Yost Ice Arena

November 10, 2017
Yost Ice Arena (Capacity: 5,800)
Ann Arbor, MI
Michigan Wolverines vs Minnesota Golden Gophers
Final Score: 5 – 4 (OT)

.

A four game in three day long weekend led me back to a state that I visited and enjoyed my time in a year ago. Located in Southeast Michigan about 45 minutes from Detroit, the city of Ann Arbor is surprisingly the 6th largest in the state (population around 115,000) as it has the feel of a large college town. The University of Michigan certainly is a significant component to A2 as much of the city’s economy is centered on it and the school’s resources help to bring many other types of companies and services. Michigan is one of the leading research universities in the country and it is a Top 40 school, also classified as a Public Ivy. It is a big one too with 13 different departments (colleges/schools) and over 43,000 students. The Wolverines hockey team has traditionally been a power in the sport as the program that began in 1922 has the most NCAA Championships (9). Their two most recent titles in 1996 and 1998 came as a result of dramatic winners in OT. In addition to that achievement, Michigan has reached the NCAA Tournament 36 times, though they are in a mini-drought, missing four of the last five after a run of 22 straight. Yost Ice Arena was built in 1923, but it was not until 1973 that the Field House was converted to an ice rink. The building itself is both beautiful and awkward, while the atmosphere is incredible, making it a real special place to watch a game.
Prestige Ranking: 5 out of 5

Location

Yost Ice Arena and the rest of the athletic facility section is about a mile south of both downtown and campus. It’s a short drive or lengthy walk and it is well worth checking out both areas. The center of Ann Arbor has plenty of great local shops and restaurants with the amount of variety likely giving somebody a new place to eat every night for a couple months. The bustling center of town eventually leads into the primary campus. A self-walking tour should include the Burton Tower, Law Quad and The Cube. There are also several highly-acclaimed museums in multiple fields. Closer to the arena is a mix of business and residential, with a few local dive college joints if desperate for a quick bite. Right across from the back of Yost is the Towsley Museum, which is devoted to Wolverine football.
Location Ranking: 8.5 out of 10

Accessibility / Parking

I-94 is the main route to Ann Arbor, but there are several other highways with good access that lead into town. 94 is certainly preferred since that avoids the need to go through the typically congested downtown. It is a simple arrival to the arena, located on State Street, off Exit 177, but on-site parking is extremely limited. The primary option is to park at the Crisler Center and use a long pedestrian walkway over the railroad tracks. This was not a fun 10-minute walk on a bitterly cold night. Leaving the parking lot was fine and I didn’t have an issue with making a left-hand turn onto Stadium Drive. Be aware that when basketball and hockey coincide, Crisler’s lots become a lot more full and parking will be a challenge.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 6 out of 8

Exterior

This is a beautiful building from the outside, quite reminiscent of the Wisconsin Field House that I saw five years ago. Century-old architecture is evident all around; from the brick material to the triangular roof to my favorite element, the many arch windows. Intricate designs above the windows can be spotted, as can a few engraved M letterings. The length of Yost down State Street is a good reminder of its history as a Field House and one of the largest in the country during earlier times. An old barn is an apt discerption for this arena.
Exterior Ranking: 9 out of 10

Concourse

The building’s size on the outside is certainly deceptive on the inside as visitors enter. A horizontal hallway is the first thing they see and it is smaller than anticipated. This is the case for the rest of the concourse, which only features two sideline areas as there is no connection at the other end. Despite the tight confines, I found most stay in their seats during intermissions, so crowding was not much of an issue, especially since there are exit doors that can be opened after the game. The Wolverines keep the concourse well decorated (see more in Displays).
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5

Food

Though nothing exorbitant, Yost featured a good food offering as each concession stand had different options and most of the stadium food groups were covered. There were several takes on burgers and the Veggie Wrap and Jumbo Stuffed Tater Keg were bonus treats. My favorite was Roasted Almond cart. Not to eat, but that smell was wonderfully intoxicating. This is a hockey rink and the many hot drinks offered by the Bearclaw Coffee Co. were clutch.
Food Ranking: 6 out of 8

Interior

The only downfall of the entire stadium experience is the interior as Yost was not initially designed for hockey and the subsequent retrofitting shows. Seating is in the form of straight-edge sections on all four sides that consist of all metal bleacher and there is even a temporary feel to them on the sides (despite their age of five years). Corners are expectedly awkward, though the addition of tiered standing room/handicap sections make it better. There is a decent amount of club seating that is perched above the sidelines and while it gives those folks a really nice vantage point, it makes the last 3-4 rows on the side obstructed from the scoreboard (monitors at least accommodate some). The end bleachers actually made up the bulk of the seating capacity, a rarity for a hockey arena. They are also the location of those storied windows that add an element not seen in most hockey buildings. It’s probably the best area to sit and the grade on each section is adequate. Finally, Yost is a unique building for its brightness and I believe all of that silver from the metal bleachers, base and ceiling berms/beams contribute. I did like that aspect.
Interior Ranking: 6 out of 14

