You might be surprised to find the historical success and NHL pedigree that comes from the Bowling Green State Falcons hockey program and the BGSU Ice Arena. The program was a lock for the NCAA tourney throughout the 80’s and as you walk the concourses of the Ice Arena you recognize names still familiar to the hockey world. Falcons players have gone on to be NHL All-Stars, Hall of Famers (or will be soon), Olympians (including two members of the USA’s ‘Miracle on Ice’ team), Stanley Cup winners, or professional coaches or GM’s like Dan Bylsma and George McPhee, respectively. Outside of hockey, it was here that figure skating icon Scott Hamilton learned his skills on the ice.
Unfortunately, those accomplishments are now "the good ol’ days". The program has fallen to become a CCHA also-ran in the past few years, with only one finish (7th) above 11th place in the last six seasons. These struggles were complicated when after the 2008-09 season, rumors began circulating that the school may fold the program. Luckily, the looming threat pushed local business leaders, school alumni and former Falcon hockey greats to stage the "Bring Back the Glory" campaign.
The campaign includes upgrades to the locker rooms and weight rooms used in recruiting and training, infrastructure upgrades to the facilities as well as much needed cosmetic upgrades that were long overdue. The campaign has been successful in fundraising and is well on the way to reaching the $9 million goal. To date, Hamilton has donated the largest amount, $500,000, to endow a hockey scholarship. It’s really uplifting to see people who have gone off to make a name for them self elsewhere to remember and give back to a place that was special to them. Armed with a new coaching staff, a young squad, and an upgraded but classic barn, hopefully the BGSU Falcons can regain their past success.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
They just have the basics at BGSU Ice Arena; hot dogs, popcorn, pretzels, and candy. Unfortunately, the prices were kind of high. Case in point, a 20-ounce bottle of pop was $4. I understand there’s always a markup at an event like this, but it’s not even a fountain drink, so I think that’s a bit much. With that said, everything tasted good, so if you don’t mind paying for it, go for it.
Since the BGSU Ice Arena is an older facility, the concourses can get a bit crowded when there’s a big crowd, so I would recommend cutting out of the action a bit before the period ends to beat the rush to the concession stand. This is something the university is trying to address, so hopefully that will improve.
The arena is an on-campus facility and doesn’t serve beer, but the campus area bars are not too far away.
If the movie Slapshot was about college hockey, it would have been filmed here. I mean that as a huge compliment. The place just feels like old-time hockey. The well-worn walls and bleachers recall a time in the sport before wearing helmets was the norm, or the advent of glowing pucks and cable TV contracts. There’s no video board, just two basic scoreboards at each end. It even smells like hockey (anyone who’s spent time in a local rink knows what I mean). I’m not sure if the dasher boards are a bit older, but every check hit into them hit with a thunderous crash. I’ve never heard boards so loud. I’m sure the roof aids in this phenomenon (which I’ll get to). It definitely adds a lot to the experience.
Even with a crowd that was less than a sellout, you can feel the noise. It all has to do with that low, flat, metal roof (pictures are in the gallery). It trapped and magnified every sound. After the game, I went to the top row (Row 19), and standing there, could reach up and touch the roof.
A cool spot to the watch the game was from the open end zone area. Fans line up around the boards behind the goal and if you don’t mind standing it is a great vantage point. My daughter jumped back a couple times, startled when the game action was right on the other side of the plexiglass.
There is a large group of restaurants to choose from. Across from the BGSU sports complex there are places like Starbucks, and quick service chains like Chipotle and McDonalds. If you don’t mind driving into the downtown of Bowling Green about a mile away, there are a bunch of independent restaurants that cover many different cuisines, as well as your requisite college bars, etc.
On campus, there is Art and Theater programming consistently, as well as a continuing film series at the Gish Film Theater.
A benefit of watching a game in an older rink is there’s usually a more relaxed atmosphere. The place had a welcoming, "community" feel, knowledgeable fans chatted up newcomers about the rules of the game, and fans moved around the seats and socialized with no issues. The arena staff were all very friendly and answered questions I had about the history of the program and the campaign to remodel the rink.
Bowling Green’s program has had a down number of years, but I imagine that when the team is playing better and the crowds fill the building, this place is rocking and provides a distinct home-ice advantage. A strong pep band and engaged student section help aid in the game watching experience, a great aspect of watching college hockey.
BGSU’s sports complex (which includes Perry Stadium and the Stroh Center) sits near the off-ramp for Exit 181 of Interstate I-75. I came from the south, so you take the exit, turn left onto E. Wooster Avenue (which if you stay on will take you into Bowling Green’s downtown), go about a half mile, turn right onto North Mercer and the arena is right there. Parking is on site and was $5, and since it’s just the one large lot, you can take your time leaving the rink as you may be stuck with the crowd.
There are good prices on tickets. General Admission bleachers in the end zone were $13 for adult, and $11 for youths. Reserved sidelines were $13-$15. If you buy through Ticketmaster, that will add at least another $3 dollars per ticket in fees. Ugh. One way to minimize this is to call the BGSU Ticket Office and buy from them. There’s still a $5 processing fee per order, but if you’re buying a few tickets, it’ll save you a couple bucks.
There are decent sightlines throughout since the benches are all so close, so it’s really just personal preference as to how you like to see the action move in a hockey game. As I stated above, I wasn’t a fan of the concession prices, though everything was of a decent quality.
One point for the auxiliary rink. As part the renovation project, BGSU took what was a flat, open ice surface used for skating and curling, and put hockey boards around it. This has allowed them more flexibility for scheduling youth hockey, figure skating and other activities like broomball. Bowling Green apparently has a strong curling club, which I would definitely be a part of if I lived nearby.
One point for the strong history on display. The former success of the hockey program is demonstrated with banners marking all the achievements of the team, as well as posters for hockey Olympians and retired jerseys of Falcon greats like Rob Blake and Garry Galley, amongst others. Also, the figure skating history is noted here as well, with nods to Bowling Green native & Olympic Gold Medalist Scott Hamilton and World Champion Alissa Czisny.
One point for the mascots, Freddy and Frieda Falcon, very entertaining. My daughter was overjoyed to get a picture with them.
One point for that roof, I hope that no matter the future renovations that take place, the university ensures that the atmosphere and the noise level of the rink are maintained.
It appears BGSU has a solid plan in place to revitalize the Ice Arena building, and hopefully its hockey program. Modern arenas are nice for all the comforts they can provide, but there’s something special about watching a game in a building that has some years on it. A lot of history and memories were created here, not just for the school but also for the residents in the community, and it seems like the school is keeping that in mind as it pushes to update the facility.
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