a minor league team played here in the 1970s and there was even a Canadian Junior League (QMJHL) team in Lewiston from 2003 – 2011. The Maineiacs were the only American team in the Q to play a full season and they won the league in 2007. The team wasn’t able to survive and non-local ownership failures to move them eventually led to the unusual move of the league disbanding the team and creating an expansion franchise in Sherbrooke a year later. Hockey returned in 2019 in the form of the NAHL, a Tier II Junior league. They have a youth development program in addition to the junior team, the Nordiques. They play out of the The Colisée (French for “Coliseum”), a building that has stood since 1958 and was renovated in 2003. It is a great mix of new and old and an enjoyable barn for hockey fans.
Prestige Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
I got into town around 1 PM and was able to fill the afternoon touring Lewiston, though most things were only stuff that my dorky self would enjoy. I began at the Maine MILL, a museum in the historic Bates Mill that has small exhibits on the industry in the area. It’s small, but someone at the front desk showed me around with another group and she was a fantastic wealth of knowledge. I then went to the Franco Center in the former Little Canada section of town. It’s in a beautiful old church and although it’s hidden and not well advertised, there are exhibits and artifacts to be shown. I rang the doorbell and someone was able to show me around, another super nice person. Perhaps the most enjoyable thing for the general public is the Riverwalk. On the other side of the Androscoggin River is Auburn and the Twin Cities make up an area collectively known as L/A. The Auburn side features a walk with historical markers and a nice view of Great Falls. These were partially frozen and a little more than a drip, but still made for a great view. The center of the city is Lisbon Street and it’s a tight main road with a lot of potential. There’s a mix of empty storefronts and trendy new places. It was a little bit sketchy though given how quiet it was and a few questionable characters. The Colisée is in a neighborhood a few minutes east of downtown. It’s surrounded by other ballfields and Lewiston High School.
Location Ranking: 5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
I-95 goes up and down the East Coast and it also runs by Lewiston. Exit 80 easily brings you into town as it takes 5 minutes to get to Birch Street. Be ready to see a lot of sand, old salt and potholes on the roads (winters are rough). The arena has a parking lot in front of it and it also is loaded with monster potholes. The lot is honestly terrible as there are no lines for cars. Instead, random swiggles resemble blacktop at a kids playground. Cars figured out how to make lines, but I could see some crooked or small corridors developing. At least there is an entrance/exit at both the front and back of the lot, making for an easy departure. The lot is pretty small (holds 700-800 cars) and I was surprised to see it nearly full when I left the building after attending a game that was maybe at 15% capacity. Folks would have to park on the street and then walk as that’s the only other option. Thankfully, that shouldn’t be needed for Nordiques games.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 6 out of 8
Being built on a hill, The Colisée is an impressive figure from the parking lot. The tall look features a redone front entrance that is attached to the otherwise bland rink that features a white exterior and curved approach (this is seen better along the road in back of the building). The front entrance features different shades of gray brick and red brick, while red trim makes it pop. A box office is located at ground level and then stairs on each side lead to the main entrance (an elevator is inside the box office if needed). What a great start.
Exterior Ranking: 8 out of 10
An entranceway that is basically between two doors is where you get your ticket ripped. This leads to the main concourse that runs along the west end of the arena. It’s small and if more people came, then waiting for food in this area would be an issue. Otherwise, the vibe is different as I don’t think “hockey arena” in this area given how colorful it is with carpets that are mixed green, blue and red…while walls have blue and gray paint. A corner features some video games for kids and there’s also a restaurant in the front (it wasn’t open when I visited). With large TV monitors all over, it felt more like an amped up bowling alley. The TVs were interesting because I remember multiple times thinking “what game is that?” Turns out they were showing 5-10 hockey games that were like a month old. So weird. Back to the concourse, the corners open up to the arena and that gives a little more space for those waiting for food (or for the one kid playing knee hockey with his Dad). These branch out to narrow hallways down the sides and these are where the small bathrooms are located.
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
Upon first glance, food and drink looked lackluster. The only traditional stand had things like Burgers, Fries and Chicken Tenders. In the corner, a nice billet family was selling chili (always good at a hockey game) and some homemade banana bread, which really added to the small-town nature of this event. Upstairs by the bar, Burnt Ends BBQ set up catering, where Pulled Pork, Mac & Cheese and Pork Belly really looked good. That bar also had a nice array of drink options, including some local beer. Perhaps the most unique item was the Hot Dog. You can find it at any sporting event, but nothing like what was served here. Simone’s has had a stand in Lewiston for over 100 years and they are known for their Hot Dogs with a bubble gum color. Imagine my surprise when I unfurled the wrapper to see that. The steamed dog tasted the same, despite the jarring visual.
