About seven weeks ago, the WCHA Blog kicked off its list of which WCHA arenas are the best. I'm basing my list off of three criteria (Arena, Atmosphere, and Crowd). For a detailed list of what these three items mean to me, click here and scroll down a bit.
Here is a list of the arenas that I've already covered:
10. Sullivan Arena - Anchorage, AK
9. John MacInnes Student Ice Arena – Houghton, MI
8. Alltel Center – Mankato, MN
7. World Arena – Colorado Springs, CO
6. Magness Arena – Denver, CO
5. DECC – Duluth, MN
4. National Hockey Center – St. Cloud, MN
This week, its arena No. 3: the Kohl Center which is home to the Wisconsin Badgers.
The Kohl Center joins Ralph Engelstad Arena and Mariucci Arena as being the crown jewels of the WCHA when it comes to rinks. All three of them are head and shoulders above the rest of the arenas in the WCHA, and not surprisingly, they are three of the newest.
The Kohl Center opened in 1998 as the new home for the men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as the men’s and women’s basketball teams. From the outside, the arena looks fantastic, and that carries through into the inside. The concourses are very wide and provide ample room for getting around.
The biggest mark against the Kohl Center comes from the fact that it is a multi-purpose facility. Because of this, the sightlines are compromised, and in some instances it can be extreme. Additionally, because of the recent success of the Badgers, the lower bowl is almost always sold out, which can force opposing fans into the 300 level. If you are high up in this level, there are likely parts of the ice you won’t be able to see. Try and sit on the sides as opposed to the ends.
As you imagine in an arena the size of the Kohl Center, the gift shop is very robust, although they don’t offer official game pucks.
There isn’t an arena in the league that can match the atmosphere that the Kohl Center brings to the table. Obviously the atmosphere is better for games where the Badgers take on the Gophers or the Fighting Sioux, but even for lesser opponents, the building can still rock.
One of the main reasons why the atmosphere is so great is the band. It’s one of the best in the WCHA and their songs – while somewhat annoying to visiting fans – really get the crowd going.
Like the atmosphere, the crowd is equally, if not more, impressive. They truly make the experience in Madison one to remember. As is the case with most loud and vociferous crowds, there are a fair amount dopes that tend to have a little too much “anti-freeze” (as former Gopher coach Doug Woog would say) going through their system. Still, it’s not a huge problem and most people don’t give you a hard time unless they are provoked.
The student section is the key to the crowd. Like at all UW sporting events, they are really into the game and always going crazy. Do they know the game of hockey too well? Probably not. But, they certainly get fired up and have a good time in the process.
As I said, the main reason the Kohl Center is not higher on the list is because of the sightlines, which are fairly important on my list of important factors in an arena. Still, the atmosphere and crowd are as good as you’ll find at any sporting event.
Overall Grade: A