MVP Arena - Albany FireWolves
Photos by Dave Cottenie & Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.14
51 S Pearl Street
Albany, NY 12207
Year Opened: 1990
In 2021, the National Lacrosse League returned to the Capital Region. From 2000 to 2003, Albany was home to the Attack, who would relocate to San Jose, California, and eventually settle in Vancouver. Albany has been home to several minor league hockey teams, most notably the Albany River Rats. However, the departure of the Albany Devils in 2017 left the area without a professional team to call their own.
The Albany Empire would join the Arena Football League and take the area by storm. The Empire would fall in the post-Covid sports landscape along with the Arena Football League, but the idea for Albany as a home to professional sports was rekindled.
The New England Black Wolves would relocate in 2021 to Albany and the team would be cleverly named the Albany FireWolves. At one time the Arena Football League’s Albany Firebirds were a popular draw and the wolves' name was kept from the Black Wolves days. The mascot of the old Attack was also a wolf.
Home for the FireWolves is the MVP Arena. The main arena in Albany opened in 1990 as the Knickerbocker Arena. Known also as the Pepsi Arena and Times Union Center, the naming rights were picked up in 2022 by MVP Health Services. The arena underwent a significant renovation in 2018 and is the perfect size for the National Lacrosse League. The early days of the FireWolves have left fans looking for more success on the floor and the support in the building has not been over the top to date.
Food & Beverage 4
The concession scene at MVP Arena is not too bad. All of the expected arena items can be found including burgers, hot dogs, pretzels, popcorn fries, chicken tenders, and pizza. Some other items that may be of interest to fans include cookie dough bites, fried dough bites with toppings, Perry’s Ice Cream, chipotle chicken tacos, beef barbacoa tacos, and loaded nachos.
The beer selection is quite solid with several local craft beers available to complement the large national brands. Local favorites include items from Saranac, Brown’s, and Adirondack Brewery. Pepsi products are the soft drink of choice at MVP Arena.
Possibly the most impressive part of MVP Arena is the exterior. Not overwhelmingly high and fitting into the storefront atmosphere on Pearl Street, MVP Arena’s exterior features a sharp and crisp look with some massive video boards and a simple slat design above the main entrance.
Passing through the main gate gives fans access to the massive, multi-tier atrium, complete with a translucent ceiling to allow plenty of natural light in. The exterior and atrium give the MVP Arena a look far more modern than its 1990 vintage indicates.
The concourse of the MVP Arena harkens back to a design that was prominent in the old Palace of Auburn Hills, which featured one concourse with stairs ascending and descending the seating bowl. The concourses feature a plethora of advertising, which can be seriously overwhelming at times.
With the FireWolves as much as an anchor tenant as any other Albany team that calls the MVP Arena home, there are some markings for the lacrosse team in the concourse. A couple of interesting items that fans may want to check out are the Capital District Hall of Fame, which focuses on the basketball history of the area, and the paintings of key Albany spots, like the State Capital.
Inside the seating bowl, fans are brought to a two-tier seating area, with the upper deck draped off to make the arena feel more intimate. The green, carpeted floor runs from east to west, with the perfect picture for the center logo coming from the north side.
There are only a few banners hanging in the corners. These included banners for the Albany Empire across multiple indoor football leagues in the northwest and a banner hanging for the members of the MAAC, the conference which is home to the Siena Saints, who also call MVP Arena home. The four-sided video board is decent but not overwhelming. There are a few places that feature alternate seating including the Field Zone at the west end and Party Zone at the east end. Both are at floor level and offer a very different perspective.
The gameday atmosphere is what one would expect from a National Lacrosse League experience. The block party kicks off the festivities and features a live band and some activities for the kids on Pearl Street, which is closed off to traffic.
The pregame entrance has players enter the arena from the west through an inflatable contraption labeled the Wolf’s Den. The Wolf Pack and the Albany FireWolves Dance Team interact with fans at the block party and perform on the floor at various times. Alphie, the FireWolves mascot, takes part in the pregame entrance and takes part in various promotions throughout the game. Music is played throughout the game and during the play, and Mike Falvo seemingly converses with the crowd in an attempt to get them excited for the home team.
