February 29, 2020
Tate Rink (Capacity: 2,525)
West Point, NY
Army Black Knights vs AIC Yellow Jackets
Final Score: 1 – 4
A free Saturday gave me the chance to make the hour and a half ride up into the Hudson Valley for my 9th college hockey arena. The United States Military Academy in West Point certainly is a unique place as the very selective four-year service academy is a national landmark filled with historical sites, monuments and buildings. The curriculum consists of academics, military and athletics as Cadets fulfill “Duty, Honor, Country”. Army hockey dates back a long time and the program bounced between divisions and conferences before settling into Atlantic Hockey in 2003. Since that time, they’ve only taken one regular season crown and the team has yet to make an NCAA Tournament. Home games are played at Tate Rink, which is part of the Holleder Center, built in 1985. Seating is only on the sides, but the vantage point is one of the best that you’ll see in the league.
Prestige Ranking: 3.5 out of 5
West Point is about 50 miles north of New York City, located appropriately on a western point of the Hudson River. All of the campus grounds essentially are within West Point, while the closest “town” is that of Highland Falls, which is adjacent to the south. This tiny village of 3,600 has a main street with a few small, older eateries and I ate dinner at The Park, an old-school, no-frills diner with nice people and basic food. Several people going to the hockey game went here first. The town also houses the USMA Visitors Center and the West Point Museum. Visitors can sign up for an hour-long tour as the $17 price tag is well worth it and it is the only way to get a look at the historic grounds.
Location Ranking: 6.5 out of 10
Accessibility / Parking
Getting to the hilly area is a bit of a chore as it is located off of US-9W. The Palisades Parkway and I-87 provide the closest access and the 15-minute ride from the highway had some awkward turning lanes. There are 3 gates into West Point and after a car check you can proceed into the area. The Stony Lonesome gate is the one to use for the hockey rink. Beware that there are no signs and nobody directing you and it takes some digging on the Army website to figure out what to do. A little research shows that the main parking lot is down the hill, right off of Stony Lonesome Road and directly across from the football stadium. There was enough parking in Lot A and Lot F for the crowd, however the exit/entrance is poorly designed, so expect it to take 5-10 minutes to leave after the game. There are plenty of stairs to navigate down to the arena, though handicap parking is available right near the building if needed.
Accessibility / Parking Ranking: 5 out of 8
The complex fits in with most of the other unassuming buildings on the grounds, as it has a drab, concrete-gray appearance. It’s difficult to distinguish a shape, because there are two arenas inside. In the middle, where the two-story lobby is located, the words “Holleder Center” are written on the outside. A nice touch is a tall bronze statue dedicated to the Army athlete with a quote at the top by Douglas MacArthur.
Exterior Ranking: 4 out of 10
Despite already climbing stairs from the outside to get into the entrance, fans arrive at the lowest level of the building, which is where the box office is. A couple more sets of stairs (with “Go Army” and “Black Knights” written boldly on the walls) lead you to a centralized area with concessions. To the right of the area is Christl Arena, while to the left is Tate Rink. Hallways go down three sides of the rink, with no access to the far end. Even though there is a cold look of concrete throughout, the gold/white/black paint goes a long way to adding character, as do the section signs and wall displays. Space isn’t an issue except if you need to get food at intermission as the lines are long. Bathrooms weren’t as bad, despite the difficulty in finding one as they were poorly marked. Lastly, to get into the actual rink from the hallway, you have to open a door. I never understood when buildings do this because it causes congestion and confusion, plus the tinted windows make it harder to see if someone is coming.
Concourse Ranking: 2.5 out of 5
The circular area that serves as the middle for both arenas is full of protrusions, mostly for food stands. Items are generally basic and they at least contains grilled fare like burgers, fries, sausages and cheesesteaks.
