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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Thompson Ice Arena is one of two Dartmouth sports facilities, along with the Leverone Field House, designed by the Italian structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, who is popularly known as the “poet in concrete” in tribute to the buildings he designed for the Rome Olympics in 1960. Thompson Arena serves as home to both the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams, as well as housing dressing rooms and training facilities for Dartmouth’s field hockey and soccer teams.
Varsity hockey has been played at Dartmouth College since 1908. The Big Green currently plays in the ECAC conference, winning the conference title in 2006 in addition to their 15 Ivy League titles. Dartmouth has played in the NCAA tournament four times in their history, most recently in 1980, reaching the Frozen Four each time, and the final game twice (1948 and 1949). Seven Big Green Alumni have played in the NHL.
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 two concession stands located at opposite ends of Thompson Arena. These stands feature basic menus, with hot dogs, hamburgers, popcorn, and assorted snacks available. Variety is achieved through the presence of local favorites Everything But Anchovies Pizza and Boloco Burritos, each of which operate a stand at the far end of the arena.
Coca Cola products are sold at Thompson Arena. Due to the venue's location on campus, alcohol is not available here.
If planning to visit Thompson Arena for a game against Princeton, Dartmouth's biggest rival, you may want to increase this score a notch or two. Even for other games, this is a fantastic venue for watching some quality collegiate hockey, particularly during an Ivy League matchup.
Thompson Arena contains room for 3,500 fans to sit, as well as another 1,000 in the standing room located along the top of the seating bowl. Hockey is perhaps the most popular sport at Dartmouth, and the student section is routinely filled beyond capacity. In contrast to most college venues, the students sit in sections 17-19 at center ice rather than in one of the end zones. The design of the arena ensures that the place can get very loud when the Big Green start rolling.
The town of Hanover, New Hampshire boasts a population of about 11,000 citizens. The population increases by over fifty percent when Dartmouth's 6,300 students roll into town. As you would expect, there is a great small-town feel to Hanover. CNN and Money rated Hanover as the sixth best place to live in the United States.
Weather permitting, visiting fans will want to take the short walk to The Green, which is usually the hub of activity in the town. While winter in New Hampshire can be brutal, and there may be a couple of feet of the white stuff on the ground when you visit Hanover, the downtown area is still worth a visit. The Dartmouth campus boasts classic Ivy League architecture, or you can head down Main Street and explore the shops and eateries that line the street.
For a town of this size, there is no shortage of places to eat or drink, all of which are located a short walk from Thompson Arena. The Appalachian Trail runs through Hanover, and there are a great many outdoor activities available for visitors to the area to sample as well, should you be visiting before the weather gets too cold.
Fans generally fill Thompson Arena to 60-70% of capacity for Big Green hockey games. The student body turns out in force, adding a great deal of energy and noise to the experience here. Just be sure to be on the lookout for stray tennis balls.
The small town of Hanover, New Hampshire may be somewhat off the beaten path, but it's easy to get to. Located near the intersections of Interstates 89 and 91, the Dartmouth campus is located only a couple of miles from the highway. Driving is easily the most efficient method to arrive in Hanover, but there are bus and car services that run from Manchester, located an hour to the southeast, and to Logan Airport in Boston. You can get more information here. Also, Amtrak has a train station just across the Connecticut River in White River Junction, Vermont.
The Dartmouth campus dominates the small town of Hanover, and Thompson Arena is located on the southeast edge of campus alongside the other athletic facilities. Signs direct out-of-town drivers to the best parking spots for the day's athletic events. There is ample on-street parking in the immediate vicinity of Thompson Arena, as well as a large parking lot adjacent to the arena, which features free parking.
Thompson Arena is well-designed for hockey viewing, with a steeply pitched seating bowl and large open concourse that circles the arena. This concourse is a popular spot for fans to take in the action, and fans can take in the action from any point on the concourse. Seating in all 22 sections consists of 11 identical rows of benches with seat backs.
There are two restrooms on opposite corners of the arena. Lines form during intermissions, but these restrooms are more than adequate to handle a typical Big Green crowd.
Tickets to Big Green hockey games are quite inexpensive, costing $10 for adults and $5 for youth aged 14 and under. Students are admitted free of charge. Selected games are designated as premium games, with increased prices of $15 (adult) and $8 (youth).
Free parking is available in the large lot adjacent to Thompson Arena, as well as on the local streets should the lot fill up. Concessions are also inexpensive here, making a night of Big Green hockey a very affordable entertainment option for local sports fans.
