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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 (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 basketball arena reviewed here, the Hart Center contains a 1,600-capacity hockey rink, 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 a concession stand located on the concourse just outside of the basketball arena, with a second stand available should the crowd be large enough to warrant it. The menu here doesn't venture far from the basics, offering hungry hoops 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 small size of the Hart Center ensures that the fans are right on top of the action. The seating bowl is divided into three sections. The lower level consists of wooden bleachers without seat backs sold as reserved seating. On the far end of the court is the student section where the small pep band and cheerleaders sit. The middle sections of seats consist of individual purple bucket seats with a walkway behind them. The upper seating sections are wooden bleachers sold as general admission seating. There are standing room areas on either end of the upper deck.
Despite a solid representation from the student body, many students here choose to sit together in small groups throughout the arena rather than all together in the student section. As a result, their participation is negligible at best. The small pep band, which is curiously quiet as far as pep bands go, tries their best to taunt the opposition, but their small size negates any effect their behavior may have on the game. The Crusader cheerleading squad is also quiet by most college hoops standards.
The Hart Center is an enjoyable place to take in a game. There is not a bad seat in the house, and the small size of the arena ensures that when the crowd is into the game the place can get loud in a hurry. There are giveaways and contests throughout the game, and despite a few problems with the PA system, the staff here put on a good show.
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 five minute drive from campus. Downtown Worcester boasts several fine dining establishments in the vicinity of the DCU Centre. 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 the city limits.
Holy Cross fans call themselves "Sader Nation," a play on the team's Crusader nickname. Fans here are knowledgeable about their team, and are involved in the action. Although they don't fill up the student section, there is a strong turnout by the student body. The lack of a coordinated student section means that the taunting and cheering present in so many college arenas is lacking here, but when the Crusaders are rolling the Hart Center can get pretty loud.
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. The men's and women's restrooms are located on opposite ends of the concourse. These restrooms are somewhat small given the capacity of the basketball arena. Lines can form during halftime, so plan your visits there accordingly. For those fans sitting in the upper levels, there is a pair of small bathrooms available.
Tickets to Crusader basketball games cost $14 for the middle level seats, $10 for lower or upper level bleacher seating, and $6 for seniors and students. Parking is free in the lot adjacent to the Hart Center, but spots may be tough to come across when the arena is filled to capacity. Factor in inexpensive concessions, and a night at a Holy Cross basketball game is very affordable.
Extra points are awarded for the great sense of history at the Hart Center. From the moment you pass the life-size statue of Holy Cross alumnus and NBA star Bob Cousy guarding the entrance to the Hart Center, you are aware the Holy Cross campus was once the site of great things. Once inside, be sure to check out the numerous trophy cases that line the hallway between the basketball court and hockey rink. Holy Cross has an illustrious sporting history, which includes both an NCAA and NIT championship in basketball, and an Orange Bowl appearance by the football team. Those glory days may be long gone for the current crop of Crusaders, but mementos from the past can be found throughout the arena.
While inside the basketball arena, the sense of history continues. Lining both sides of the arena are banners commemorating the Crusaders' numerous NCAA and NIT appearances as well as retired numbers. At the far end of the court are photos of the 1947 NCAA championship team and 1954 NIT championship team. Every entrance to the basketball court at the Hart Center is adorned with photos of past Crusader glory days. Be sure to check out the Bob Cousy stained glass mural in the lobby as well.
The Holy Cross Crusaders have a long and storied basketball history. Although the Hart Center was not around during the Crusaders' heyday, there are reminders throughout the arena of the lofty heights once achieved by this program. While today's Crusaders are relegated to the land of the mid-major conference these days, the Hart Center remains a solid place to take in some quality basketball action.
Member Review by shamus170
The College of Holy Cross plays basketball at the Hart Center, home to Crusaders hoops since 1975. Holy Cross is a program with a decent history as the likes of Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn have played here and the school even won a National Championship in 1947. Now playing in the Patriot League, the Hart Center provides one of the best atmospheres in the conference.
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