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Official Review by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
There are many great college hockey facilities in the United States, some much better than others. The Compton Family Ice Area on the campus of the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana might be in a league all by itself. It is a facility that is hard to describe unless you have been to a game, but once inside it is clear that this is truly a work of art in terms of experience. The facility is much more than a place to watch the Irish play hockey, but a community facility.
The state-of-the-art arena houses two ice rinks and was designed to support the Notre Dame hockey programs and those in the local community. The facility was made possible by a generous lead gift from Kevin and Gayla Compton at a total cost of $50 million. The 5,022-seat venue is separated into two sections featuring chair back seating, bleacher seating, and standing room only sections. Construction began on March 15, 2010, and on October 21, 2011, Notre Dame hockey opened a new page in its history with a 5-2 victory over Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
The facility is open 24 hours a day and that means that at any given time there can be something happening inside the arena. Events range from intramural hockey and broomball, women’s club hockey, figure skating, public skating, as well as high school and youth hockey. There is a multi-purpose room that is also used for weekly Mass.
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".
There is almost everything imaginable at the Compton Family Ice Arena. There are four stands on the main concourse that offer different varieties of menu items. O'Brien's is an exclusive club that has the capacity for 250 people. There are also portable stands that feature local South Bend vendors offering everything from chocolates to fish and chips.
The four main concession booths offer bratwursts, hot dogs, nachos, pretzels, popcorn, and Coca-Cola products. However, each of them have something a little different including pizza slices, cheesesteak sandwiches, fish and chips, chicken sandwiches, and chicken tender baskets. The prices range from $4.50 for a hot dog to $9.50 for an Irish burger. A few reasonable options include the popcorn and soda combo for $5, and the chicken tender basket for $8.
Portable stands are spread out throughout the concourse, and are also varied and feature fare from local proprietors. The South Bend Chocolate Company offers chocolate by the pound, Ben's Soft Pretzels usually has a long line for the giant, sweet pretzels selling for $6, and Hawaiian Shaved Ice is a delight for children for $5. The kids can choose from a myriad of colors and flavors to top their ice.
College hockey is a very interesting sport and when you have a program that is revered like Notre Dame, it's going to produce high energy capacity crowds each and every night. After all, this is one of the best places in the country to view college hockey, and boy do the fans enjoy it. The atmosphere begins well before opening faceoff and ends at the final buzzer of the third period. There is everything here from a rowdy student section, pep band, and fans of all ages standing or sitting throughout the venue.
Once you walk inside the arena there are stairs that take you up to the main concourse, which provides everyone the opportunity to check out the souvenir shop. For season ticket holders who have upgraded their tickets, then access to O'Brien's exclusive club is here as well. If you happen to have a question, someone from the staff will gladly help you with any concerns you have at the game.
The seating area ranges from up close to very up close and personal to the ice rink. The top tier seats hover over the ice somewhat, creating a floating feeling for the game. You are also shoulder to shoulder with fellow Irish supporters who will keep you up with the action in play.
You are also within walking distance of the Eddy Street Commons which offers shopping, dining, and residential apartments. There are nine restaurants to choose from including Blaze Pizza, Bar Bici, The Mark, and Yats, specializing in inexpensive Cajun and Creole fare.
However, South Bend offers more opportunities to many bonafide places including South Bend Brew Werks, and Barnaby's. South Bend Brew Werks is open seven days a week, offering small batch beers, locally sourced food, and a refreshing emphasis on the local community. Fifty cents of every pint sold at the pub is donated to a local charity. The table tops, chairs, and stools have been repurposed from area bowling alleys and high schools.
Barnaby's a is funky joint that serves great food at a great price. Pizzas, breaded tenderloins, Italian beef sandwiches, and meatball sandwiches are among the many delicious options.
Lodging options in town include the Fairfield Inn & Suites, Morris Inn, Ivy Court Inn & Suites, DoubleTree, and Residence Inn.
College hockey fans are very similar to college football fans in South Bend. Then again the Irish faithful are strong, dominant, and spread out throughout the nation. Here the fans are glued to the action, cheer for goals and breakaways, and jeer when the opposing club scores. They are well educated about the game and when the band is playing at their loudest, it is hard not to sing along and cheer.
From parking your car, waiting in line at the concession stand, and arriving to your seat, getting around the Compton Family Ice Arena is very simple and easy to navigate. Cars are directed to their spots by staff members and it is needed, since games sell out and the lots fill to the brim with cars. There are eight public restrooms with parity for both men and women, while the main lobby is spacious and open.