Food Ranking: 2.5 out of 8
Similar to the arena next door, the inside is fairly straight-forward and intimate arena with seating only on the sides. Even though seating is on one level, they split it near the middle concourse opening between bleachers above and chairbacks below. The individual seats are a charcoal color and the chairs themselves feature a higher-than-normal seat. Enough so, that I felt like if I was short, my feet wouldn’t touch the ground. The wooden bleachers are brown and the seat number is located on them. This does make for a tight squeeze if people are nearby. What I loved was the steepness of the seating as it provided a terrific view of the ice. Even better was that Row 1 began not at ice level, but higher up and that enhanced the visual. Check out the player benches on the other side, where rows of seating literally were a good eight feet above the bench, making for a unique perspective. One thing I did not like were the amount of obstructions. Several concourse openings disjointed the seating bowl and it also led to railings all over the place, where for many, they got in the way of the view. The roof was low, as were the white beams and yellow piping. Other coloring on walls were more traditional black and gold, including the stenciled “Duty. Honor. Country” and “Army West Point Hockey” prominently written on the wall between the bench. The rink was brightly lit, though they played with the lights at times, flashing them for goals and introductions, while dimming them during intermission.
Interior Ranking: 7 out of 14
A traditional scoreboard above center ice features four sides and typical game information in dot matrix form. One key missing piece though was Shots on Goal. Corner panels say “Army”, while at the top is a linear message board. On the wall at the west end is a large video screen that plays live action, replays and graphics. It’s a nice board, but the protective netting distorts an otherwise clear picture. To the left is a scoreboard with only the time of day on it. This makes it confusing for players and fans looking that way for game time and penalty time.
Scoreboard Ranking: 2.5 out of 4
The USMA does so well to honor their past and it can be seen from the moment you arrive with the exterior bronze mural. The opening atrium features a display case for Don Holleder and then another case is located at the far end for Black Knights hockey. Aside from a few trophies, there are plenty of awards in honor of fallen heroes that played for the program. Reality sets in that these boys are not your standard college hockey players. Up a level in the concourse, there are plenty of old pictures on the walls. One of the hallways features a long line of plaques for “The Team Captain”. Each year’s athletic team captains are represented and these go back to the early 1900s. Inside the rink, black banners hanging down from the ceiling include one for the 2007-2008 regular season championship, numerous Coach of the Year ones for members of the Riley family, plus three retired numbers.
Displays Ranking: 4.5 out of 6
Parking is free, while the tickets go by a flex system as an initial news release said when they went on sale that seats would range from $12 to $40 (the latter probably being for the Air Force game). The game that I went to was a Saturday Night contest against AIC and it was the last home game of the season. Bleacher seats went for $18, while the chairbacks cost $25. That is the most expensive ticket as far as eastern league members go, though this may not be the norm as other games are likely cheaper. Food prices are ok as a Burger is $5 and a Cheesesteak is $7, however a cold soft drink costs $4.
Cost Ranking: 7 out of 8
There was a good crowd on hand as about 80% of the rink was filled, leading to an attendance nearing 2,000. This is typical for most games and Army is one of the top drawing teams in the league (along with Air Force and RIT). Within the context of all NCAA Division I teams, they rank in the bottom half for attendance.
Fan Support Ranking: 4.5 out of 8
Tate Rink had a decent atmosphere thanks to the fans as they responded well to the game. There were plenty of “ooohhh’s” throughout and a few times a “Let’s Go Army” chant would break out. When a goal was scored, it got loud and the following applause was extended. There is no pep band, so between-whistle music was of the pop variety.
Atmosphere Ranking: 8.5 out of 14
Army has an amazing coaching legacy as a member of the Riley family has led the team since 1950. That’s 70 years! First, it was legendary Jack Riley, then it was his son Rob and now it is his other son Brian, who took over in 2004….The Black Knights have an annual game against Canada’s Royal Military College…..Senior Day festivities included the playing of the Alma Mater at the end of the game. Their opponents showed great respect by remaining on the ice and tapping their sticks in salute as well.
After a 1-1 opening period, AIC took over in the second as a pair of goals four minutes apart gave them a comfortable lead. Army had the puck in the Yellow Jackets’ end for most of the third, but they couldn’t get one past Zack Skog and an empty netter provided the 4-1 final. Army’s Mason Krueger had their lone goal.