Otter


Erie Otters

Arena Name: Tullio Arena (Erie Insurance Arena)
Capacity: 5500
Built: 1983
Address: 809 French Street, Erie, PA, 16501
Telephone No: (814) 455-7779
Ice Surface Size: Regulation
Franchise Date: 1996-97
OHL Championships: 1, in 2001-02
Memorial Cup Championships: None
Colours: Navy Blue, Gold, Red & White
Official Web Site: http://www.ottershockey.com/
Venue Web Site: http://www.erieevents.com/
Unofficial Sites: Erie Otters Message Board
Google Satellite: Click Here

OHL
Tullio Arena
Erie Insurance Arena
What's the Arena Like?
Erie was the first American city I could name while growing up. As the crow flies, Erie is only 130 km from London, and the Flagship City's television stations were my introduction to American culture, watching Sesame Street and Square One Television on WQLN. Even Londoners who've never made the trip are still familiar with names like the Millcreek Mall, Waldameer Park, and Attorney Edgar Snyder. Yet due to the great big lake in the way, Erie's the better part of a four hour drive away, and therefore the trip is one that most OHL fans rarely, if ever, make. Which is quite the pity, as Erie's junior hockey experience is in some ways as good as it gets.

The Otters play in downtown Erie at the Louis J. Tullio Arena, a few blocks from the Lake Erie shoreline. The Arena's part of a sports complex on the fringe between downtown and a residential neighbourhood, and the south wall of the arena is actually covered in advertising hoardings for Jerry Uht Park next door, which the AA Erie Seawolves call home in summer. Long-delayed renovations to the arena finally happened in 2012 and 2013, and for those who remember the orange paint and broken seats of the old Tullio, the newly corporate Erie Insurance Arena sparkles.

The old arena had a parking garage in the arena forecourt, but that has been demolished and landscaped into a bucolic park-like setting. The old footprint of the building has been dramatically expanded on three sides, and if it looks like a new arena, it's because in many ways it is. The old white and orange aluminum siding is gone forever, replaced with glass and red bricks. A warm, inviting lobby with ticket booths opens direcly into the main concourse, which is easily four times wider than the cramped and dark old caves that used to be there. The actual seating bowl hasn't changed much between the goal lines; laid out kind of like a football stadium with about 85% of the seats between the goal lines in two gigantic stands that rise back from ice level. The capacity has been hugely increased, though, and the bowl is now U-shaped with new seating stretching around behind the one goal. The broken early-80's orange seats dating back to the days when the Commodore 64 was rocking cassette-drives across North America were finally replaced with movie-theatre quality padded luxury seats. The fourth side of the arena is still just a wall, rising up directly from the glass. There are a few party suites overlooking the ice, but otherwise it's wasted space. The Otters have their banners hanging at the top of the wall, and there are also banners dating back in Erie's hockey history to their Eastern League championship teams of the late 70's and early 80's.

The Tullio Arena finally got a centre scoreclock and video board a few years ago. Prior to this, the only timekeeping devices in the arena were mounted on the end walls, an inexcusable situation for any hockey team. So a new scoreboard was installed in 2008, and it's well-used by the Otters. Their pre-game video is by far the best I've seen in junior hockey, with footage from the team's entire history in Erie shown. The one old clock is also still there, but is not used anymore, sitting dark during games. The formerly awful sound system has also been updated.

When it gets going, Tullio Arena is still just as loud as it always was. With a winning team finally resident again after a lost decade since the Otters' only title in 2002, the crowds have returned, and so has the noise. There are no sound dampeners, no acoustic tiles, just hard surfaces which reflect the noise and amplify it. As a result, the noise inside is downright scary at times. I've seen fans scream non-stop throughout the warm-up, during the player introductions, and into the game.

The rest of Tullio Arena is new arena standard. Bathrooms are clean and plentiful, There's still no real team store, just a few souvenir stands dotting the concourses, which is an odd oversight. It's also still not possible to walk 360 degrees around the rink, as the fourth wall extends through the concourse as well. The staff are mostly good - ushers are not hard to find and tend to be knowledgeable. And while I've never had any problems cheering for the visitors in Erie, I've heard from a few other fans that the security guards are top notch and tend to keep a lid on any shenanigans.

