February 2, 2019
Bentley Arena (Capacity: 1,917)
Bentley Falcons vs Air Force Falcons
Final Score: 4 – 0
On a doubleheader that involved basketball at nearby Boston College, I drove to Waltham for a hockey game on a Saturday Evening. This city of 60,000 is located about 10 miles west of Boston and its manufacturing roots led to the nickname “Watch City” thanks to being home of a famed company. Another interesting tidbit is that Waltham has become a center for many from Uganda. It’s even been known as “Little Kampala” and there’s an Ugandan restaurant (Karibu) to boot. The city is home to two colleges and one of them is Bentley University, a small private school relatively new to the area, having moved from Boston in the late 1960s. They’re known for their business program and they also play hockey at the Division I level. Moving up a class in 1998, Bentley became one of the original members of Atlantic Hockey after the MAAC disbanded. They’ve had four winning league records and have only been to one conference tournament championship game (a loss in ’06). After decades in a municipal ice rink a town over, they recently debuted their on-campus arena in 2018 and it is a great little building that features a ton of technological advances.
Prestige Ranking: 3 out of 5
Moody Street is Waltham’s “Restaurant Row” and there is a decent selection of shops and restaurants to choose from. It’s also the location of a small museum on industry and innovation. This main street is about 5 minutes from Bentley, which lies to the north in a more open area that includes some nearby historical estates like Lyman (though the short visiting hours on these estates make it hard to tour).
Location Ranking: 6 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Getting here isn’t bad as the school is 10 minutes from I-95. The connection for east-west commuters is the Mass Pike (I-90) and that runs pretty close to 95. Once in town, expect a few odd twists and turns to the streets that ubiquitous in Eastern Mass. Thankfully, the drive in is not overly confounding. The parking situation is however as Bentley charges $10 for a small lot that you have to buy for in advance. The next option is limited parking behind the Dana Athletic Center nearly 10 minutes away. Once that fills, attendees need to go all the way to the far north side of campus to park, which is a good 20-minute walk through varying buildings and streets (there is a bus that makes a loop to pick-up / drop-off). For a small arena and suburban campus, the parking situation is ridiculous.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 4.5 out of 8
This is a sleek, modern building, though it looks more like a campus center than a sporting arena. There is a lot of glass used and it offers a look into multiple sections of the arena, save for the ice rink. Rectangle is the shape and I found it pretty cool how there is one glass section over the lobby that juts out and makes it feel like you’re standing over the edge inside. Silver panels make up the exterior and there is also a plaza with benches before reaching the entrance.
Exterior Ranking: 7 out of 10
The entrance inside is at ground level and the opening portion features a lobby and a table to buy or pick up your ticket. It’s a nice introduction for the school with some walls painted blue and the classy Bentley shield logo fixated into different places. Stairs (or an elevator) are needed to reach the ice rink and the collection of students partially up the stairs to lackadaisically take your ticket is odd. The aforementioned glass overhang acts as a corner open space inside and it doubles as a nice collection area and the school’s team store. The “concourse” is a small walkway around the top of the seating bowl, which is fine for a small crowd, but an annoyance if the place is packed. To go along with a couple corner food carts, there is an end section that contains the bathroom, a concession stand and “The Cube”. This swanky, VIP lounge is a perk for those who want to spend a good amount of cash on a “Premium Package” ticket.
Concourse Ranking: 3.5 out of 5
Regular concession food is what you would expect for an arena this side plus some grab-n-go sandwiches. They do sell beer and the cups of wine (Cabernet or Chardonnay) seemed popular.
Food Ranking: 3.5 out of 8
Bentley Arena is simple in that there are just 5-9 rows that go around the rink in a mostly uninterrupted fashion. I say mostly because there is the Section 109 press box that oddly has the position of being at the end of the arena instead of the traditional middle. The small surface area inside didn’t leave much room for that and I’m sure game announcers have a hard time when the puck is at the other end. Steepness of each row is pretty good, though only a few of the top rows get to take advantage of that since glass partitions get in the way of the view for the bottom half rows. Many decided to stand along the concourse and with a drink rail in front of them, that’s a decent option. Seats are very comfortable and they even have a little cushion as they vary between blue, gray and black. Opposite the press box at the other end is the student section (called “Top Shelf”) and this is bleacher seating. The character inside is great as one side wall has “BENTLEY” spelled all the way across it. The other wall is full of large student-athlete pictures in school apparel. It’s also bright inside (too bright?). Despite the small size, Bentley Arena outshines many across the college hockey landscape.
Interior Ranking: 7.5 out of 14
Above center ice is an excellent scoreboard that is dominated by a video screen. Even more welcoming is that game video was mostly what it was used for and replay frequency was excellent. Corner panels have the B Shield logo and the bottom of the video screen has time, score, etc. There are also a couple of game info scoreboards at each end.
Scoreboard Ranking: 4 out of 4
To go along with the nice interior touches, there is a statue for Bob DeFelice in the outdoor plaza. He is not only the long-time baseball coach, but also the school AD. Inside, there is a small display case for hockey that is lacking a little, but still nice that it is there. The wall featuring the faces has a couple nice displays including a list of every player to suit up for the Falcons and a small decade history on the team. There’s also a plaque explaining the recent origins of the student section “The Top Shelf”. Too bad they didn’t come close to living up to that billing. League team flags are on an end wall.
Displays Ranking: 4.5 out of 6
The $10 charge for the close-by parking is absurd and even though free parking can be had, it is too far from the arena for it to be worthwhile. All tickets are $15 and I thought that was a little high. Most of the league has options in the $10 – $12 range, so it wasn’t like it was crazy. Concession prices were mixed. A hot dog cost $4, while a sandwich was an expensive $8. However, a bottled soda for $2 is a good deal.
Cost Ranking: 6.5 out of 8
Bentley came in to this weekend evening game on an 8-game unbeaten streak and the crowd result wasn’t that great. The arena was maybe half-full (so less than 1,000). It’s understandable given Boston’s packed sports scene and I would imagine that only those with ties to Bentley come to the games. Student turnout was disappointing as their end section sat 75% empty with maybe 100 kids on hand (with half of them watching half-heartedly and looking up from their phones). The team ranks in the middle of the Atlantic Hockey attendance standings.
Fan Support Ranking: 2.5 out of 8
The atmosphere was weird, particularly after a goal because it was celebrated by fans for about 10 seconds and then everybody was back like nothing happened as the clapping stopped. Otherwise, it’s a casual event that features a few ooh’s and ahh’s, but don’t expect anybody to acknowledge things like a home penalty kill.
Atmosphere Ranking: 5 out of 14
The terrific thing about Bentley Arena is that it is LEED Platinum. Highlights include: solar panels that produce nearly half of the electricity needed and recycled Zamboni water used in the bathrooms……Behind the press box and visible from the concourse is the video control room and it’s always cool to take a behind-the-scenes look in at the video production side of things…..There was a ridiculous amount of security in the building, I counted nearly 20 people with some sort of security tag. This really seemed excessive…..What is that goal horn? Never heard that sound before.
This was a clunky, clutzy game that was marred by turnovers and random falls. I’ve seen a few AHA games and I know the product is better than what I saw on this night. Bentley won 4-0 and Air Force really struggled to generate much pressure. Luke Santerno had a goal and assist for the home Falcons.