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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Reverend Francis J. Hart Center is a multi-purpose facility located on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts (that’s pronounced “Woostah” by locals). Reverend Hart was the guiding force behind intramural athletics at the College for more than 40 years, and his legacy is honored in this athletic center.
In addition to the hockey arena, the Hart Center contains a 3,600-capacity basketball arena, a six-lane swimming pool with separate diving area, rowing tanks, as well as racquetball and squash courts. Behind the Hart Center is a full size track, practice fields, soccer field and a lighted turf field which services numerous sports and intramural programs.
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 one concession open during hockey events, with a second stand available to open should the size of the crowd warrant it. The menu covers the basics, offering hungry hockey fans hot dogs ($2.50), personal pizzas ($3), and nachos ($2.50).
Coke products are featured ($1.50/$2) along with bottled water ($2) and Powerade ($2). For fans looking to stay warm on those cold Worcester nights, coffee ($1/$1.50) and hot chocolate ($1.50) are available. Fans looking for snacks will be pleased to find pretzels ($2), popcorn ($2), candy ($1.25) and fried dough ($3). The quality of the food is decent, and the prices are outstanding for this level of collegiate sports.
The atmosphere at the Hart Recreation Center is varied throughout and within the game. Although the student body shows up in good numbers and is vocal, they are disorganized and frankly, can be vulgar at times. Students sit in small groups throughout the stands and do their own thing, resulting in a bunch of random noise rather than the choreographed chanting and good-natured derision seen with many student bodies. Credit is given, however, to the "safety school" chant directed at the opponents several times during the evening as well as "you can't do that" when an opposing player commits an infraction.
There is a definite Jekyll and Hyde quality to the atmosphere at the Hart Center throughout a Crusader hockey game. During the early periods of the game, the crowd is quiet, as is the PA system. As the Crusaders begin to pull away from their opponents, you can feel the energy build, the crowd becomes excited, and it even seems like the PA system becomes louder.
Since Holy Cross is located in a residential area, there are not many dining or lodging options in the immediate vicinity of the college. However, there are many excellent dining choices a short 5-minute drive from campus. Downtown Worcester boasts several fine dining establishments in the vicinity of the DCU Center. Worcester's acclaimed "Restaurant Row," located on Shrewsbury Street, is home to over forty different eateries, shops, and salons. It is a favorite destination for locals looking to enjoy a night on the town. Fans looking to stay in Worcester will find limited options for lodging in the immediate area around Holy Cross. Luckily, downtown Worcester contains many affordable hotels to choose from.
Worcester has a reputation as a tough, blue-collar city, but city leaders are working hard to change that image, and businesses are coming back to the downtown area. Often overshadowed by its neighbors in Boston and Providence, Worcester is carving out its own niche as an affordable, attractive alternative to those cities.
Worcester is not generally considered to be a destination city, and fans travelling from out of town will usually head on to Boston to spend their time. For fans visiting during ski season, Wachusett Mountain is located just ten miles outside of city limits.
Although hockey is not the top dog here at Holy Cross, fans turn out in good numbers for Crusader hockey. The student body, although they tend to arrive late and leave early, is a loud presence throughout the game. Despite their enthusiasm, this student body is disorganized, sitting in small clusters throughout the stands rather than in one unified section. As a result, their effect is just a scattering of disorganized noise. The remainder of the crowd is a combination of alumni and locals who bring attendance for big games in the neighborhood of 1,000.
Worcester is the second largest city in all of New England, behind only Boston. Worcester is centrally located within New England, less than an hour's drive from Boston and 45 minutes to Providence. Four major airports are located about an hour from Worcester, Boston's Logan Airport, Providence's Green Airport, Hartford's Bradley Airport, and Manchester's Manchester-Boston Airport. Worcester is served by Amtrak train service, Greyhound Bus Lines, and Peter Pan Bus Lines. Both train and bus terminals are located in downtown Worcester, a five minute drive from the Holy Cross Campus.
The Hart Center is located on the southern edge of campus, easily accessible by Interstate 290 from the north and Route 146 from the south. There is a large parking lot adjacent to the arena directly across the street. The College of the Holy Cross is located on a large hill on the southern edge of Worcester, giving it spectacular views of the city below.
The Hart Center houses both the Holy Cross basketball court and hockey arena, along with several other athletic facilities. The basketball and hockey arenas share a center concourse, where the concession stands, bathrooms, and ticket offices are located. Lines are minimal for hockey games, and the facilities are adequate for the size of crowd attending Crusader hockey games.
Fans requiring special access will have no problem getting around at the Hart Center. The rink has a unique set up, with all the stands located on the opposite side of the rink from the entrance. All seating consists of metal bleachers, and fans must navigate their way around the rink to get to their seats. Fans requiring handicapped seating can choose any spot along this walkway, or can sit at a raised platform located at the front of the grandstand in either corner.
Tickets for Holy Cross hockey are reasonably priced at $10. Seniors and children can get in for $6, and students are admitted for free. Parking in the large lot in front of the Hart Center is free, and the concessions are reasonably priced as well. Taking in a game at the Hart Center is an affordable alternative to professional hockey in the area.
There is a definite sense of history at the Hart Center. A life-size statue of Crusader and NBA great Bob Cousy greets fans at the entrance to the Center, and there are several trophy cases scattered throughout the central concourse. Take a look at these cases, and find artifacts from Holy Cross' athletic glory days of the '40's and '50's. Also located in the central concourse is the Varsity Club Hall of Fame honoring standout athletes and boosters from Holy Cross' storied history.
The Hart Center will not offer you any modern amenities found in newer arenas, but it is a solid location to take in a quality hockey game. The steep pitch of the stands and low glass guarantees a great view of the action. While many aspects of the rink scream 1970's, such as the carpeting in the concourse and the outdated PA system and scoreboards, fans don't seem to mind these shortcomings, turning out to cheer on their Crusaders.
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