There was talk a few years ago of the Otters moving out of the USA, potentially (back) to Hamilton for the first time since they were the Hamilton Steelhawks. But with a beautiful modern arena and a winning team on the ice again after a decade in decline, Erie is back. It's wonderful to see that the soul of the Tullio Arena is still there under all the new paint, and it's even better knowing that the team's future in Erie is secure.
Future Developments
Over the summer of 2008, a massive $43.5 million renovation project for Tullio Arena and neighbouring Jerry Uht Park was announced by the local authorities. Highlights of the plan include building a new glass-fronted lobby on the arena, a common entry point for the arena and the ballpark, widened corridors, expanded seating, a restaurant, luxury suites, and all new seats. You can see renderings of the renovations here, here, here and here. Construction started in 2012, and completion was completed in 2013.

A $1.7 million renovation was undertaken in 2007 at Tullio Arena, which included a new roof, brick repair, a state-of-the-art sound system, new spotlights, closed-circuit television security system, a new performance stage, 1,000 new floor seats, new west-end platform seats, repairing the existing east-end platform seats and north and south retractable seating, new side rails and backs for east-end platforms, new decks at west end, risers for hockey seating, and a new covering for ice surface. A new centre-ice scoreboard with video screens was also installed for the start of the 2006-07 season.
Inside Tullio Arena, 2010
Tullio Arena
What Is It Like For Away Fans?
Everything you've ever heard about Tullio Arena is true. The building really is that loud. When the crowd gets going, a person wearing the visitors' team colours can almost feel himself shrinking in his seat against the roar. In any crowd that unbelievably loud, there will be a fair share of crazies, but security does an excellent job keeping a lid on things. The vast majority of Erie fans are sweet-tempered, warm, welcoming and nice people and you shouldn't have any problems with them, and if you do run into a nutbar, security will do its job admirably. Yes, Erie fans are sweet-tempered, warm, welcoming and nice people, but they're nice people with loud voices. Either bring your earplugs or prepare to be numbed into glassy-eyed submission by the OHL's loudest fans.

The second time I went to Erie was for a regular-season game and the noise was definitely subdued from my previous visit, but it was still way up there. Erie fell behind early in the game and never looked like catching up, and the building was only 3/4 full, but the noise was still terrific. Go there. You won't regret it.

Danger Girl says:
The Tullio is a loud, rockin' place where emotions can run high and things can get crazy. That being said, some areas of the arena are worse than others. Like any arena, the yahoos seem to congregate behind the visitor's bench... and they are pretty bad, ranking somewhere just below Windsor's old section 18 and the Asylum in Ottawa. I've heard that the area by the penalty boxes is no picnic either. The security in Tullio is probably the most aggressive in the league. They use real city police officers who DO something (unlike Windsor, where the cops do nothing). That there is a need for such stringent security is kind of intimidating, but at the same time reassuring. Problems are dealt with swiftly and efficiently.

Otter Trotter says:
Erie fans are much louder and more involved in the game then most Canadian fans. The Erie fans may appear rough, obnoxious, and intimidating, but I think that it is that we are more involved in the game. We do have our obnoxious fans, especially around the visitor's bench and penalty box, but overall, I think Erie fans are good hockey fans. I feel that visiting fans are welcomed to the Tullio Arena. Several Erie fans will go over and welcome the visitors to the Tullio Arena when they see visiting fans in the stands. Visiting players have remarked about how loud and intimidating the Tullio Arena can be. If you have a choice in sections to sit in, I would recommend Sections 4, 5, 6, 9, 10, 21, or 22. Sections 4, 5, 21 and 22 are where the visitors attack twice.

