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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Chase Family Arena at Reich Family Pavilion - Hartford Hawks

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.14

Chase Family Arena at Reich Family Pavilion

200 Bloomfield Ave.

West Hartford, CT 06117

Year Opened: 1990

Capacity: 4,017

Empty Nest Syndrome

In March of 2021 the University of Hartford Hawks were the talk of the NCAA, qualifying for the first basketball tournament in the school’s history. Less than two months later, the entire athletic department was thrown into turmoil as the school announced they were downgrading their program to Division Three. A feasibility study conducted by a local consulting firm estimated that the financially struggling university would save $9.2 million annually by moving to the lower division. The transition to Division Three will be completed by September 2025.

The University of Hartford was founded in 1957 when Hillyer College merged with Hartford Art School and the Hartt School. They took their athletic team names from Hillyer College, whose teams were known as the Flying Hawks, due to the presence of their basketball court on the fourth floor of their gymnasium.

The Hawks play their home basketball games at the Chase Family Arena at Reich Family Pavilion, named in honor of the Chase and Reich Families for their history of gifts and contributions to the University. In addition to the basketball arena, the facility is home to the school’s volleyball gym, swimming pool, locker rooms, training facilities and administrative offices.

Basketball has been played at the University of Hartford and its predecessors since 1949. Originally a member of Division Two, the Hawks qualified for four straight D-II tournaments from 1972-75. The 2021 Tournament appearance was the school’s only while in Division One. The Hawks now compete as an independent, having left the America East Conference as part of its transition. Vin Baker is the school’s only alumnus to play in the National Basketball Association.

Food & Beverage 1

There is a concession stand in the lobby of the Reich Pavilion, but it was not open during Stadium Journey’s visit on a Sunday afternoon. It has been open during previous visits and still looks operational. In the past, this stand has offered a basic menu, including hot dogs, pizza slices and chicken tenders in addition to assorted snacks.

A single point is awarded in this category due to the presence of a vending machine selling bottles of Coca-Cola products, water and energy drinks. It appears that fans are able to bring in their own snacks to Hartford basketball games. If the snack bar is open, you can add a couple of points to this score.

Atmosphere 2

As you may imagine, interest and excitement around the basketball program has plummeted since the announcement that the program would be downgrading to Division Three. Still, the Hartford athletic department does their best to put on a good show for the fans that do show up.

From any seat in the gym you can hear sneakers squeak, coaches shouting instructions to their players and fans yelling encouragement to the players. The “small school” experience is only amplified with the tiny crowds in attendance these days. The cheerleaders and spirit squad are present but add little to the overall atmosphere. The few students who do show up are there to watch the game, not get rowdy. Scoreboards on either end of the gym display basic game information while pixilated video screens show graphics and the occasional video.

Neighborhood 2

The University of Hartford is located in West Hartford, surrounded by an affluent residential neighborhood, including the Hartford Golf Club. There aren’t any restaurants located within walking distance of the campus, meaning fans will have to travel a little to find entertainment, dining and lodging options.

Downtown Hartford, which contains a great many restaurants and places of interest, is just a ten-minute drive away. Stadium Journey recommends City Steam Brewery and Black-Eyed Sally’s Southern Kitchen and Bar, among others. Fans looking for local attractions will want to check out the Mark Twain House or Harriet Beecher Stowe House while in Hartford. The state capitol building is also worth a look while in the area. There is no shortage of lodging options in downtown Hartford.

Fans 1

For several years in the late teens, Hartford was averaging around 1,400 fans per game. As you may imagine, attendance has plummeted since the Division Three announcement. Stadium Journey attended a game against a local opponent on a Sunday afternoon with a reported attendance of around 300. Looking at other box scores from the 2022-23 season, this crowd appears to be right around the team’s average.

The crowd at Chace Family Arena is a mix of die-hard fans, family members and a smattering of students. Most of the fans in attendance have a personal connection with the players on the court. Fans are enthusiastic and supportive. With the bulk of Hartford’s schedule consisting of local teams, you may find supporters of the visiting squad in attendance.

Access 3

The Reich Family Pavilion is located on the north end of the University of Hartford campus alongside the school’s other athletic facilities. The campus is located where the towns of West Hartford and Bloomfield meet the city of Hartford. Downtown Hartford, including the XL Center and Dunkin’ Donuts Park, is located just a few miles away. Most fans traveling to the University of Hartford will arrive via Interstate 91 which runs north-south through Hartford, and then will arrive at campus via either Route 44 or 218, which run adjacent to the campus. Detailed directions to campus can be found here.

Parking is available in lots that surround the Reich Family Pavilion. There are more than enough spots here to handle a typical crowd. While the vast majority of visitors to the University of Hartford arrive by car, those utilizing public transportation can take the 56 or 58 bus to campus. Check out the CT Transit website for more information.

Fans enter the arena into a small lobby, which contains entrances to the pool and volleyball court, as well as the snack bar, ticket booth, and stairs to the upper deck. The bathrooms, which are more than adequate for the average Hawk crowd, are also located here.

Seating at the Chase Family Arena consists of individual red folding seats along both sidelines, with wooden bleachers along each baseline. Each sideline has an upper section, which is set aside on the south side as the Gordon McCullough VIP Section. This section has its own bar and dining area attached, but it has been closed since the demotion announcement. All seats in this small gym have excellent views of the action.

Return on Investment 4

Seats for Hartford Hawks cost $15 for reserved seating on either sideline, or $12 for pavilion seats in the upper deck. Parking is free in the lots surrounding the Chase Family Arena. Drinks in the vending machine cost $2.25.

A night at a Hartford Hawks basketball game will certainly not break the bank.

Extras 2

Extra points are awarded for the displays in the lobby that honor the Hawks two most distinguished athletic alumni, Baseball Hall of Famer Jeff Bagwell and NBA first round pick Vin Baker. The University’s Athletic Hall of Fame has a display in the lobby. Baker’s retired jersey also hangs in the Chase Family Arena.

Banners honoring conference titles and tournament appearances by both the men’s and women’s basketball programs hang from the rafters and on the walls of the facility.

Final Thoughts

Chase Family Arena served as a fine home to the Hawks when they were a mid-major Division One program. Now that the squad will be moving to Division Three, interest and enthusiasm in the program has plummeted, with the game day experience in Hartford now just a shell of what it used to be. This cozy gym now is in the unique circumstance of being too large for the school’s needs.

Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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