Scoreboard

It is a beauty and if it was any bigger it would be too big. Four excellent video displays grace each side of the scoreboard and the corners have video too, which usually just feature a graphical M logo during play. The use of the screen is perfect as it mostly encompasses game action and occasional crowd shots. There is very little in the way of silly antics as Michigan lets the students and band rightfully entertain you. Game information and statistics take up a quarter of each video screen at the bottom. A circular display at the top is static with a “Yost Ice Arena” lettering, while the bottom of the board has a digital circular for messages. If I were to both design and dictate a scoreboard, this would be it.
Scoreboard Ranking: 4 out of 4

Displays

The hallways are a shrine to Michigan hockey as inset windows offer fans a chronological history with occasional memorabilia. To compliment the history, another section features pretty much every team and individual accomplishment. Bonus point for the nearby stuffed Wolverine. Beyond these primary display cases, the walls along the side concourses, in addition to being splashed in team colors and logos, have several interesting murals. I spent the most time at the ones detailing Yost’s history and the team uniforms through the years. Inside the arena, simple and crisp M banners grace the rafters for the team’s conferences titles (regular season and tournament) and NCAA championships. The three categories are separated by side and color: white, maize and blue.
Displays Ranking: 6 out of 6

Cost

Tickets are up there in the cost department and while they don’t reach the high levels at the schools where hockey is king, they are the second highest priced in the Big Ten. For conference and bigger non-league games, a ticket costs $30 with the three center sections going for $40. Add another $5 for that when bought online. Parking is $10 for the arena lot, but free for ones further away (only when there is no coinciding football or basketball). Food prices certainly represent big school as opposed to small arena: $5 for Hot Chocolate, $7 for French Fries and $5 for a Hot Dog. At least the Program was legit and only cost a buck.
Cost Ranking: 4.5 out of 8

Atmosphere and Fan Support

There are few places that resonate with me days after a visit and this was one. Yost has a special atmosphere and I was fixated on that during the game as the students and band shine. Dubbed “The Children of Yost”, the multi-section student area is creative in their work, as evidenced by their taking to a 10-year-old who they begged to take his socks off during the Zamboni ride. He obliged, they went nuts and he later joined them for a period. This group in Maize and Blue were phenomenal all around and the best is their “Sieve” chant at the opposing goalie with differing takes on it after a goal and at the start of the period. The band elevates the crew and it is something special to hear “Victors” and “Lets Go Blue”. They also are great with other tunes and it is all the entertainment needed during intermission. Make sure to be in the stands between the 2nd and 3rd for “Can’t Turn You Loose” as Michigan’s dance to this is contagious.

As for the rest of the crowd, they join for the traditional tunes and they certainly get up for goals to give a good cheer and push up the volume level decently to “loud”. I did watch and listen closely though and the general crowd lacked a few things. For one, after Michigan came back to tie it after a 3-0 deficit, you would expect the crowd to have an extended cheer or do more to push the team forward for one more to take the lead. That didn’t happen. Hockey may have a great following, but football is the true soul for Wolverines fans, so this makes Yost more of a fun place as opposed to one that has a deep passion dependent on result. Regarding attendance, it was a good crowd and it took about 10 minutes for the place to be mostly full and reach its stated 5,358 figure for the night. Annually, Michigan is Top 10 for attendance, but within the Big Ten, they are in that middle tier with Michigan State and Penn State as both Wisconsin and Minnesota typically have better attendance.
Atmosphere Ranking: 12.5 out of 14
Fan Support Ranking: 7 out of 8

Other Stuff

At the time of completion, Yost was an athletic Field House that was one of the largest built on a college campus. Track and basketball were the home teams until it became solely an ice arena in 1973…..Red Berenon, arguably the face of Michigan hockey, just retired the season before my visit. The rink was named after him, who coached the team 33 years and also played for the Wolverines in the 60s. Fun fact: Red also changed the hockey helmets to wear the famous wing design…..Ohio State is the obvious football rival, but when it comes to hockey, Michigan State is Michigan’s chief nemesis. They also typically meet up in the holiday Great Lakes Invitational tournament in Detroit, where they are joined by Michigan Tech and an invited fourth opponent…..I had a media credential to this game and when I arrived, a pass was not waiting for me as they had to hastily write one up while I waited in the press box. While up there, I was met with a blank gaze from the person seated to my right and doophy questions from the one my left. Needless to say, I quickly left my post and headed to where I belong and want to be: in the seating bowl, as I opted for standing room. Yet another reason, I hate using a media credential and try to avoid at all costs.

Game

In what turned out to be a terrific hockey game, the Wolverines began by having the most quality chances in the first period, however goalie, Eric Schierhorn came up big with the stop each time. During the middle period, it was Minnesota who struck first and they would add two more in a six minute span for a 3-0 lead. Michigan fought back and by intermission, it was 3-2. Goals then flew in to start the third as Michigan tied it on a beautiful no-look pass by Tony Calderone, only to see the Gophers jump back in front 33 second later. Another Wolverine goal tied it up until we went to OT, where a scramble in front led to a power play score for Michigan as Alex Roos got the game winner for the home side.

Stadium Experience Ranking: 77 out of 100

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s