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Official Review by Steve Stoehr, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Brown University Bears have been playing men’s ice hockey since 1898, originally facing off against other regional institutions like Harvard on the frozen ponds near campus. In 1961, the Meehan Auditorium was constructed to be the hockey team’s home rink. Since it was built, the arena has seen the birth and rise of the women’s ice hockey team, been the staging point for a campaign speech by President Lyndon B. Johnson, and hosted the Frozen Four in 1965.
Last renovated in 2002, Meehan is now a modern and well-appointed facility with great sightlines and a decorative scheme replete with gravitas and history. With the Bears’ program in an extended rebuilding phase, it can’t be said that Meehan is among the best venues or sporting experiences in the country, but it succeeds in creating a fairly personal atmosphere at incredibly affordable prices. As one usher succinctly put it, “it’s a great place to watch hockey.”
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".
Meehan Auditorium won't be winning any awards for variety and originality in their concession offerings. The small snack stand sticks with the basics of hot dogs, pretzels, pizza, candy, and soft drinks for the most part. It's not as though the food is bad, of course, it's just very vanilla.
The most redeeming feature of the victuals at Meehan is that not a single menu item prices over $3. One could easily get in a filling meal for under $10 while taking in a game, which is something that can't be said of many venues in America these days.
Immediately upon entering Meehan Auditorium and strolling around the building to find your seats, it's impossible not to be struck by the deep history of both the university and its hockey program. The Brown program was very important to the development of American collegiate hockey, and an impressive collection of trophies, awards, plaques, memorials, photographs, and even an exhaustive timeline history decorate the walls on the concourse around the rink. For some, at least, that sense of tradition has a huge positive affect on the game atmosphere.
Acoustics in the rink are fairly good. Any sound at all tends to echo loudly all over the arena, so it's impossible to feel detached from the on-ice action. At the same time, crowd noise seems to magnify, helping create an oppressive atmosphere for opponents. Of course, that works both ways; in the event that the away team brought good traveling support, they can sometimes drown out the home fans.
There's a thriving student section, and the band also comes to games to keep the place loud and exciting, with reasonable results. The scoreboard also features an old-school sort of pixelated crowd-encouragement screen that displays corny messages like "let's go bananas!" There's a lot to like about the atmosphere at Meehan, but it falls just short of being really good. It does, however, have potential.
Brown's athletic complex, where Meehan is located, can be found on Providence's East side, an area of beautiful neighborhoods, great restaurants, and vibrant nightlife. Many of the houses and buildings around the campus are old and gorgeous structures, which makes a walk around the place before or after a game a great idea and generally a lot of fun.
Just a short stroll from the facilities, you can find well-known hotspots for Providence's young adult population on Thayer Street and Angell Street. Spats Pub & Restaurant, has a wide beer selection and an excellent, creative menu featuring somewhat out-of-the-ordinary takes on ordinary bar food. Plenty of small restaurants and boutique cafes line Thayer, which is around the corner from Spats.
For the real heavy lifting in terms of restaurants and nightlife, Wickenden Street is also a walkable distance from Meehan, although a drive may be preferable. There, Japanese restaurant Sakura serves excellent sushi and Japanese cuisine while also featuring a bring-your-own liquor license, and Wickenden Pub is another watering hole with a broad beer selection and a small, cozy atmosphere.
Just a short way from Wickenden Street, on South Main, is Vanity, a new and bubbling nighttime destination with excellent food, great drinks, and a speakeasy supper-club atmosphere. Vanity comes highly recommended as both a dinner option and a great place for a late night out.
The Brown Bears men's hockey team draws an average of about 1,500 fans (Meehan Auditorium's capacity is just over 3,000), with a good student section and a smattering of families and older alumni. The fans get into the game at predictable times, such as when a good chance is created, a goal is scored, or a big hit is delivered. Most of the fans also seem like the kind and welcoming sort, and the students all appear to have a real good time.
That said, the fans aren't the most passionate you'll ever see at a college sporting event. While they raise the volume at critical moments, the general flow of the game isn't accompanied by all that much crowd noise, and many of the fans seem content to sit back and quietly enjoy the game rather than really get into it.
Meehan isn't that hard to find, really. It's about 5-10 minutes off the highway no matter which direction you're arriving from. Getting there isn't much of an issue at all. It's the parking that really makes getting to these games prohibitive.
The athletic complex has a parking garage that fits a couple hundred cars, and after that it's all about on-street parking. Even for sparsely attended games, fans might be forced to park blocks away from the arena, which makes for a very uncomfortable walk in the middle of cold, wet Rhode Island winters. Some of the streets in the area are one-way, so navigating the maze around the Brown campus and looking for open spots can be a truly daunting task. Couple that with the fact that other events - basketball, volleyball, etc. - tend to happen concurrently and eat up even more parking, and access to this facility can be a total nightmare. Arrive early to either grab one of the spots in the garage or find street parking.
Tickets for Brown hockey games are just $10 for adults, and $5 for kids. A season ticket package for the 2012-13 season was just $47.25. Furthermore, there isn't a bad seat anywhere in the arena. There are no poles or pillars obstructing anyone's view, and from any point in the stands, a fan can get a full view of the ice and the action. Bring that together with the amazingly cheap concessions and the thriving food and entertainment options in the area, and even a poor game at Meehan Auditorium is well worth your time and money.
There's not too much more to the arena that hasn't already been said. However, it is worth reiterating the gravity and history in the place. Meehan Auditorium itself is only a little over 50 years old, but Brown University is an Ivy League school and one of the oldest and most storied institutions in the country. Brown was a huge part of the development of college hockey in the United States, and that bleeds through in every aspect of the Brown hockey experience. Plus, it's not impossible to take in more than one sporting event when going to a game at Meehan, since the auditorium is directly next door to the Pizzitola Center, Murray Stadium, and most of the facilities for just about every other sport played at Brown. Doubling up on hockey and basketball wouldn't be unheard of in one day.
If you're looking for the sort of college hockey event you might get at BU or BC, keep looking. Brown and Meehan Auditorium aren't going to offer you that premier-level experience. However, it is a great place to watch a hockey game, and with the low prices on tickets and concessions, Meehan can affordably offer you a whole season's worth of nights out and things to do. In short, you could do a whole lot worse than getting to Meehan for a game.
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182 Angell St
Providence, RI 02906
231 Wickenden St
Providence, RI 02903
320 Wickenden St
Providence, RI 02906
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