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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The John A. Ryan Arena, or JAR as it is known locally, is a public skating arena located in the Boston suburb of Watertown, Massachusetts. In addition to serving as the home of the Bentley University Falcons, the JAR is home for several local high school teams and local youth hockey teams.
The venue first opened in 1985, and has a capacity of 1,250.
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 small snack bar located near the entrance to the Ryan Arena. Only your basic items are available here, with the menu consisting of pizza slices ($2.50), nachos ($4), and hot dogs ($2.75). Fans looking for snacks will be happy to find pretzels ($3.50), cotton candy ($3), candy bars ($1.50), and fried dough ($4) available. Cans of Coca-Cola products ($1.50) are available for purchase, but most fans choose coffee or hot chocolate ($2) to help deal with the very cold temperatures inside the JAR. Many fans in attendance opt to bring in their own hot drinks from the local Dunkin' Donuts. As you might expect from a small snack bar, the food offerings are chosen for their value, not their quality.
The atmosphere inside the JAR is about what you would expect when you attend a game at a local rink. Standard arena rock plays over a tinny PA system during play stoppages, as not one, but two mascots roam around, and there is a decent turnout from the student body.
Unfortunately, for the most part, students do not sit in an organized section, gathering in small groups to watch the game. As a result, their cheers and taunts tend to be disorganized, and fall flat. For most of the game, the crowd is rather quiet, making for a lifeless experience. In fact, despite the fact that I was seated three sections away, I could clearly hear Bentley's radio play-by-play commentator describing the action on the ice.
The town of Watertown may be best known today as the site of the gunfight and apprehension of the Boston Marathon bombers that effectively shut down greater Boston for the better part of 24 hours in April 2013. When not in the news, Watertown is a working class suburb known for its quiet neighborhoods, diverse population, and good public schools.
The JAR is located in a commercial area in downtown Watertown. Within a short distance are several grocery stores, shops, and places to stop and grab a bite to eat. While Watertown is hardly considered a destination city, there is more than enough to keep local fans happy and occupied. Given Watertown's proximity to Boston, most fans from out of town should choose to explore the nearby city rather than remain in Watertown.
Crowds for Bentley hockey games average somewhere in the range of 400-600 per game. Shuttle busses are available to bring students to the JAR from the nearby campus, and there is usually a decent turnout from the student body. The student section at the JAR is known as the "Falcons' Nest", but unfortunately most students seat themselves in small groups throughout the seating area. As a result, there is no cohesive voice coming from the stands. What chants and taunts that students do try and muster up end up disorganized and flat. There does not seem to be a lot of representation from the greater Boston hockey community at Bentley games, as crowds lag greatly behind other area programs. For the most part, Falcon crowds appear to be of the "friends and family" variety.
While the Bentley University campus is located in Waltham, the Ryan Skating Arena is located in the neighboring town of Watertown, a short ten minute drive from the Bentley campus. The town of Watertown is located six miles outside of Boston on the northern bank of the Charles River. Being this close to Boston, Watertown has several public transportation options. While the Boston subway system, known locally as the "T", does not serve Watertown directly, Falcon fans looking to use public transportation to get to Ryan Arena will find several MBTA bus lines serving the area around the arena. In fact, Bus 558 has a stop at the corner of Paramount Place, just a short block away from the Ryan Arena. Other busses are available to transport people to and from downtown Boston. Fans driving to the arena (which is not recommended in the narrow, congested streets of most Boston suburbs) will take Interstate 90, also known as the Mass Pike. Exit 17 will deposit you about a mile from the arena.
A trip to the Ryan Arena will certainly not break the bank. Free parking is available in the small lot adjacent to the rink. Be sure that you actually park in the Ryan Arena lot, as several other lots near the rink belong to local businesses, and they advertise an aggressive towing policy. Tickets to Bentley games are affordably priced at $7 for adults and $3 for seniors and children. Concessions are reasonably priced, and fans have the option to bring in their own beverages if they choose.
There are no extra when you see a Bentley hockey game at Ryan Arena. This is about as bare bones as it gets.
Given the amount of top notch college and professional hockey available in the greater Boston area, Bentley has a hard time attracting a whole lot of attention for their program. Fans who travel to the Boston area with limited time and resources would be well advised to concentrate their efforts at the other wonderful arenas in the area. Those fans who enjoy traveling to many different arenas will find the Ryan Arena a serviceable, no-frills facility.
Member Review by FalconsNest8 on Apr 18, 2014
The JAR isn't so much as a rink as it is a place to play hockey. Calling it a rink would be too nice. It has sneaky good concessions, but other than that, it's a brutal place. Bentley needs to build a new facility in order to be taken seriously.
There is no atmosphere during games, and there's less than that when students are on break. Most of the students are disinterested, and only about 10-15 of them are ever really loud. It's not terribly accessible because it's back off every major road, and to say it's near restaurants is to say tha tmost are within 15 minutes. There's nothing in Watertown, and you have to go into Waltham for that.
The good news is that it's cheap and the hockey is great. But the rink even takes away from that.
Member Review by kwm4385 on Jan 15, 2016
The John A Ryan arena is seriously an insult to any division 1 team that has to play there. It is poorly insulated which causes terrible ice conditions, the showers and toilets rarely work, and has no atmosphere whatsoever. Save your money for a serious venue.
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