How To Get There

From I-90: Exit at Peach St. Take Peach St. north into the city and follow it straight downtown. Turn right on 8th St. Tullio Arena is two blocks ahead on your right.
From I-79: Follow I-79 to the end of the expressway and the Bayfront Highway. At Bayfront Highway sign, get into far left lane. On Bayfront Highway, go through 3 traffic lights and 1 blinker light. At the next traffic light, you will see Hamot Hospital on your far right. Turn right onto State Street, heading South. At 8th Street, turn left, heading East. Tullio Arena is one block away, on your far right.
Parking is available in the lot in front of the arena and across 8th Street. You can also park on city streets after 6PM without worrying about parking meters.
Inside Tullio Arena, 2004
Tullio Arena
Franchise History
The Erie Otters are perhaps the most nomadic team in OHL history. They got their start sometime back in the 1950's in Hamilton as the Tiger Cubs. In 1960 the team was renamed the Red Wings and played out of the old barn on Barton Street. In 1972-73 the team was bought by Ron Cupido and the Finochio brothers, who changed the name to the Fincups. They lasted another few years in Hamilton, however the ice-maker at the ancient Forum died in 1976 and the building was condemned. The Fincups were homeless in Hamilton, so they moved to Garden City Arena in St Catharines for the 1976-77 season. The team was back in Hamilton the next year as the ownership found a home for their team at Mountain Arena, but attendance was terrible and the dawn of 1978-79 season saw the franchise playing in nearby Brantford as the Alexanders. The team never drew well in tiny Brantford, though, and in 1984-85 the franchise was back in Hamilton yet again, with the promise that they would be able to play in Copps Coliseum when it was finished. The newly rechristened Steelhawks never drew well in that cavernous building, though, so by 1988-89 the team was on the road again, down the QEW to Niagara Falls where they were reincarnated as the Thunder. The Thunder were stable in Niagara Falls for a time, but the nomadic team again was soon on the move. In 1996-97 the franchise became the Erie Otters, and they seem to finally have found stability and decent attendance in Pennsylvania.
Retired Numbers
16 Brad Boyes
18 Vince Scott
Local Rivals
Erie is far enough away from the rest of the league that they don't really have any local rivals, but the rest of the Midwest Division always gets the Otters' faithful's blood boiling. Erie also has a cross-conference rivalry with the closest team to them in the OHL, the Niagara IceDogs.
About the City
By Erieite Otter Trotter:
Located on Pennsylvania's North Coast, Erie is a blue-collar city of 104,000. Named after the Eriez Indians, Erie was first settled in July of 1795 and was incorporated as a city on April 14, 1851. Erie is known as the Flagship City as Erie is the homeport for the US Brig Niagara. The Niagara, a reconstruction of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship at the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, is the Flagship of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. The Niagara is a working ship, acting as an Ambassador for Pennsylvania in the Great Lakes and along the East Coast.

Erie is a manufacturing city, making hospital equipment, plumbing supplies, chemicals and other manufactured goods. The world famous Hammermill Papers were made in Erie, but that plant has closed. Erie's best-known product is the General Electric diesel locomotives. Agricultural products are also important for the Erie area, with grapes from Erie County vineyards are made into a wide variety of juices and wines.

Erie is a city that has a small town feel, but with amenities of a much larger city. Erie has many educational, cultural, historical, recreational and sporting activities that give the city a great quality of life. Erie is in a good geographical position - from Erie, you can drive less then 3 hours and be in one of three major cities. Erie's most well known attraction is Presque Isle State Park, a year-round multi-use park. Over 4 million people visit the park each year to take advantage of the swimming, hiking, biking, skiing and other recreational activities.

In the past, it was a perception, to both insiders and outsiders, that Erie was a decaying and dying city, which caused Erie to be referred to as 'Dreary Erie' or the 'Mistake on the Lake'. Manufacturing companies were closing or moving out of Erie and many citizens where leaving the center city to the suburbs. While there still are empty buildings and decaying neighborhoods, the perception of Erie seems to be changing. When they get to know Erie, people find out that they like the feel of a city without the problems that go along with a larger city. Several former Erie hockey players, who heard bad things about Erie before they played here, now call Erie home.

Erie-area celebrities include two-time Olympic Gold Medallist in wrestling Bruce Baumgartner, who was elected team Captain and carried the American flag during opening ceremonies at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta. Former PA Governor and Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge is from Erie, as are Tae-Bo fitness guru Billy Blanks; Colonel Strong Vincent who led the defenders at Little Round Top at the Battle of Gettysburg; Colonel Philip Cochran who was a WWII fighter pilot and the inspiration for the 'Terry and the Pirates' comic strip; Pat Monahan of the band Train; and children's author Marc Brown, the creator of Arthur.

For more information about accomodations and attractions please see visiteriepa.com.

Feedback

If anything is incorrect or you have something to add, please e-mail me at email and I'll update the guide.

 

 


Copyright Kevin Jordan 2002-13.
All rights reserved.
Last Revised: December 24, 2013