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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Frank L. Messa Rink is named for the class of 1973 alumnus who donated the funds to renovate the facility in 2003. Home to Union’s men’s and women’s hockey teams, Messa rink opened in 1975 as the Achilles Center in honor of Rev. H. Laurence Achilles Sr., who was its original benefactor.
Hockey has been played at Union College since 1919. Since joining Division One in 1991, the Dutchmen have qualified for the NCAA tournament four times, reaching the Frozen Four twice and winning the National Championship in 2014. Six Union alumni have reached the NHL.
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 are small concession stands on either side of Messa Rink tucked in underneath the upper level stands. Hot dogs, nachos, pizza slices and Mac 'N Cheese anchor the menu. Snacks, including pretzels, candy, popcorn and ice cream novelties are available. While the menu does not stray far from the basics, no item costs more than four dollars.
Coca Cola products are featured here. No alcohol is sold at this on-campus facility.
Messa Rink's cozy confines and capacity crowds creates a fantastic atmosphere. Fans are right on top of the action, and can create quite a lot of noise when Union gets rolling.
With Messa Rink filled to the rafters with garnet-clad fans almost every night, Union enjoys a significant home ice advantage. Union's pep band and student section help to fill in any lulls in the action. As Union College's marquee sport, students come out in massive numbers night in and night out. If attending a game against local rival RPI, be ready for a most intense experience.
The city of Schenectady, one of three cities that make up New York's Capital District, is not known as a destination location, and does not enjoy a sparkling reputation. However, Union College is located in a working class, safe neighborhood, and visiting fans should have no worries while visiting Union.
There are several bars and restaurants a short drive from campus on Broadway and State Street. Likewise, State Street contains several lodging options should you be staying in Schenectady after the game.
Union averages about 2,000 fans per game, which is just under 90 percent of capacity. With Messa Rink's small capacity, tickets for games against traditional rivals go quickly, so check ahead for availability.
There's an impressive turnout by the student body for Union hockey. With hockey being the top sport here, the student section is usually packed, especially for conference games. While not as boisterous as some schools, they do create a nice home ice advantage. The majority of fans come decked out in Union garnet and white.
Union College is located a short distance from downtown Schenectady, New York. Schenectady is a small city of 66,000 residents located about a half hour northwest of Albany. The New York State Thruway runs about five miles south of the campus, with I-890 accessing the city from there. Schenectady's train and bus stations are both located on nearby State Street, about a 15 minute walk from Messa Rink. Directions to Union campus can be found here.
Messa Rink is located on the eastern edge of the Union campus, alongside the school's other athletic facilities. Parking is available in a small lot adjacent to the rink, or along Lenox Road. Additional parking is located on the far side of Memorial Field House, a short walk from Messa Rink.
Fans enter into a small lobby, which contains the box office and small trophy case, a most modest spot for an NCAA championship trophy. From here, fans enter the arena at ice level, with the seating area above. Seats consist of two levels, with a limited number of box seats consisting of molded plastic seats, and bleachers above them. Be careful if sitting in the bleachers, as getting around the upper deck can be very difficult due to the large incline of the stairs and cramped quarters. Fans with an unsteady gait should avoid the upper reaches of Messa Rink. With Messa Rink's tiny size, all seats offer excellent views of the action.
Standing room is available on either end of the rink, and these areas are some of the most sought after spots in the building.
Tickets to Union hockey games cost $24 for reserved seats and $12 for bleacher seating. Parking is free in the lots near Messa Rink. With inexpensive concessions, a night at a Union College hockey game is a most affordable entertainment option for Capital District sports fans.
Messa Rink hosted both the longest and second longest games in NCAA history. On March 12, 2010 Quinnipiac beat Union at 10:22 of the fifth overtime. On March 4, 2006 Yale defeated Union at 1:35 of the fifth overtime.
Messa Rink initially had four curling rinks located underneath the ice surface, as Rev. Achilles was a huge fan of the sport. Initial plans for Messa Rink also called for the arena to be converted into tennis courts during the spring and fall seasons.
Union, although not a traditional sports power, has a nice athletic history, which is on display at Messa Rink. Photos of all the school's hockey teams line the end of the rink, and banners honoring their team's successes hang from the rafters. Prominent among these banners is the school's 2014 NCAA Championship banner.
There are definite advantages and disadvantages of having a small home like Messa Rink. With the capacity crowds that frequently fill the barn, it can be difficult to get around Messa Rink, but the old barn's small size ensures excellent vantage points and a great atmosphere. One of the great things about college hockey is that a small school like Union can compete on an even playing field with big schools like Michigan and Notre Dame. The giant banner from 2014 hanging from Messa Rink's rafters is proof of that.
Follow Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
Member Review by vdp18 on Dec 29, 2013
The Union College Dutchmen ice hockey team has stormed on to the national scene over the past few seasons. They have been in the NCAA tournament in three consecutive seasons (2011-2013). They also won the ECAC tournament championship in 2012 and 2013, while winning the regular season title in 2011 and 2012. Perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the program was reaching the Frozen Four in 2012.
The Dutchmen call Frank L. Messa Rink at Achilles Center their home. The arena opened in 1975, and has a capacity of 2,225. The arena has seen its fair share of history, with the longest game in NCAA history being played here in 2010, as the Dutchmen took on Quinnipiac, falling 3-2 in five overtimes. Ironically, the 2nd longest game was also played here, with Union again losing 3-2 in five overtimes, this time in the ECAC playoffs to Yale. The arena has the feeling of a real old school barn, making for a great fan experience.
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