Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California may not be a venue as rich in tradition as the Staple Center, Madison Square Garden or other well-known sports meccas but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t seen its fair share of history. Since opening in 2008, the facility has hosted pre-season match-ups between storied NBA and NHL franchises, boxing, professional wrestling and MMA cards, PBR bull riding and the home games of Ontario’s local minor league hockey and soccer teams. These events have yielded unforgettable moments and exciting firsts that deserve their place in American sports history. Here are five unusual sports facts about Citizens Business Bank Arena.
1. The Ontario Reign breaks records off the ice
Ontario Reign Breaks Records at Citizens Bank Arena
The Ontario Reign is a name that has been a part of the local sports landscape since 2008. although the team’s current incarnation has only the name in common with the team that originally made it’s home at the Citizens Business Bank Arena. The Reign originally played in the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) as an affiliate of the L.A Kings and Winnipeg Jets before the team relocated to Manchester, New Hampshire in 2015, swapping places with the Manchester Monarchs of the American Hockey League. Although the ECHL version of the Reign failed to win the league championship, they did win the Pacific League Championship in their first season, before getting bounced in the first round of playoffs by the Stockton Thunder. The most interesting bit of Reigh trivia concerns the team’s record-setting attendance despite a lackluster record on the ice. For two consecutive seasons, the team easily broke league attendance records. In the 2009-2010 regular season, over 230,000 fans attended the Reign’s home games, the next year the team attracted over 240,000 during their 36 home appearances. Fan loyalty wasn’t enough to inspire the Reign to capture a league title or keep the ECHL franchise in Ontario, but it did prove the town has plenty of die-hard hockey supporters, a factor which definitely weighed heavily in the AHL’s decision to resurrect the Reign.
2. The first pre-season NBA game in Ontario
With the exception of 2011, the year of the NBA lockout, the Los Angeles Lakers have played at least one preseason game in Ontario since the arena opened for business. The very first NBA match-up held at the venue on October 24th, 2004 featured one of the first meetings of two future Hall of Famers. The Oklahoma City Thunder was preparing for its inaugural season, after a contentious move from Seattle, with a slate of pre-season road games that brought them to Citizens Business Bank Arena to face the Lakers. The game was an otherwise uneventful affair that saw LA go over the Thunder by a score of 105-94. Lakers star and reigning league MVP Kobe Bryant was coming off a knee injury which had limited his preseason appearances and would cut his playing time short against the Thunder that night. Rookie Kevin Durant who had been drafted by Seattle in 2007, was making one of his first appearances on the NBA hardwood in a Thunder uniform and gave fan’s in an attendance that night a glimpse of his future greatness. He contributed 15, with Russell Westbrook leading the Thunder with 23 points. While Bryant’s playing time was limited ( he was 2-3 from the floor in the first 7:55 of the match-up ) the two legends had limited time on the court together, however, that doesn’t prevent the first pre-season game held in Ontario from being an interesting NBA footnote.
3. The birth of groundbreaking boxing coverage
Boxing at Citizens Bank Arena in Ontario California in 2016
Boxing has been a mainstay at Citizens Business Bank Arena since the facility hosted its first fights in 2008. ESPN Friday Night Fights has televised several cards from Ontario featuring world-renowned boxers. But the venues claim to fame in the world of pugilism doesn’t involve a historic fight or a title change. Premier Boxing Champions, a series devoted to more dynamic coverage of professional boxing, shot its first episode for Spike TV at Citizens Business Bank Arena. The card was forgettable, it was a landmark occasion in the sense that it marked the debut of a program that many insiders credit with helping to resurrect interest in boxing by creating a telecast that is more engaging for younger viewers.
4. Round two for an MMA main event
Mixed martial arts is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S and fans in Ontario have had numerous opportunities to catch huge fights between some of the top names in MMA. In 2015, Citizens Business Bank Arena was chosen to host WSOF 4: Spong vs. DeAnda. The namesake main event almost didn’t happen. Back in June, Tyrone Spong had been scheduled to face Angel DeAnda at WSOF 3 in Las Vegas before visa problems prevented the Suriname-born Spong from fighting on the card. The issues were eventually worked out which allowed Spong to be available for the World Series of Fighting’s next event in Ontario. In retrospect, DeAnda probably wishes his opponent hadn’t been able to enter the country; Spong won by unanimous decision after three rounds.
5. WWE puts the Smackdown on the Inland Empire
Some may not consider professional wrestling a sport , given its sensational story lines, flamboyant characters, and predetermined finishes, but there is no denying the athleticism of the men and women who compete under the WWE banner or the excitement they generate among their loyal fan base. In 2010, the sports entertainment company began making stops at Citizens Business Bank Arena for “house” shows and TV tapings. Previously the WWE had held its Inland Empire shows at San Bernardino’s Coussoulis Arena. On February 11, 2014, a taping of the highly rated Smackdown program was held at the arena; the sports entertainment brand’s first televised event from the area since 1996.
No doubt more sports history will be made at Citizens Business Bank Arena in the years to come and local fans are ready to witness it. Whether it’s basketball, hockey, MMA or pro wrestling, Ontario has proven its devotion to hometown teams and internationally known sports brands alike by packing this state of the art venue whenever sports are on the marquee.