Hunter Ice Skating Stadium – Newcastle Northstars
The Hunter Ice Skating Stadium (HISS) opened in 2000 in Warners Bay on Lake Macquarie, just south of Newcastle. The site is a public facility, but also serves as a hub for ice sports such as hockey and figure skating. The Northstars have teams in the Australian National Ice Hockey League (AIHL) and the East Coast Super League (ECSL). Both are based at HISS, which has a capacity of around 1,000 people.
The Northstars were formed shortly after the stadium opened and joined the fledgling AIHL as an expansion club in 2002. The Novacastrians are the most successful club in league history, having won the Goodall Cup six times.
Food and drink 3
HISS has a “StarPucks Café” kiosk and a licensed bar. For a venue of this size the variety of food is better than expected and the value for money is good. Hot entrees include items such as chicken nuggets, hot dogs, cocktail fish, chico rolls, hot fries, meatball subs, and pulled pork rolls. Prices are roughly between $5 and $8. Combo offers cost between $10.50 and $12.50. If you’re looking for a cold drink (pop, water, Gatorade, iced tea, juice), you can expect change from a $5 bill. Alcohol is sold at a separate stand – beers $6, cider $7, pre-mixed spirits $9-$10, and wines $6.
The majority of seats are located in the main stand on the east side of the rink. Bring along a cushion or rug to make hard, cold benches more comfortable. The south-eastern part of the stand is named after (Alfred) Rob Dewhurst, an Olympian (1960) and prominent figure in Australian ice hockey who spent his later years on the Central Coast and at Newcastle. One of his former Australia team jerseys is in the collection of the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, Ontario. There are smaller exclusive seating areas at the north end and in the corners. The south end of the rink is for standing room only.
HISS installed a four-sided video screen above center ice in 2018, the first ice rink in Australia to do so. National championship banners hang on the west side of the rink, along with retired numbers for Terry George, Ray Sheffield and Robert Starke. There are additional dashboards/clocks at either end of the site. Music and ambiance during team introductions and breaks in play are appropriate and not too intrusive.
Warners Bay is a picturesque suburb of Lake Macquarie, approximately 15km from Newcastle CBD. Newcastle is traditionally a coal town, while the wider Hunter region is well known for its vineyards. The area is blessed with beautiful beaches and waterways.
The ice rink is located in an industrial complex which also offers activities such as bowling, laser tag and go-karting. Food and drink options within walking distance are limited to a McDonald’s and Warners at the Bay (320 Hillsborough Rd) which has a solid bistro, a good selection of draft beers, and motel-style accommodations. For more options head to the foreshore for a selection of cafes, restaurants and the Warners Bay Hotel (5 John St).
It is also worth considering towards Belmont in a southeasterly direction or Merewether in a northeasterly direction, both of which are around 15 minutes drive from HISS. The iconic Belmont 16s is a wonderful place for a meal and drinks. Merewether is adjacent to Newcastle CBD and The Beach Hotel is a great option. Of course, Newcastle itself has plenty of attractions if you wish to stay for the weekend. If so, check the NRL schedule to see if Newcastle Knights Newcastle Knights are at home.
Novacastrians are parochial about their hometown and support all of their sports teams, including the Northstars (as well as the Knights and Jets). Expect a solid, family crowd with plenty of home team merchandise on display.
The car is the easiest and most convenient way to get to the stadium. Plenty of free parking spaces are located adjacent to the site and along nearby access roads. The two main north-south routes are the Newcastle Inner City Bypass and the Pacific Highway. The nearest station is Cardiff, approximately 4 km from the arena. Buses stop at the intersection between Macquarie Rd and Hillsborough Rd. Once inside, access to the main stand isn’t great, nor are the bathrooms.
Reserved seating in the main grandstand and general admission standing-only tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children 15 and under. It’s a bit strange, and it’s disappointing not to have family ticket offers. However, food and drink are modestly priced and parking is free.
The game day experience is family friendly and very enjoyable for what is essentially a semi-professional league. AIHL winners receive the Goodell Cup, which is the third oldest hockey trophy in the world. The original trophy has been restored several times and now resides in the Hockey Hall of Fame. The Northstars claim to be Newcastle’s most successful sports team. There is a small merchandise store near the entrance to the rink. The team has rivalries with Sydney Ice Dogs, Adelaide Adrenaline and CBR Brave. Watch out for a local clash with the Central Coast set to join the league in 2023.
If you’re looking for a hockey fix, the Northstars at Hunter Ice Skating Stadium are for you. Newcastle and Lake Macquarie are well worth a visit.
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