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Fans agree: E Center is the place

It was smoky, the music was cranked to deafening levels and beer was sloshing everywhere.

All that was missing from the Utah Grizzlies' debut at the E Center Saturday night was a disclaimer that the new building was "a private club for members only."All that had been missing from the E Center was hockey.

A week ago, West Valley's pride and joy played host to "The Artist Formerly Known As Prince." Days before that, WCW's Monday Night Nitro invaded the building with its version of wrestling.

The E Center finally got its baptism by ice on Saturday before a near-sellout crowd of 10,716, who left happy and hoarse after a thrilling 6-5 victory over the rival Las Vegas Thunder.

Now Utah hockey fans have a place they can call home.

Somewhat surprisingly, the E Center got mixed reviews on opening night. Most fans raved about the hockey-friendly facilities, especially when compared to the D-word.

"It's three times better than the Delta Center," said Grizz fan Shawn Murray. "I love it. I'll be back a lot."

"I love it. I like the seating," echoed longtime Utah hockey fan Christopher Quintana, who was sporting a Grizz jersey with "Marvelous" marked on the back. "It's a heck of a lot better than the Delta Center. I love the visibility here."

Other fans, however, raged about parking and the sound system, among other things.

Rendell Etherington - a self-proclaimed "so-so hockey fan" - sat on the top row with his sons. His club-box seat cost $25. The price included some cushioning - regular seats aren't padded - and food service from a waitress. Overall, he was very impressed with the E Center, but he said he wasn't a fan of the supposed "state-of-the-art" sound system.

"The view is much better than the Delta Center," he said. "But the sound system stinks. It's muffled so you can't hear what they're saying. I used my son as an interpreter."

The biggest gripe most fans had was with the hassle involved in actually getting to the E Center. Cindy Soutter said it took her an hour to get from the 3500 South exit off of I-215 to a parking space blocks away from the arena.

Soutter admitted that she still has a soft spot in her heart for the Salt Palace, where the former Salt Lake Golden Eagles nested when they came to Utah nearly three decades ago.

"Nothing can top the Salt Palace," she said, "but this is better than the Delta Center. The sight lines are better."

The fans all acknowledged being glad to be out of the Delta Center. They made that known very loud and clear during an intermission video. When the Delta Center was shown on the fancy video board, it got even more hisses and boos than the rival Thunder or referees.

And the loudest cheer? That came when Utah coach Butch Goring and Grizzbee packed their belongings and left for the E Center, to which Goring proclaimed: "This is the place!"