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Official Review by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Walter A. Brown Arena Memorial Skating Pavilion is named for Walter Brown, the original owner of the Boston Celtics and former president of the Boston Bruins. The rink has served as the home to the Boston University men’s hockey team since 1971 and the women’s hockey team since 2005. With the men’s team move in 2005 to Agganis Arena, Walter Brown Arena became one of the few on-campus hockey venues in the country dedicated solely to women’s hockey.
Walter Brown Arena is part of the Harold Case Physical Education Center, which also includes Case Gymnasium directly above the hockey rink. The arena stands on the site of Braves Field, which served as home field of the Boston Braves of Major League Baseball before they moved to Milwaukee in 1953. The Case Athletic Center stands approximately where the left field pavilion stands once stood.
The Terriers have qualified for 6 NCAA Tournaments and have played in a pair of Frozen Fours (2011 & 2013).
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 no concessions open during Terrier games. It's a shame, as the concession stands underneath the seating area appear to be in operational shape. There are signs at the stands advertising hot dogs, beer, sandwiches, and that hockey staple, sushi. With the cold temperatures in Walter Brown Arena, some coffee or hot chocolate would sure come in handy.
There are a pair of vending machines in the Walter Brown Arena that contain assorted snacks and drinks. They are a popular spot during intermissions, as lines of hungry Terrier fans form. Veteran visitors to Walter Brown Arena simply bring in their own snacks to enjoy while watching the game.
Generally, the atmosphere at a BU women's hockey game is pretty much what you would expect when a crowd of 200-300 people take in a game in a venue that fits almost 4,000. However, if you happen to visit Walter Brown Arena on a day where Boston College is the opponent, the atmosphere here is kicked up a notch or two.
A scaled-down version of the BU Pep Band shows up for the Terriers, and they do a great job filling the arena with noise throughout the game. While the student section doesn't show up in the numbers that the men's team sees, the women's team does have their followers who show up with signs, chants and energy.
Many of your standard in-game hockey staples are present here for Terrier hockey fans. The team runs some promotions and giveaways, such as Score-O and an intermission game with a pair of pee-wee squads. If you like a low-key atmosphere with a lot of room to spread out, Walter Brown Arena may be the place for you.
Boston University is an urban campus, straddling Commonwealth Avenue for approximately a mile and a half on the Boston/Brookline border. While this area of Boston isn't considered a popular tourist destination, there is still plenty of things to do in the vicinity.
Fans coming to campus will find plenty of choices if eating before or after the game. Raising Cain is a popular fast food place near Walter Brown Arena, specializing in several varieties of chicken fingers. T's Pub is a popular gathering spot about a block away from the arena, as is Sunset Cantina, which features Mexican-style fare. There are several excellent Thai restaurants around, including the Brown Sugar Café.
The Paradise Rock Club, known nationally for giving bands like U2 and REM their first area shows, is located a block away from Walter Brown Arena. It continues to host both local acts and up-and-coming national acts.
Out of town visitors to Boston will be interested to know Kenmore Square and Fenway Park are just over a mile away. Not far beyond that are the tourist destinations of Copley Square, the Back Bay, the Boston Common and Chinatown. All are easily accessed by the Green Line, which has stops up and down Commonwealth Avenue.
Boston University averages about 300 fans per game at Walter Brown Arena, which, although a small fraction of the building's capacity, puts them right in the middle of all schools nationwide in terms of attendance. If you come to a game against big rival Boston College, expect to see a crowd approaching 1,000 people.
With the history and status in college hockey's annals that a building like Walter Brown Arena has, you would expect to see a breathtaking exterior, or at least know you were at the home of one of the biggest programs in the nation. If so, you will be very disappointed as you approach Walter Brown Arena. Located at the end of a dead end street, the plain brick building is marked only by a small sign containing the Boston University logo along with the names of the schools in the Patriot League and Hockey East Conferences.
Driving in Boston is a difficult proposition as streets in the city, in use since colonial times, are laid out in a seemingly random fashion. Streets are narrow, parking is nearly impossible, traffic is seemingly always backed up, and there are construction projects everywhere to further gum up the works. Should you still wish to drive to a Boston University game, Walter Brown Arena is actually not very difficult to get to. The BU campus straddles Commonwealth Avenue, one of the major drags in the city. Walter Brown Arena is about a block from Commonwealth Ave. on Babcock Street. Detailed directions can be found here.
Parking is available in a covered lot located across Babcock St. underneath the New Balance Field. On street parking is also available in the vicinity of Case Athletic Center, but be aware of the times that meters are in operation.
The best method for arriving at Walter Brown Arena, as well as most points in Boston, is to take public transportation, known as the MBTA, or "T," for short. The Green Line's B train has a stop on Babcock Street just steps from the front door of the arena.
Walter Brown Arena is located on the ground floor of the Case Center, which houses both the hockey arena and Case Gymnasium. Fans will enter Walter Brown Arena from Babcock Street into the main lobby. The BU Athletic Hall of Fame is located here, as is the ticket booth. The hockey rink is located right off of the lobby.
Fans will enter Walter Brown Arena onto a platform that offers standing room views of the action. The concourse wraps under the seating area, with the press box, rest rooms, and some additional standing room areas located at the far end of the rink. The concourse and restrooms are cramped, and must have been really tough to get around in back when this arena was packed for Terriers men's games back in the day. Seats closest to the ice are individual folding seats, with seats higher up bleacher seating with seat backs. At Walter Brown Arena, the seats a little further removed from the ice offer better views of the action.
Tickets for Terriers women's hockey games cost six dollars, with discounts for youths and seniors. Group tickets cost a mere three dollars. Parking in the lot right across the street from Walter Brown Arena costs ten dollars. There is on-street parking available, but be aware of the hours of operation of the meters.
Many fans avoid the cost of parking and aggravation of Boston driving by taking the T to Boston University. A one-way fare costs $2.65 and allows access to much of the city.
Extra points are awarded to the history on display throughout Walter Brown Arena. From the many trophies that fill the cases in the lobby to the names that adorn the wall of the BU Athletic Hall of Fame located here, Walter Brown Arena's legacy as one of the hubs of college hockey is front and center here. While BU women's hockey doesn't have the following of the men's team, it is great to see them have their own dedicated home. It's a luxury not too many women's programs enjoy.
Walter Brown Arena has a long and storied place in college hockey's annals, and is worth a visit by any dedicated hockey fan. While the men's program may have outgrown this facility, it is in good shape, and certainly more than adequate for its new life as home of the women's program.
Follow Paul Baker's stadium journeys on Twitter @PuckmanRI.
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