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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The city of Boston has a rich sports history, and its venues are some of the most revered in the nation-Fenway Park, Boston Garden, Harvard Stadium. But there is an arena that pre-dates them all that is still in use today-Matthews Arena on the Northeastern campus.
Originally named Boston Arena, this facility was the original home of both the Boston Bruins in 1924 and the New England Whalers in 1972, as well as the occasional home of the Boston Celtics in the 1940s and 1950s. Virtually every college hockey team in the area, including all four Beanpot schools, have called this arena home. In fact, Matthews Arena is the oldest indoor hockey rink in the world still in use today.
Muhammad Ali trained here, and many of boxing’s biggest names, including Gene Tunney, Joe Louis, Marvin Hagler and Jack Dempsey fought here. The Frozen Four was held at Matthews Arena in 1960, as was the original Beanpot hockey tournament. More recently, the World Junior Hockey Championships were held here in 1995.
Matthews Arena has always been more than just a sporting venue. Every president from Theodore Roosevelt to John Kennedy visited the site, as have Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. Charles Lindberg and Amelia Earhart hosted events here. Concerts by artists as diverse as The Doors, Jerry Lee Lewis, Marvin Gaye, Ludacris, Bob Dylan, The Roots, Chuck Berry and Phish were held at Matthews Arena.
Today, Matthews Arena serves as home to both the men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as the men’s basketball team and the Wentworth Institute of Technology hockey team. Various area high-school teams also call Matthews Arena home.
The Huskies play in the Colonial Athletic Association, and have appeared in the NCAA tournament eight times. Five players from Northeastern have played in the NBA.
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 are a pair of concession stands in the lobby that serve a limited menu. Hungry Husky fans can choose from hot dogs, veggie burgers, chicken fingers, and grilled chicken sandwiches. Sides such as French fries, nachos, pretzels and popcorn are also available. Coca Cola products are featured at Matthews Arena, with bottles sold for $2.75.
While the menu at Matthews Arena won't wow anyone, the prices are quite affordable, and the quality of food served is decent.
When you have a crowd of about 1,500 in a venue that can seat almost four times that amount, naturally the atmosphere is going to fall flat. Despite the presence of an active pep band, cheerleading squad, and dance team, a typical game at Matthews Arena does not boast an impressive game day atmosphere. Likewise, the presence of the student body can be a hit or miss proposition. When the student body does turn out en masse, they certainly add a lot of energy to the old barn.
If you are lucky enough to attend a game where Matthews Arena fills up, you will have quite a different experience. The balcony seats practically hang over the court, and the noise generated by the crowd can be deafening. The give and take between the students on the sideline and those up in the balcony can be most entertaining.
Northeastern University is located near Boston's Back Bay neighborhood, one of the city's most popular tourist destinations. The Fens neighborhood and South End are also within a short walking distance of the university. Many of Boston's major attractions are located just a short distance from Matthews Arena.
Fans looking for a place to eat before or after the game will have no trouble finding a place within a short walk of Matthews Arena. Uno Pizzeria is a popular gathering spot, and several other chains have set up shop along this drag, including Panera Bread, Wings Over Boston and Five Guys Burgers. Boston House of Pizza is a favorite of the student body. Visiting fans looking for something a little different can choose from Pho and I, Symphony Sushi, Boston Shawarma and Temptations Café.
Fans visiting from out of town will want to check out the Prudential Center and Copley Place, located just a few blocks from Matthews Arena. Symphony Hall is just around the corner from the venue, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts is a short walk away. While walking around Boston during the cold winter months may not be recommended, most of Boston's attractions are easily accessed by a short subway ride.
Northeastern averages about 1,500 fans per game at Matthews Arena, and the crowd is almost entirely dependent on the opponent visiting on any particular day. Northeastern has strong rivalries with other local schools, and these games will be better attended than your typical game. With Matthews Arena seating 6,000 for basketball, you will not have any trouble finding a seat, even at the last minute.
The student section deserves a mention here. Basketball takes a back seat to hockey here at Northeastern, as is the case in many New England schools, but there is a dedicated turnout by a portion of the student body. Dressed in red Northeastern t-shirts, the students line the sideline (known here as the N-Zone), and attempt to make life difficult for opposing players. This student-only seating area guarantees a home court advantage not enjoyed by many mid-major schools.