Tennis balls-During a road game against Princeton in 1998, a Princeton student threw a single tennis ball at the Dartmouth goaltender after the Tigers scored their first goal. When Princeton came to Dartmouth later in the season, the Big Green student body responded by throwing not just one tennis ball onto the ice after the first Dartmouth goal, but several hundred. The tradition continues to this day, as Dartmouth students smuggle tennis balls into Thompson Arena to rain down onto the ice in celebration after the Big Green net their first goal.
Tradition-Dartmouth displays its hockey history prominently around Thompson Arena. Photos of alumni who have moved on to the NHL or national teams have their photos displayed around the concourse. A large trophy case greets fans as they enter the arena, and displays honor members of the National Hockey Hall of Fame who played or coached at Dartmouth. Banners from the Big Green's many championship teams, both men's and women's, adorn the far wall of the venue.
Architecture-Thompson Arena's drab concrete exterior hides a unique interior. The ice surface and seating bowl are built into the ground, and the roof, consisting of 1,024 white tiles which fit together to form a visually striking curved surface.
Thompson Arena has a wonderful old-school feel to it. With its easy accessibility, terrific sightlines, and passionate fans, it is a great place to take in some quality college hockey. Add in a quaint, small town setting, and it's no surprise that Thompson Arena is one of the top college hockey venues in the northeast.
Follow all of Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @puckmanri.
Member Review by Jonathan Gault on Jan 28, 2013
Thompson Arena, home to the Dartmouth College men’s and women’s hockey teams, is located half a mile southeast of the college Green on Summer Street, nestled in an athletics complex that also contains Burnham Field, home to the Big Green soccer teams, Sculley-Fahey Field, home to Big Green lacrosse and the Boss Tennis Center. Yet there is no doubt which team in the complex is the most popular among Upper Valley residents, as the Dartmouth men’s hockey squad routinely draws near-capacity crowds to 3,500-seat (4,500 with standing room) Thompson Arena during the cold Hanover winters.
The arena, named for donor Rupert C. Thompson, Dartmouth Class of 1928, opened prior to the 1975-76 season and has been home to Big Green hockey ever since. The first game saw Dartmouth play the U.S. Olympic Team to a 3-3 tie on November 25, 1975. Nine days later, the arena saw its first collegiate action, with the home team skating to a 5-3 loss against Boston University.
Though the men have ranked as a middle-of-the-pack ECAC team for most of their time at Thompson, despite sending several players to the NHL, the Dartmouth women have seen a fair amount of success since the program began in 1977. That success includes three ECAC regular-season titles, four ECAC tournament titles and four Frozen Four appearances, all coming since 2001. Several female Big Green skaters have also gone on to win Olympic gold representing Canada.
Dartmouth men’s games are a popular activity for students and area residents alike on Friday and Saturday nights, and the building comes close to its capacity of 4,500 (including standing room) for Ivy League contests. The Princeton game is routinely packed full of students, who smuggle tennis balls into the arena to throw onto the ice after the Big Green’s first goal in one of Dartmouth’s favorite winter traditions. The venue is a good place to catch a game for New England hockey fans, and the already-solid atmosphere only figures to improve as a young Big Green squad continues to rise up the college hockey ranks.
Member Review by Ben37661 on Dec 19, 2014
If you are looking for a great atmosphere with good hockey for a great price this is your place! The only challenge on big game nights can be parking but relative to other places it's not bad at all.
Member Review by gtsully on Jan 03, 2016
Event: First day of the Ledyard Bank Classic (Merrimack vs. Union, Robert Morris vs. Dartmouth)
Pros: The food is relatively inexpensive, with a decent variety for a smaller college rink (including a stand-alone Boloco stand). The sight lines are great, as you can walk a full circle around the building without losing sight of the action. Tickets are cheap ($16 each to see both games), and if you get there early enough there's a lot right next to the rink with free parking (overflow lots were charging $10). A short walk to Main Street in Hanover provides plenty of food and beverage options for pre- and/or post-game. There was not a single luxury box to be seen.
Cons: It was pretty quiet in there, and not in a good way. At a college game you expect some kind of chants or organized cheering, but there was nothing doing here. Granted, the tournament was during the tail end of a holiday break, but the building was almost empty for the first game and maybe 60% full for the second, and the crowd only really got loud when Dartmouth scored. The bathrooms are a little cramped, although one of them did have a changing table for parents still dealing with diapers.
Thompson Arena isn't shiny and new, but it's a clean, accessible old barn in a great college town. I'd recommend a visit for any New England college hockey fans.
9 South St
Hanover, NH 03755
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