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Official Review by Joe Rogers, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Located on the western bank of the Hudson River and nestled amongst a scenic overlook is Christl Arena on the beautiful campus of the United States Military Academy. The arena is respectfully named after 1st Lieutenant Edward C. Christl Jr. ‘44, a former basketball captain who helped lead the Cadets to a perfect 15-0 record his senior season prior to being killed in combat in Austria during World War II. This 5,043 seat basketball arena is actually part of the Holleder Center, a 131,000 square foot athletic complex named in honor of Major Holleder ‘56, another Army standout and member of the NCAA Hall of Fame who was killed in Vietnam. Christl Arena shares this location with Tate Rink, home of Army’s hockey team.
Constructed of concrete and steel masonry it opened in the fall of 1985. The interior of the facility just recently underwent a facelift prior to the 2015-16 basketball season in which new signage and photos were added to the concourse area and the floor’s design was altered. A handsome court featuring the natural beauty and color of northern hardwood maple and the new “Athena’s Shield” logo is now a striking masterpiece. The appealing Christl Arena has hosted numerous international sporting events in gymnastics and volleyball and welcomed the United States Men’s National team in 2014 for an open practice along with serving as the New York Knicks’ training camp that same season.
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A very limited amount of options exist here. As with most small venues the concessions are normally very limited as is most definitely the case at Christl. There are a few stands on the second floor of the Holleder Center where you can purchase a Coca-Cola product and light snack at a very reasonable price. I'd be sure to eat prior to arriving.
Army is one of only five of the original Division I teams in history to hold the unfortunate distinction to have never participated in the NCAA Tournament and they have not had a 20-win season since they were led by a former Polish point guard turned coach name Mike Krzyzewski. So the atmosphere is not quite what you would find, let's say 500 miles to the south, where that same coach has become so popular he actually has a village named after him on campus in which its inhabitants are often referred to as "crazies." What you do experience however, is a quality Patriot League basketball game in a modest setting in which most basketball fans can appreciate.
In 1841, the literary genius and social critic Charles Dickens visited West Point and the academy and is said to have stated, "It could not stand on more appropriate ground, and any ground more beautiful can hardly be."
Well, I am sure a lot of things have changed since then, but it is immediately apparent that the beauty he spoke of still remains. The historic Thayer Hotel is located just inside one of the main gates that bears the same name and offers patrons commanding views of the Hudson River and the academy. Located inside the hotel, General Patton's Tavern, a cozy, casual bar for pregame and postgame activities serves up a savory reuben sandwich which you can pair with one of their signature drinks such as an Armored Assault.
Also, inside the Thayer Hotel is MacArthur's Riverview Restaurant a favorite amongst alumni and frequent visitors. A little over a mile in Garrison is the Redoubt Wine Bar, a very quaint and well-designed little restaurant with a nice wine list and creative menu.
This is not a centriole for future NBA stars, but of more importance, future leaders of America, so you can give the student body a pass here as to why they do not come out in droves as they just may actually have something of more importance going on. Christl Arena can accommodate 5,000 plus fans, but that rarely happens unless their rival, the United States Naval Academy is visiting. You can expect to see 1,000 to 2,000 on a weeknight, and probably an additional 1,500 for a weekend contest. The fans are knowledgeable, respectful and show their appreciation for the constant hustle that is demonstrated.
The United States Military Academy and Christl Arena are located approximately 45 miles north of New York City and quite easily accessible from any direction with the assistance of major interstates before hitting a few smaller roads in 9W and 218 that will bring you into Army West Point. You will then need to pass through one of three gates (really two as you need special identification for Washington Gate) on campus to gain access to the grounds. Either the Thayer Gate or Stony Lonesome Gate will get you to the Arena, but you will need to keep a sharp eye out as it did not seem to be marked very well. Mitchie Stadium, the historic home to the Black Knight football team looms large eventually and it is then that you realize that you are in the vicinity. There is adequate parking available and it is at no charge.
Once you are inside the arena it is effortless to navigate. No restrooms are located on the first floor which I find odd; they can be found on the second floor or main concourse area and require a short walk to get there.
The quality of play in the Patriot League is not to be underestimated. Members Bucknell and Lehigh, prior giant killers in the NCAA Tournament, Bucknell as a #14-seed defeating #3-seed Kansas in 2005, and Lehigh as a #15-seed knocking off #2-seed Duke in the 2012 have once again forced basketball fans everywhere to show a little respect to this conference with victories this season against Vanderbilt and Mississippi State of the SEC. It is with this quality of play and the low ticket prices that make the R.O.I. at Christl Arena moderate to high.
Tickets to most games are sold as general admission seating at a most reasonable price of nine dollars, with a two dollar discount for groups, youths and seniors. The annual Army-Navy game has its own pricing, which is still very reasonable. Pricing starts at $25 for lower chair back seating with the least expensive (bleacher) seating going for eight dollars.
The trophy cases upon the entrance to the Hollder Center provide a glaring reminder that the athletes that you came to see run up and down a basketball court are soldiers first, and possess much more character than leaping ability. As you stand in front of these shrines and read the triumphs of some of them you find yourself excitedly breathing in the history of their achievements, only then to exhale in sympathy after reading a few paragraphs down about their tragedies. For visitors to this area it is sure to put life in perspective and is a must see.
Located on the second floor is a hallway with plaques recognizing West Point athletic team captains of the past and it is there you will find the ones bearing the etched portraits of former Heisman Trophy winners Glen W. Davis '46 and Peter Dawkins '58.
Athletic Department staff members and folks in general are absolutely amazing in their friendliness and willingness to assist in any way that they possibly can and there were several who assisted us in our visit.
Stepping onto to the campus of Army West Point is like setting foot on hallowed ground. American Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Dwight D. Eisenhower, decorated Generals Sherman, Patton, Lee and Schwarzkopf, Heisman Trophy winners Blanchard, Davis and Dawkins and many more famous alumni honed their leadership skills and God-given talents here and the history of their accomplishments draws you in.
There is not a lot of basketball history to mention, but two of the winningest basketball coaches of all-time (Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski) spent time at West Point and there seems to be very little in regards to photos or memorabilia, which I find surprising. Not quite sure I would attend another mid-week game at Christl unless the opponent was rival Navy, then I'd be there quicker that you could spell KRZYZEWSKI.
Member Review by shamus170
The United States Military Academy at West Point stresses "Duty, Honor, Country" as remarkable young men and women go through the rigorous academic, military and physical process. The Academy participates in Division I athletics under the Army name and while the basketball team has seen two great coaches start here in the 1970s (Bob Knight and Mike Krzyzewski), success has been limited. With no NCAA Tournament appearances and 26 straight losing seasons, you won't exactly see top quality basketball at Christl Arena. But what will you see are Cadets who are top quality people and should be admired for what they take on when attending West Point. That in itself is worth coming out to the game.
Member Review by garyboy on May 03, 2015
This place looks like its holding a game in some giant old boiler room. The atmosphere is only there when Navy comes in otherwise be ready to sit and read a book and yawn with the rest of how many hundred venture in to see a game. It needs serious updating but like all else at the point there is alot of history surrounding the building. But for basketball and game experience? Yikes for any game other than Navy.
457 Main St
Highland Falls, NY 10928
20 Main St
Highland Falls, NY 10928
674 Thayer Rd.
West Point, NY 10996
674 Thayer Rd.
West Point, NY 10996