This week, I’m going to start my list of which WCHA arenas are the best in my mind. What makes a college hockey arena good or bad? Here, in alphabetical order, are my criteria:
1) Arena – Obviously the arena itself is important when it comes to this ranking. How are the sitelines? Is the arena easy to get to and park at? Does the arena offer anything special on the inside?
2) Atmosphere – What is the arena like when the game is going on? Is it more of a college or a pro atmosphere?
3) Crowd – How into the game is the crowd? Do students typically attend the games?
Like I said last week in relation to what makes a roadtrip town the best, it’s largely a personal thing. Some people may base the in-arena experience largely on the crowd and how into they game they are. Others may want a nice and modern arena and don’t care as much about the crowd.
I’ve been to each WCHA arena at least once, and have been to most of the arenas multiple times, so I feel that makes me fairly capable of putting this list together with a decent amount of knowledge.
Starting today and continuing through the next nine Wednesdays, I’ll countdown my personal list, starting today with No. 10: Sullivan Arena, which is located in Anchorage, AK and is of course home to the Alaska Anchorage Seawolves.
One immediate red flag for me about Sullivan Arena is that it’s a multi-purpose facility. That generally means that the sitelines for a hockey game have potentially been sacrificed to accommodate for other events. But, because it’s fairly easy to get tickets to a Seawolves game and thus you can move around to find a decent spot to sit, this isn’t a huge issue in this case.
The Seawolves share Sullivan Arena with the city of Anchorage, and the arena is located in downtown Anchorage and not on campus. There is ample parking on both the south and west sides of the arena, so finding a place to park isn’t an issue. Because Anchorage is a decent-sized city, there are many hotel offerings in and around the downtown area. However, there aren’t many that are within walking distance of the arena, so the available parking comes in handy.
What really hurts this arena is the inside. Because of the sparse attendance, there are lots of empty yellow and orange seats littered throughout the crowd. The food options are okay, but I was personally disappointed that they had a very small souvenir stand with very few options. I like to purchase a puck at each arena I visit, and was unable to accomplish this feat in Anchorage. The campus bookstore does have some good souvenir options, though.
The university is moving forward with plans for a new sports complex that’s slated to include a new rink for the Seawolves, and that would certainly help out the Anchorage program.
Sullivan Arena really suffers here as well. Because the team has generally been one of the bottom-feeders in the WCHA over the past several years, the crowds for games are usually pretty sparse, especially when you consider that the arena holds over 6,000 people for hockey games, which is a pretty high number.
Plus, like I said, the arena is a multi-purpose facility; there isn’t that “great college atmosphere” that can help carry some smaller programs in various NCAA sports. Having a great college atmosphere, even on a small scale, can do wonders for the in-arena experience.
There are a handful of diehard Seawolves fans that certainly make their voices (and cowbells) heard throughout the evening and are 100 percent behind their team. However, if the team gets behind, which they often do, the arena can get quiet pretty quickly. Student attendance at the games I’ve been was nothing to write home about.
I found that the locals are very friendly to opposing team fans that make the trip to Anchorage. The city residents as a whole take a great deal of pride in what they have up there, and the same holds true at Seawolves games. I was graciously invited into the blueline club area and met many great fans that were a blast to talk to. If you make the trip up to Anchorage, I suggest you poke your head in and say ‘hi.’ You may even get in on some of that Wendy’s chili.
Overall Grade: C-