I've lived in Clifton Park, NY a suburb about twenty minutes outside of Albany, NY for five years,but never ventured to an Albany Devils game. This past Wednesday I went to my first Albany Devils game and was surprised by the quality of the experience I received. I was so impressed I decided to bring my kids a few days later.

Pre-trip/Tickets:
As an avid sports fan I find it important to email teams prior to going to any event. Many teams may offer discount ticketing or special perks you may not be aware of.  Also, many teams have special accommodations for fans with special needs and disabilities.  This is extremely important for my family because my daughter has Autism.

When I decided to go to the game on Saturday night I emailed Lauren with the Albany Devils ticket office about special ticket pricing, and she emailed me back literally 5 minutes later with special ticket pricing for my family since my daughter has Autism. This was great to hear because sometimes we only last the first period and are unsure how my daughter (and also my son) will behave, and don't want to spend full price on tickets when we might only stay for one period. Lauren provided us with tickets on the aisle so that my kids could get in and out of our seats if we needed to. The customer service Lauren provided was outstanding.

Normal ticket pricing ranges between $16.50 to $25.00 for adults, and $13.50 to $20.00 for kids/seniors depending on where you want to sit. The Devils also offer promotional nights for $10.  See their website for details.

Getting There:
I was always intimidated about going to the TU (Times Union) Center. It's tucked in Albany, near Empire State Plaza with one way streets around it. However, it's not as difficult to find or navigate around as you would think.  The easiest way to get there is to take I-787 to the Madison Ave exit, stay straight off the exit and follow this road until you see a McDonald's. Take a right at the McDonald's, and you'll see the TU Center in front of you. Take the first left in front of the TU Center and immediately past it on the right is a parking garage. The parking garage is clearly marked and is only $6, which is a fair price for parking. I parked on the same level as the entrance to the garage only had a couple hundred yards to walk before I entered the arena. There is a ticket booth at this entrance, but if you need to pick tickets up at the Box Office you'll need to walk around to the front of the arena where it is located.

The Arena:
You can't tell you are at a minor league hockey game when you enter the TU Center. It feels like an NHL game. There are various events going on around prior to the game which you can do including the 50/50 raffle, Chuck-a-Puck, and a kids area (which I will get to later in this post.). The TU Center is extremely clean and well taken care of. 

Concessions:
As a parent it's extremely important that I get my food and beverage before I go to my seat, this was even more important during this game because my wife was not with me and I wouldn't be able to get up during the game and get food.

The first thing I needed to get was ice cream for my daughter. I walked up to the Edy's Ice Cream booth and asked the cashier if they had soft serve ice cream, and took credit cards. The answer to both was "Yes." The fact they had soft serve and took credit cards was extremely important to me because in 2011, I went to a Adirondack Phantoms game with my daughter and they only had Dip N' Dots and didn't take credit cards. Because of that, my daughter got upset and we had to leave. This was a huge plus for us that the TU Center provided this. The ice cream was $4.50.

After we got our ice cream we went to another concessions line (where there was no line). I immediately asked if they had milk for my children. I was told "no" and wasn't offered an alternative.  My children are ages three and six, and while they'll drink water they do not drink soda. This was extremely disappointing, so I got a fountain soda, pretzel, and bottled water (for my kids). Our total cost was $12.00. Pretty affordable, but understand that you can spend a lot of money if you aren't careful.

Seating: 
After we got our food we headed to our seats which were level 117, Row R, Seats 1-4. The TU Center has each level clearly marked. Signs with each level stick out from the wall so as you are walking around the arena you can see the different levels from a distance Some venues have signs flush against the wall so you actually have walk right up to each level and look at the sign.

It was extremely easy to find our seats, but I didn't notice any ushers to help other people find their seats, and there were none there during the game. I would have like to seen someone in case there was an emergency.

Also, if you find your seats are too close to the ice for your kids, and their is a possibility they could get hit with a puck, you can go to Guest Relations and they will find you different seats.

Game Experience: 
One thing you'll notice about the TU Center is that there isn't a bad seat in the house. Aside from the play on the ice the Devils offer different various promotions during the game including as mentioned about the 50/50 raffle, and Chuck-a-Puck. During this game they had a "Teddy Bear Toss," where fans could bring a new or lightly used teddy bear to throw on the ice and which would be donated to local charity. Events like this happen on a pretty regular basis, and you can find out about them by looking at the Devil's promotional schedule.  

Midway through the second period my 3 year old son became restless and didn't want to sit down. I didn't have many options on where to take him, and while walking around the arena I remembered the children fan center where kids can shoot a hockey puck into a net, and spin a wheel to receive prizes. I took my kids over there and they had a blast playing with the hockey sticks and pucks, while both getting FREE prizes which include stickers, bracelets, and team posters. The girl who was working there was great too. She personalized my kids experience by using their names when she talked and played with them.


Restrooms:
After the second period I decided to leave because it was getting a little late and the kids needed to get to bed after a long day. However, I'm sure my kids would have stayed for the entirety of the game.
 
Before we left the arena my daughter needed to use the restroom, so I asked some of the ushers if there was a "Family Restroom" available. The usher told me there wasn't, and that I could use the handicap rest room because it was bigger.

I know many sports venues are adopting family restrooms, and I hope the TU Center will look into this.

Overall:
Overall, this experience was tremendous, and I could have asked for much more. I highly recommend that parents take there kids to Albany Devil's games. Not only is it kid friendly, but it's also a great place to take children with disabilities including Autism. 

Side Notes:
The above experiences was from my visit to the Albany Devils game on Saturday, December 15, 2012. I also went to to on Wednesday, December 12, 2012 with a friend and we had a similar experience but it was a little different without having kids around, but still a great time.

One thing I noticed at the game on Wednesday night while I was standing at the season ticket sales table, a man walked up with his son who was probably 14 years old, and noticeably had Autism. The man asked one of the people at the desk if they had any promotional items for his son, and the attendant went under the table cloth and pulled out a bag of goodies for the young man. I thought that was a classy move, and shows that the Devil's care for their fans.

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