Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Bentley Arena 440 Beaver St Waltham, MA 02452
Year Opened: 2018 Capacity: 1,917
Taking Flight at Bentley
Bentley University is a private university with an enrollment of 4,200 undergrads located in suburban Waltham, nine miles from downtown Boston. Founded in 1917 as the Bentley School of Accounting and Finance, the school was located on Boylston Street in Boston until it became a four-year college in 1968.
Today Bentley is best known for its business programs and is annually ranked among the nation’s best by Bloomberg Businessweek and U.S. News & World Report. Bentley’s sports teams all compete in Division Two, except for its hockey team, which competes at the sport’s highest level.
The Bentley Arena, which cost $45 million to build, is part of the university’s comprehensive 10-year capital plan to modernize and expand the campus. Designed to be a “living lab”, the arena provides hands-on experience for students across many majors, with the gameday presentation run almost entirely by Bentley students.
The arena replaces the Falcons’ old home, the John A. Ryan Arena, a community rink in nearby Watertown which consistently landed at the bottom of Stadium Journey’s NCAA arena rankings throughout its use.
Varsity hockey teams have represented Bentley since 1977, initially competing at the Division Three and Two levels. In 1999 Bentley moved up to Division One, becoming an inaugural member of the Atlantic Hockey Conference in 2003. The Falcons have yet to qualify for the NCAA tournament.
Food & Beverage 4
There is a small concession stand at the east end of the arena. The menu isn’t the most extensive you’ll come across, but the staff at Bentley Arena have all the bases covered with the menu.
Fans looking for a bite to eat can choose between hot dogs, sausage sandwiches, chicken tenders, and pizza slices. Nachos are served with cheese and chili if desired, and those looking for a healthier alternative will find a garden and chicken Caesar salads available. Snacks sold at the stand include pretzels, popcorn, and cheesesteak egg rolls. Fruit cups are sold for those looking for something a bit healthier.
Pepsi products are featured at Bentley Arena. Hot chocolate is a popular choice in the cold winter months. Fans looking for an adult beverage will find a selection of beers and wines sold in “The Cube,” the arena’s VIP club. Cloud Candy IPA, brewed at local favorite Mighty Squirrel Brewing Company, highlights the offerings.
Stadium Journey’s most recent visit to Bentley Arena occurred over the 2021 Thanksgiving break, so the crowd may not have been fully representative of the Falcon experience. Still, the Bentley staff put on an entertaining show for visiting fans.
There are promotions geared towards the younger fans in attendance, including several t-shirt tosses, a youth hockey game during intermission, and a post-game autograph session. Bentley’s mascot, a blue falcon named Flex, roams the rink throughout the game interacting with fans. A crystal-clear video board hangs at center ice, which is well-utilized for highlights, crowd shots, and arena information. With a large number of families in attendance, the younger fans bring some excitement and energy to the arena.
The Bentley student section christened the “Top Shelf”, and sits behind the visiting goalie for two periods at the east end of the arena. During previous visits, these sections have been packed with excited Bentley students. Despite their large numbers, there wasn’t a lot of noise coming from the student body.
Likewise, the pep band felt underutilized, as the arena played piped-in music over the loudspeakers during many play stoppages. As mentioned earlier, Stadium Journey last visited during Thanksgiving break, without students in attendance. Hopefully, the student body has settled in and become a larger part of the Falcon hockey experience.
Waltham is a city of just over 60,000 located 11 miles northwest of downtown Boston and three miles from Boston’s Brighton neighborhood. The city was a leader in the American Industrial Revolution and a prototype for early industrial city planning. It’s a decidedly blue-collar community surrounded by affluent, white-collar towns.
Given Bentley’s location in a residential neighborhood, visiting fans will not find much to do near campus. Fortunately, there are several dining and lodging options located just a couple of miles away on Main Street near Interstate 95.
Mighty Squirrel Brewing is located just a mile from the arena. With downtown Boston located a short drive from the Bentley campus, many out-of-town fans will likely want to head in that direction while visiting Waltham.
The building of Bentley Arena has elevated the program from an afterthought in the Boston hockey scene to a popular destination for local hockey fans. From the old days of the JAR, when attendance could be counted on fingers, Bentley has steadily climbed the national attendance rankings since the opening of the Bentley Arena. Average attendance over the first half of the 2021-22 season is approaching 1,400 fans per game.
The turnout from the student body is strong and the building is filled to the brim with suburban hockey fans night after night. One notable difference in a Bentley hockey crowd is that it seems to be more family-oriented than other local schools. Perhaps this is due to the school’s location outside of the city, where it is more accessible to families of hockey fans.
Greater Boston isn’t the most accessible area for motorists to get around. Traffic jams, construction projects, and detours are a way of life in this part of the country. The Bentley campus is located just a few miles from the intersection of Interstates 90 (the Mass Pike) and 95 (also known as Route 128). Detailed driving directions to Bentley Arena can be found here. Boston’s subway system does not serve Waltham, but the MBTA 554 bus reaches the Bentley campus.
The arena’s 1,917 seats (a number chosen to represent the year the college was founded) are blue, black, and gray plastic stadium seats. With the small size of Bentley Arena, all seats have excellent views of the action. There is ample room in between rows to stretch out, and you will not feel cramped while at a Falcon hockey game.
An open concourse encircles the rink, containing in-demand standing-room views of the action. Lining the concourse are the concession stand, history displays, murals of Bentley students and staff, and The Cube. Take a peek into the operations center, staffed entirely by students learning the trade. Lines at the concession stand can get long during intermission but move pretty quickly. The restrooms are new, clean, and ample for a typical Bentley hockey crowd.
Parking may be the biggest negative mark against the Bentley Arena. There is a small lot for prepaid and handicapped parking, but this fills up fast. If you want the convenience of this lot, reserve your spot early. Otherwise, you will have to scramble for limited areas around the school’s other athletic facilities, on Access Road, or the main campus. Bentley provides shuttles for fans parked away from the arena. More parking information can be found here.
Return on Investment 5
Tickets to Bentley hockey games cost just ten dollars. Purchasing a parking pass in the reserved lot across the street from the arena will run you another ten dollars. Otherwise, parking is free for games at Bentley. Concessions are very affordable, with most menu items priced at six dollars and under. A night at a Falcons game is a most affordable entertainment option for local sports fans.
An extra point is awarded for the Bentley hockey history display. Located on the north side of the concourse, several panels chronicle important persons and events in Bentley’s 50 years of hockey.
Another extra point is awarded for Bentley’s efforts at sustainability and environmental friendliness. The building was designed to meet the United States Green Building Council’s LEED Certification Standards. The arena has 1,400 solar panels on its roof, which produce half the energy used by the facility.
In addition, high-efficiency LED lighting installed throughout the arena and efficient water-saving fixtures ensure that the arena uses half the power and water that similarly sized buildings would use. Bentley Arena proudly displays its green efforts on several panels in the downstairs lobby by the arena’s entrance.
A statue of Bentley’s legendary baseball coach Robert DeFelice stands in the entry plaza to the arena. The statue was erected to honor DeFelice’s 50th season as coach of the baseball team. The statue depicts “Coach” gazing in the direction of DeFelice Field, located across the street from Bentley Arena.
The trend of Atlantic Conference teams moving away from local community rinks and into cozy on-campus arenas is a welcome one. Bentley Arena, with its intimate, eco-friendly design, is a great place to catch a game and a hidden gem in the crowded Boston hockey scene.