Visitors to the BGSU Ice Arena this past weekend were greeted with many new features and amenities for the arena with no name. It’s hard to imagine five years ago that the arena would still be standing, let alone appearing to prosper.
If we’re being completely honest with each other, the Ice Arena has become a bit of a running gag in the press box. Four years ago when I began to cover the team the arena was nowhere close to the level it is now. There were holes in the wall along the concourse, the arena would be without heat during games due to a failed compressor, and on one occasion, around six to seven years ago, an arena employee drilled directly into the cooling system below a goal post, causing gallon after gallon of purple refrigerant to spill onto the ice. The game would eventually be postponed but for visiting teams and even lifelong fans the arena had become a point of shame, not pride.
When the inevitable next catastrophe would happen it was greeted with more acceptance than surprise. For a team that was already heading down a very dark path of uncertainty, the arena became a metaphor for what that administration had thought of hockey at Bowling Green: curtains over the broken windows and band-aids over the gaping wounds.
Now when you walk into the arena you’re greeted with a beautiful new lobby. To your right is the new multi-purpose ice surface. The “mini sheet” can host practices, mite games, curling, broomball, etc. A few years ago this was a barely used curling sheet, costing the arena valuable resources. Now you’re hard pressed to find times when this sheet isn’t being used.
To the left in the lobby is the recently renovated Newlove Pro Shop. Cramped, and at times still carrying merchandise from a decade ago, the old pro shop had taken on the look of something more closely resembling an abandoned general store then the main merchandise and skate shop for a division one rink.
As a traditionalist I do miss the old CCHA flags and banners that used to hang in the arena. After all, this is one of, if not the, most historic athletic venue at BGSU. Greatness has literally skated on the ice at BGSU between olympians and champions. However, one of the new features, the mural that stretches around the arena, is a nod to the community, BGSU, and the thousands who have walked through the rink.
There are a few features that I’m not completely sold on. No one would argue that the old scoreboards were being used way past their prime. New scoreboards have been installed at both ends. With the Stroh center’s beautiful HD screen it was disappointing to see the arena installed very basic and very economical markers. Hopefully this is a bridge until the University is able to install proper time and scorekeepers for this division one rink.
There has also been some push back regarding the new seating options, located on the south end of the rink. This area used to be home to the standing room only section but is frequently 2-3 people deep for every game. This area has been replaced by “Ice Box” seating. Featuring a hightop table and four chairs, this section is only available to those Falcon Club members who have donated at least $500 for the year. BGSU athletic director Chris Kingston has seen success with this program during his time at Army. But, it remains to be seen if this will be received positively by those fans who have grown accustomed to cheaper access to games.
The final issue comes from a few fans I spoke to regarding CSC Security. CSC is the company that BGSU has contracted with to provide security for all BGSU home contests. I witnessed students being warned about “banging” on the glass and coaches nearly being clotheslined attempting to go down the tunnel. Let me first cover the students “banging” on the glass: I can promise that a player being checked into the glass provides far more force than that of a row of students. Second, I know we’re trying to keep that concourse area for the locker rooms clear for the teams and coaches. But, please make sure team personnel are able to safely get down the stairs. I know they can be hard to spot. They’re the ones wearing suits and shirts and ties.
With that said, I turned to a fellow media member on Saturday and commented on how the arena had a completely different feeling than four years ago. There’s pride in the hallowed walls. We have a student section that is actually engaged with the game (Stay weird Creatures!). And despite the arena’s age it has the look and feel of a new administration’s willingness to let hockey take the forefront for BGSU athletics.
Isn’t it funny how things can change?