Depending on the type of game, tickets can start off at $11 and go up to $49. Parking is also free in the parking lots surrounding the facility and cars are guided by staff to avoid any hassle or confusion. The concession stand prices tend to be on the high side, but it's not too uncommon when you compare it to other minor league or professional facilities. There are a lot of options ranging from low to high in regards to almost everything at the Compton Family Ice Arena. The choice is simply yours based on what you find affordable or expensive. Some facilities do not give this choice, but here they do.
The staff is incredibly friendly and will assist you with any questions or concerns that you have during the game. It can range anywhere from where you sit to more information about the arena itself.
The arena is much more than just a college hockey venue. It serves the South Bend area quite well and the needs for Notre Dame students and beyond. It is a facility that is open around the clock and is definitely a source of entertainment.
The staff does a great job assisting vehicles to their spot in the parking lot. The area can get very crowded, and the staff makes it quite easy to get in and get out.
The arena itself is a true spectacle, because it looks like an older facility on the outside, but once you're inside you see it is truly a modern and state-of-the-art venue that offers everything a fan needs in terms of food, comfort, and entertainment.
The Compton Family Ice Arena is one of the better facilities in college hockey, and well worth a visit for any fan of the Irish, the sport, or for those who are following their favorite team on the road.
Member Review by paul
When you think of Notre Dame, you probably think of football. As well you should. Notre Dame is one of those historic programs with an absolutely historic home in Notre Dame Stadium. You should go see a Notre Dame football game if you ever have a chance.
However, Notre Dame hockey is not without its tradition. The founder of the program, as well as the first head coach, was Charles "Lefty" Smith. Smith guided the program into NCAA Division I play in 1968. Smith sadly passed away in early January 2012, but not before the University decided to honor him by naming the ice at Compton Family Ice Arena, Lefty Smith Rink. Prior to Smith, Notre Dame also maintained a hockey squad that played from 1919-1927, as well as one season in 1912-1913.
The program has never won an NCAA championship in hockey, but appearances in the Frozen Four in 2008 and 2010 have raised expectations in South Bend.
The new ice and the new $50 million facility are both immaculate, and you can certainly add a trip to Compton Family Ice Arena to your must see list if you are a fan of college hockey. In fact, it may very well be possible to see a football game at Notre Dame Stadium as well as a hockey game in the same day. Check the schedules carefully in October and November.
Member Review by Pioneerzack on Apr 18, 2012
Went wearing Bowling Green jerseys (bg playing in up Michigan, 10 hour drive for me, decided good excuse to check out arena). Great arena, great food, great fans. People surprised to see the brown and orange jerseys there and they loved it. Took an hour to walk around the lower bowl due to everyone wanting to chat with us. Great time and encourage you to check this place out!
Member Review by Tom Schreier on Oct 23, 2012
When the University of Notre Dame consulted head coach Jeff Jackson about their new hockey arena prior to it being built in 2011, he told them he wanted nothing fancy.
Make no mistake: Compton Family Ice Arena is downright gorgeous, but in an understated way. There is no giant lighthouse like in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, no gargantuan octopus like in Detroit’s Joe Louis Arena or oversized oil rig like in Edmonton’s Rexall Place. Instead, it is the little things that set the arena apart.
There are numbers on the railings for standing room only patrons, little faux banners that indicate the section numbers and four different Notre Dame symbols on each corner of the arena.
That is not to say that Notre Dame didn’t splurge a little when building the $50 million facility. The jumbotron in the center of the arena would make Jerry Jones jealous, a wealthy woman purchased the staircase that leads to the club level in a Led Zeppelin ballad and the club section of the arena is designed like a pub that belongs in the streets of Dublin.
Even with all the opulent detail and design, the place feels unique to the university.
Above the press box reads the team’s mission: Onward to Victory.
Above the south goal is a Golden Domer’s unofficial holy trinity: God, Country, Notre Dame.
On the way upstairs are banners that list the university’s values: Faith, Education, Community, Tradition, Excellence.
The most pertinent phrase cannot be found written anywhere in the building, however. Rather it is omnipresent as you circumnavigate the rink: This is Notre Dame.
Member Review by LJr22 on Feb 26, 2014
If you want to see a beautiful arena then you are fine but if you want to actually take a game in then DO NOT go to Notre Dame's Compton Family Ice Arena. The seats are so small we could not sit in them. And when we asked the Ushers and other workers why the seats are so small they said they had no clue and lots of folks have complained about them.
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