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Official Review by Sean Rowland, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
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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The Hart Recreation Center not only features a basketball arena, but also a 1,200 seat hockey rink. Both facilities share a middle hallway that acts as the concourse and this is where the food is located. Two concession stands are set up here and they sell enough to get you through the game (hot dogs, pizza, pretzels, nachos, fried dough). In the corner of the hallway is "Uncle Jay's Homemade Chili & More" where the chili and chili dogs hit the spot when coming in from those cold Worcester nights.
With a capacity of 3600, the Hart Center is more like a glorified gym and the enclosed space can make it loud. The decent showing by the fans created a pretty good atmosphere for a game during my visit. Seating is interesting with essentially three "levels" on the sides and bleachers for the students on the ends. I wouldn't recommend sitting on that first level of bleacher seats as it can get tight and tricky to squeeze in, plus if you're sitting too low, people at the scorer's table get in the way of your view. For $4 more, the purple seats with backs in the middle are likely the best. Though it's not the most historically significant building, it is worth arriving a little early to take a look at the pictures and memorabilia around the arena for prior accomplishments. This is one of the better places to watch low-major college basketball.
Holy Cross is located on the south end of Worcester and sits atop a hill that provides beautiful views of the surrounding areas. Unfortunately, there is not much to do or eat. Downtown Worcester is about a 5-7 minute drive away and devoid of any touristy spots or terrific sports bars, though there are a few. The chain restaurant, Uno's Chicago Grill is right downtown, and very easy to get to. Closer to Holy Cross, after game options are limited or non-existent as the quaint campus is near a residential neighborhood.
Kudos to the fans here as they made this a great building to watch a college basketball game. November and December games can be poor draws unless you're in a basketball-crazed location. Holy Cross fans showed up with a decent crowd and the student section was packed. Both did a good job making some noise and trying to help out the Crusaders, but the opponents were too good on this night. "'Sader Nation" as the student section is called, had some clever chants and is likely one of the best sections in the Patriot League. A small pep band also kept the energy up.
The Hart Center is very easy to get to off of I-290. Just a few turns will bring you up the hill and to the parking lot, which was fine and free for the event. Sold-out nights may see parking get a little more congested. Beware as you leave, that a few of the campus roads are tight before you get back onto College Ave and then subsequently, I-290. If needed, there is a back way that will bring you to McKeon Road and then Rt. 146.
There are only two bathrooms in the building and both are small, so watch for lines at the usually crowded times.
Despite ticket prices being the highest in the Patriot League, they are still within reason at $10 and $14. The aforementioned parking was free and concessions were mainly inexpensive: $2.50 for a hot dog, $2.75 for pizza and $2 for a large coke.
A couple extra points for all the historical tributes scattered inside and outside the building. As fans enter the Hart Center, there is a life-size statue of Bob Cousy near the entrance. In the hallways, are display cases for prior Crusader accomplishments including some interesting items to study from the 40s and 50s.
Finally, along with the banners inside the arena, two team pictures are proudly on the end walls. One for the 1947 team that won the National Championship and the other for the 1954 team that won the NIT.
Follow all of Sean's journeys at Stadium & Arena Visits.
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25 Major Taylor Blvd
Worcester, MA 01608
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