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Official Review by Jeffrey Werner, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Conte Forum is home to both the Boston College basketball and hockey teams. The ice itself is known as Kelley Rink, and the arena seats just shy of 8,000.
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".
This is an NCAA venue and as such, it lacks the wider variety in concession options becoming more commonplace in professional arenas. That said, the food and beverage offered exceeds the typical popcorn/peanut/pretzel/pizza/hot dog selections one might expect from a facility of this size. In addition to the usual, more exotic fare such as meatball subs, pulled pork sandwiches, New England clam chowder, and chicken Caesar wraps can be found, along with a couple of healthier options such as fruit dippers and hummus cups.
All of the available options were reasonably priced. Additionally, although some colleges and universities allow beer sales at their sporting events, Boston College is not one of them.
Conte Forum is a fairly intimate venue that definitely feels smaller than the listed capacity of 7,884 for hockey. Boston College has done a good job of aspiring to minor-league standards here while retaining a distinctly collegiate feel. A nice combination of recorded music and a sizable pep band (whose members all wear BC hockey jerseys) keep fans entertained during stoppages in play and intermissions along with the kinds of games and contests one might expect from, say, an AHL facility. At least two-dozen banners celebrating both retired jersey numbers and previous Beanpot, conference and national championships hang from the rafters. Two new-ish video boards on either end offer a live view of the action while in progress along with score and penalty information as well as the usual replays and timeout entertainment.
When Conte Forum gets going, it gets loud in a hurry. Good loud. The kind of loud that makes it clear that you're in a place where the fans are excited to be and care deeply about their team. Casual fans seemed to be few and far between although it is safe to say that the non-undergrad crowd was more subdued than the student section.
While the venue is by no means shabby on a physical level, its aesthetics are generally unremarkable. In other words, you're not coming here for the building, but rather for the experience. Further, although the upper level seating was almost filled to capacity, I would estimate up to a third of the lower level remained empty for the duration of the game. This is somewhat surprising given the game I attended was on a Friday night against bitter crosstown rival Boston University.
Although relatively easily accessible, Boston College's main Chestnut Hill campus is somewhat isolated and self-contained. As such, there is no real "neighborhood" per se in the immediate vicinity of Conte Forum. Outside of campus dining, the nearest pre- and post-game options are a short car ride or mile-long walk away. A concentration of restaurants and bars can be found in nearby Cleveland Circle, including Roggies Brew and Grill, Cityside, Fin's Sushi and Grill, Eagle's Deli, Presto Pizza, and the infamous Mary Ann's, among a few others. A couple of food options are also available adjacent to the Boston College MBTA station, including the excellent El Pelon Taqueria.
Generally speaking, Eagles hockey fans know the game well, hang on every play, and are intensely loyal. In addition to the student body, BC enjoys an almost cult-like following among alums and their families in the Boston area. Cheering, booing, joy, and outrage all come out when they should. Fans at Conte Forum are loud and proud, to the point of being playfully obnoxious at times. This is best evidenced by various chants directed at the opposing team and fans, and especially by an elaborate taunt-the-goalie routine that follows each and every Eagles goal.
Seating at Conte Forum is in a single tier that has an upper section of bleacher-style seats that run goal-to-goal and a lower section of armchairs that wraps around the entire ice. This roughly (but not entirely) delineates the boundary between BC students and everybody else, which is mainly athletic donors, other alumni, and families. A distinction must be made between the two groups. The students, who stood for the entire game, were very engaged and exuded boisterous energy as a whole. Those in the more expensive seats below, somewhat understandably, were far more polite and restrained. That is, those who were there"" it was hard to ignore the number of empty seats.
As good as the fans were, they earned a strike against themselves for not sticking it out at this particular game. This is somewhat contingent upon the fact that the Eagles were down by three goals with twelve minutes to play against hated BU after having been blanked by the same team at the Forum three weeks prior. That said, the building was half empty by the ten-minute mark to the delight of the visiting fans. It's a shame, especially given that the Eagles gave the Terriers a real run for their money in the waning minutes and these fans certainly know better.
Free parking for hockey games is available to the general public in the College's Commonwealth Avenue Garage, which is less than 500 feet away from Conte Forum. Permit parking is offered to athletic donors in the Beacon Street garage immediately adjacent to the Conte Forum/Alumni Stadium sports complex. Additionally, the venue is located approximately 1 mile from the MBTA Green Line's Boston College (B branch), Cleveland Circle (C branch), and Riverside (D branch) stations, which amounts to a 15-20 minute walk, give or take.
The number of restrooms was adequate for a venue of this size, and none were very far away from any given seating location. Facilities were clean and spacious. Lines were only noticeable during intermissions, and moved fairly quickly.
Tickets range from $10 for upper-level corner seats, to $15 for upper-level center seats, to $20 for lower-level seats. BC students are offered season tickets at reduced rates. Upper-level seats are backless while lower-level seats have backs and armrests.
As mentioned above, concessions in general are fairly priced.
Bottom Line: Conte Forum is the home of a perennially top 15-ranked team that has won two out of the last three NCAA Division 1 Men's Ice Hockey titles and enjoys solid support from both the student body and alumni community. Given the level of entertainment offered for the price of attending a game there, it represents a solid value.
An impressive display of memorabilia from notable Boston College teams of various sports from the past is housed in several floor-to-ceiling cases along the wall of the east side of the concourse. This includes Beanpot, Hockey East, and NCAA trophies won by the men's ice hockey team. The west end of the concourse is adorned with the BC Athletics Wall of Fame, which honors the most distinguished male and female student-athletes in Eagles history with individual plaques.
In addition, a pair of relatively large merchandise stands on the north and south sides of the concourse offered a very wide variety of Boston College fan gear and memorabilia.
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