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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Houston Field House, located on the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's campus in Troy, New York, is the third oldest college hockey rink in the country, behind Northeastern's Matthews Arena and Princeton's Hobey Baker Memorial Rink.
The building originally was used as a warehouse for the United States Navy in Davisville, Rhode Island. RPI worked in conjunction with the government to have it moved and then reassembled in Troy, and then repurposed as an athletic center. The building was named in honor of then-RPI President Dr. Livingston W. Houston, who spearheaded the acquisition of the facility and played hockey for the school during his undergrad days.
RPI’s hockey team began play in 1901, playing at various outdoor locations in and around Troy. From 1912 to 1938 the team played on an outdoor rink at the current location of Anderson Field. Part of the impetus for building the Field House was to give the hockey team, which had been on hiatus, a permanent, indoor home.
Countless non-hockey events have been held in the Field House, including commencement ceremonies, boxing matches, theatrical events and concerts. Virtually every indoor team representing RPI has called the building home at one time or another. The Capital District Islanders of the American Hockey League called the Field House home from 1990 to 1993. Today, RPI’s men’s and women’s hockey teams play here, as well as several local skating clubs and hockey teams.
The Engineers have had much success over their history, qualifying for the NCAA tournament nine times, reaching the Frozen Four five times, and winning a pair of championships, in 1954 and 1985. Twenty-five RPI alumni have played in the NHL, including Hall of Famer Adam Oates.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are a pair of concession stands at Houston Field House, but they are not necessarily both open during games. The stands offer your basic stadium fare at reasonable prices.
Pizza slices, hot dogs and nachos anchor the menu, with assorted snacks, including pretzels, peanuts, French fries and popcorn available. Pepsi products, hot chocolate, tea and coffee can also be purchased here. There is no alcohol sold at this on-campus facility.
With only one stand open for most games, lines form during intermission, so plan your trip to the concession stand carefully.
The atmosphere at Houston Field House is driven by the student section, which turns out in large numbers night after night to cheer on the Engineers. As the only division one team at the school, hockey games are the marquee sporting events at RPI and must-see events on winter weekends. Many great traditions are part of the game night experience at RPI, including the legendary "Hockey Line." After RPI goals, one student takes a lap around the rink carrying a flag and high-fiving anyone who is nearby. The student section come armed with a vast repertoire of chants, and really appear to be having fun during games.
Banners hang from the rafters of the Field House honoring the team's NCAA Tournament appearances and their pair of NCAA championships. Great players and coaches have banners hanging on the far end of the arena, including Hockey Hall of Famer Adam Oates.
Houston Field House is located at the northeast corner of the RPI campus alongside the school's other athletic facilities. Built on a hillside, the campus overlooks the city of Troy. The area surrounding the campus is mostly a residential area. While downtown Troy is only a mile's drive away, it's not recommended to walk there. Not only would you need a Sherpa to make the trek back up to campus, the downtown area is not known to be the most welcoming neighborhood. Still, the area is developing, with some good restaurants and clubs to attract out of town visitors.
If you are looking for something to eat before or after an Engineers game, head down to the Hudson River, where several fine eateries line the waterfront. For some of the finest BBQ to be found anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line, head to Dinosaur BBQ, a chain with locations all over New York state.
While there are some great choices for food and lodging in Troy, many visiting fans will head across the Hudson River to Albany, where there are more choices.
RPI averages around 3,200 fans per game at Houston Field House, just under two thirds capacity. Certain games, especially against traditional rivals Union and Clarkson, as well as the Freakout, always attract capacity crowds.
The student body turns out in strong numbers and adds a lot of energy to the atmosphere. The remainder of the crowd consists largely of locals with a sprinkling of alumni.
Houston Field House is located at RPI's Troy campus which overlooks the city and Hudson River. Most visiting fans will drive to Troy, which is easily accessible via I-787. Exit 9E (Troy & Bennington) places drivers on Route 7, which passes a few blocks from campus. A right on Burdett Ave. leads to the Houston Field House entrance.
A single road leads up Burdett Ave. to the Field House and the parking lots are located adjacent and behind the arena. Be warned that if there is a big crowd, it will take some time to make your way up People's Ave and find parking. You may find yourself parking quite some distance away from the Field House if you arrive late.
Fans will enter Houston Field House onto a stage at ice level. Seating is located on either side of the rink, with a walkway in front of the seating bowl at ice level. If sitting in the first few rows, expect a constant stream of traffic to obstruct your view.
Seating consists of individual folding stadium seats. All seats offer good views of the ice, even at the back of the seating bowl. Restrooms are adequate for a typical Engineer crowd, although lines do form during intermission.
Tickets for RPI hockey are reasonably priced at $12 for adults and $9 for children. Selected games are labelled as premium games, priced at $15 for adults and $11 for children and seniors. Students are admitted for five dollars.
Parking is free in the lots around the Houston Field House. With inexpensive concessions, RPI hockey is an affordable option for Capital District sports fans.
The "hockey line" is a tradition unique to RPI. Groups of people, usually from the school's fraternities or sororities, wait outside the Student Union building for hockey tickets to go on sale. Those in line can have others hold their place while they go to class or eat. Students set up beds, couches, televisions and video games to pass the time while they wait. In 1985 the Psi Upsilon fraternity waited in line for 178 days. With the recent demise of the program and the removal of obstructed view seats, the hockey line generally lasts only a week at most today.
The Big Red Freakout! Happens during the first weekend of every February. In what is annually the biggest game on the schedule, students fill the Field House dressed in red and white, and are given some sort of giveaway. The Freakout actually led to an NCAA rule which prohibits fans from bringing artificial noisemakers into NCAA events after the noise from thousands of plastic horns disrupted a game against Brown in 1987. This rule is affectionately known as the "RPI rule."
The hockey team has its own mascot, a giant hockey puck named Puckman, who roams the Field House wearing an engineer's helmet.
The oldest Engineering school in the country may not be the place where you would expect to find one of the best hockey programs in the country, but that's exactly what you will find here at RPI. Although the team has fallen on some hard times in recent years, the Engineers still have a dedicated following here in the Capital District. The Houston Field House is worth a visit by any college hockey fan.
Follow Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
Member Review by vdp18 on Jan 07, 2013
Historic Houston Field House is the home of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's men's and women's hockey teams. The men's team started playing here in 1950, a year after it opened, and four years later they won their first national championship. The field house was previously a warehouse for the U.S. Navy in Davisville, Rhode Island, and after World War II was moved to Troy. Once there, the university spent half a million dollars making it suitable for athletics. The arena has undergone a number of improvements and renovations since.
The Engingeers won their second national championship in 1985, led by hockey hall of famer Adam Oates, and have won the ECAC conference tournament three times. While the program isn't as dominant as it once was, fans still show strong support for the cherry and white. With a capacity of 4,800, it is the second largest arena in the Capital District, and a good place to catch a hockey game.
99 Congress St
Troy, NY 12180
377 River St
Troy, NY 12180
417 River St.
Troy, NY 12180
250 Jordan Rd.
Troy, NY 12180
235 Hoosick St
Troy, NY 12180