MVP Arena is located on South Pearl Street in Downtown Albany. There are a few spots where fans can get some pre or post-game food. There are a few restaurants on the ground floor of MVP Arena, on S. Pearl Street. Albany Stadium Restaurant, Pizzeria Sapienza, and Lam’s Chinese Kitchen are options. Other spots nearby include The Spinning Gyro, Maurice’s Pearl Street Deli, The Bull and Bee, The Excelsior Pub, and The City Beer Hall.
The MVP Arena is also home to the Siena Saints basketball team and Albany Empire indoor football team. UAlbany offers Great Danes basketball, football, baseball, and lacrosse also. Siena also offers baseball nearby. The Tri-City ValleyCats of Frontier League play in nearby Troy. RPI Engineers hockey can also be found in Troy.
Other tourist spots that travelers may want to check out include the Albany Institute of History and Art, the New York State Museum, The Egg, and the State Capital Building. For fans wishing to stay downtown, there are a few options, including the Hilton Albany and Fairfield Inn and Suites.
Assessing fans of the National Lacrosse League is difficult as the attendance numbers are not readily published. That being said, the Albany FireWolves are far from selling out the MVP Arena. The game that was reviewed had over 3,600 fans in attendance. This is closer to the bottom of the league rather than the top where teams like Buffalo and Toronto are averaging over 10,000 fans per game.
The fans that were in attendance for the game reviewed were much louder than expected. There were plenty of kids in attendance, who bring their kind of energy and offer up plenty of wolf howls during the game. Hopefully, Albany can come out and support their NLL team in stronger numbers and ensure the future of the team in Upstate New York.
Getting to the MVP Arena is not difficult. Downtown Albany is located just west of I-787 and the Hudson River and getting there by car is pretty easy. There is plenty of parking located near the arena and finding a spot is not a challenge.
For those who are looking for public transit to the game, some buses travel along Pearl Street. Fans should look to the Capital District Transportation Authority website for maps, schedules, and fares. Moving around the interior of the arena is more challenging.
There are plenty of stairs all over the arena. From the ground floor, fans must head up to the concourse level. There are stairs for entrances to the upper deck and lower bowl. Perhaps the strangest feature of the arena is the washrooms, which are found in the four corners of the arena and are a level below the concourse. More stairs.
Stadium Journey recognizes that the security protocols at spectator sports are constantly changing. Stadium Journey strongly encourages fans to consult both the Albany FireWolves and MVP Arena websites for the most up-to-date information on security protocols including prohibited items.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets for the Albany FireWolves are not expensive. Tickets can be found in the ends for $16. Tickets go up to $45 in the center of the arena and $62 for the party zone. Party Zone tickets include food. Parking can be found for $10 and concession prices are not terrible.
The value that fans get from NLL games is very high. The FireWolves do what they can to put together a good entertainment package. Unfortunately, Albany has not enjoyed much success on the floor in the 2023 season. More success on the floor will attract more fans and make the ROI even better in the future.
An extra mark for the International Professional Wrestling Hall of Fame, which includes a plaque for legend Bruno Sammartino and is located in MVP Arena. An extra mark for the significant renovation MVP Arena enjoyed in 2018.
An extra mark for the Ben Becker memorial. Becker died in 1987 at the age of 80 and was influential in amateur boxing, the Olympics, USA Boxing Commission, and AAU. Becker took a young Cassius Clay to Rome where he won an Olympic Gold Medal at the 1960 Olympics. Becker was born and raised in Albany.
The Albany FireWolves of the National Lacrosse League are continuing to put forth a strong effort to attract fans and strengthen their presence in the Capital Region. The FireWolves play in a good facility and present a gameday atmosphere that is competitive with other NLL programs. With some more success on the floor, Albany will be able to strengthen their position as a member of the National Lacrosse League for years to come.
Follow all of Dave’s sporting adventures on Twitter @profan9 and Instagram.