Even on the best of days, Boston can be a difficult city to navigate, especially by car. Matthews Arena is located on the eastern edge of Northeastern's urban campus, less than a block from the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Huntington Avenue. Despite the fact that Matthews Arena is easy to find, that doesn't make it easy to get to. The ever-present Boston traffic, coupled with construction projects in the area and streets that date back to colonial days laid out in seemingly random directions, make Boston a tough city to drive in. If you must drive, it is best to bring a local along who is familiar with the city landscape. Directions to Matthews Arena can be found here.
Many local fans will choose to take public transportation to Matthews Arena. The MBTA, known locally as the "T," drops fans off just a couple of blocks from the arena. The E-train of the Green line drops fans off at Symphony Hall, and the Orange Line has a stop on Massachusetts Avenue. At just $2.65 for a fare, the T is an affordable alternative for visiting Husky fans.
Fans visiting Matthews Arena will pass under an ornate entry arch into the main lobby. The ticket office, concession stands, and restrooms are all located here. The playing surface will be located to your right, accessible by a pair of walkways. Seats at Matthews Arena are separated into loge and balcony sections. All seats have excellent views of the action, although some lower level seats will have an obstructed view of the scoreboard and banners due to the overhang of the balcony.
Fans will have no problem navigating Matthews Arena during a typical game. If visiting during a game with a large crowd, expect lines and delays when accessing concessions or rest rooms.
Tickets for Northeastern basketball games cost a reasonable ten dollars for all games. Parking can be had for no charge (yes, you read that right, free parking in Boston) at the Camden lot located a short walk from the arena. As you can imagine, this lot fills quickly, but there are other lots located near Matthews Arena which charge up to $15 for games. There is limited on-street parking in the vicinity of the arena, but finding one of these spots is about as likely as spotting a unicorn.
Many fans will opt to skip the congestion and cost of driving in Boston, and simply take the T to Matthews Arena. Both the Orange and Green Lines pass within a few blocks of Matthews Arena, and a one-way fare is just $2.65. The number One bus also has a stop at the arena.
With affordable options available for tickets, parking, and food, a trip to Matthews Arena is a most affordable option for Boston sports fans.
They just don't build arenas like this anymore, and that alone is worth an extra point. The exposed brick, the steel tresses, the entry arch that has greeted Boston sports fans for over a century, and the ornate lobby all harken to an earlier time.
The history of Matthews Arena is worth another point. It bears repeating that this is the oldest indoor rink still in used anywhere in the world. The Boston Bruins started here. The Carolina Hurricanes played their first games here (as the New England Whalers of the WHA). The Boston Celtics played here frequently. Presidents, dignitaries, as well as athletes and musicians have visited this site. There is a history here that just can't be duplicated elsewhere.
Some of this history is on display at Matthews Arena. In addition to banners honoring the success achieved by Northeastern's basketball and hockey teams, there are banners reminding fans of where the Celtics and Bruins got their starts. There is also a banner honoring Reggie Lewis, the local basketball star who studied at Northeastern and went on to become an All-Star and captain with the Celtics before passing away of a heart condition while still playing for the team. His funeral was held at Matthews Arena.
Despite the fact that Northeastern frequently fields a competitive basketball team, they are often overshadowed by the school's hockey team. The Huskies struggle to carve out an identity in the crowded Boston sports landscape. If you do venture over to Matthews Arena, take in the history and excellent architecture of the place. They don't build places like this anymore. While it doesn't necessarily match up to barns like the Palestra in Philadelphia, it's still worth a visit by any serious college basketball fan.
Follow all Paul Baker's Stadium Journeys on Twitter @puckmanRI.
Member Review by jonah on Dec 01, 2012
Northeastern University is in a tough spot when it comes to sports in Boston. For starters, Boston has never really been a college sports town, with the four pro teams stealing most all of the headlines. And even within the college sports landscape here, Boston College tends to get most of the attention, be it for football, basketball or hockey (with BU often taking center stage when it comes to hockey). So, to play for the Huskies often means being somewhat anonymous. The school does boast a few pro standouts, including Carlos Pena of the Tampa Bay Rays and JJ Barea of the Timberwolves. But it is not a school known for athletic prowess. The basketball experience is adequate, but not one that will compel you to make special plans to catch it.
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