Food Ranking: 5.5 out of 8
There is a lot of character at The Colisée as blue seats and red railings fit the team colors. The blue walls also have little Fleur de Lys markings that is a nice touch. Despite the modern introduction, you realize at the rink, this is still an old building. The ceiling is low and seating is made up of 9-10 rows that go straight down each side ( a walkway is in front of the first row with a few glass seats below). A nice steepness exists on the sides and that gives a decent perspective higher up where the glass doesn’t get in the way. Seats are old-school in that they feel like wood and when you push them down, they stay that way (instead of springing back up). Two of the corners have seats filled in the gaps and they are unique as one of them is theatre-like, while the other involves sitting on each row step. Perhaps the best feature of the building is a long bar at the top of the West end and many will set-up shop here to watch the game. The press box sits above the seats on the South side.
Interior Ranking: 8.5 out of 14
The scoreboard is terrible because it is broken. Sitting above center ice is a square with four video panels. Two of the side panels feature a black rectangle that takes up 20% of the bottom corner. That is obviously an issue. Game video is shown on here most of the time and replays are just relegated to overhead shots. There is no game information on the board and annoyingly, you have to turn your head to the corners so that you can find a dot-matrix display for score, time and penalty information.
Scoreboard Ranking: 1 out of 4
The most famous event in the building’s history was the Muhammed Ali – Sonny Liston fight in 1965. It had to be quickly moved from Boston and the fight landed here in Lewison. The controversial ending coincided with one of the most famous photographs in all of sports. This is only memorialized at The Colisée with a poster on the outside of the building that blends in with other advertisements. Too bad. Banners from the rafters are varied and better as these include a mix of High School and Professional achievements. They did keep the championship won in the QMJHL hanging.
Displays Ranking: 2 out of 6
Parking is free, concessions are cheap and tickets only cost $10 – $12. That’s pretty similar to the rest of the league and overall, a game here is a great deal.
Cost Ranking: 8 out of 8
The crowd was small on this Friday Night as maybe 500 came out to see the Nords. That’s disappointing given the building size in Lewiston and even among the relatively low popularity of the NAHL, Lewiston ranks 24th out of 29 teams in league attendance (averaging a paltry 437 per game). There is good newspaper coverage of the team from the Sun Journal and I did see several wearing team gear as a cluster of fans seemed to be vocal regulars.
Fan Support Ranking: 2.5 out of 8
Cowbells get me excited and there was a spattering of them here, used during the team introduction and after a goal. Otherwise, the small crowd was generally bleh as there wasn’t much energy. Occasional yells of encouragement came from where most season ticket holders sat, but that was about it. After a goal, there was an ok pop and then the majority politely clapped as they stayed in their seats. A comical moment came after a close call with a home team goal and the operator got trigger happy, which led to a whole pre-recorded sequence: Lights go out, horn plays, goal music. The game had to be stopped as this cycled through.
Atmosphere Ranking: 4 out of 14
Alright, we have controversy here at Stadium and Arena Visits. I have a seating capacity threshold, so that I’m not going to games and reviewing places that are a bunch of bleachers that can be found at a high school. Arenas need to seat 3,500 to qualify for a visit and a review. The Colisée in multiple places has the capacity as 4,000 with a seating capacity of 3,675. It seemed questionable looking at the seating chart and I noticed that on the building’s website they say it seats 2,634. I thought maayyybe this was pre-renovation as I found an old article saying that seating would be expanded prior to the QMJHL arriving, going from 2,635 to 4,000, so I figured the building website was out-of-date. Just to make sure, I emailed the arena manager…no response. I emailed the team…no response. Frustrated, I made the trip anyway. When I was watching the game, I realized that the seat numbers were so large, that I could actually count it myself. The final number after a lengthy pad and paper process: 2,793. Noooooooooo! Well screw it, I drove 6 hours to this place, so it’s going to go down as an official visit with a wrong number anyway.
The Colisée has a small club inside at the top level, which hosts comedy shows, private parties and small musical performances…..I love that logo. A Nordique means “Northerner” and it obviously is a reference to the old Quebec NHL team……Maine’s team website is terrible and the front page has game reports that are two months old. The schedule is labelled wrong as well…..My roster sheet that I picked up was laminated. An odd touch…..The NAHL is unique because it’s a mix of teams more professional than others. Most in the northeast, just play in community ice rinks.
Towards the end of the first period, Maine goalie Thomas Heaney made a big save and the puck went the other way, where Laurent Trepanier capitalized by burying a rebound with 19 seconds left in the period. That tied the game at 1 and I thought it would be a turning point. Indeed, the Nords got another one early in the 2nd, but the Titans scored the next couple. A fortunate bounce for Maine led to a tie game at three halfway through the 3rd, then Anthony Calafiore gave the Titans the lead for good with five minutes to play.