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  • Gregory Koch

Christl Arena – Army Black Knights


Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00

Christl Arena Fenton Pl West Point, NY 10996


Army Black Knights website

Christl Arena website


Year Opened: 1985

Capacity: 5,043

 

Basketball Knight at Christl Arena

Christl Arena (pronounced like “crystal”) is located on the campus of the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York, and is home to the academy’s men’s and women’s basketball teams. Cristal Arena is somewhat unusual as it is located within the Holleder Center, a building it shares with Tate Rink, home of the Black Knights’ hockey team. Although the common facilities, such as the lobby and concession stands, are shared between the two venues, the playing and seating areas are distinct.


Christl Arena and the Holleder Center are both named after USMA graduates who died serving the country. Major Donald W. Holleder was a 1956 graduate of West Point who was killed in Vietnam in 1967, and Edward C. Christl, Jr. was a 1944 graduate who was killed in Austria the next year during World War II.


Despite the school’s storied history, this has not carried over to the Black Knights’ basketball team. Along with William & Mary, The Citadel, and St. Francis (NY), the Black Knights are one of just four original Division I members who have never made the NCAA Tournament. This lack of success on the court does not seem to deter some fans from coming out, but ultimately this is a small college where basketball just isn’t that big.


Food & Beverage 2

Although selection varies by game, there is always one main stand open in the upper lobby of Christl Arena. Although this stand doesn’t have much available, what it does have is affordable. Hot dogs, nachos, and pretzels are all $4, as are Coca-Cola products and bottled water. Cracker Jacks are $4 as well, chips are $3, and popcorn is $5 for a very large bucket.


Other portable stands may be open depending on the game but were not when we went. A stand called The Grill sometimes serves up more substantial offerings such as cheeseburgers and chicken tenders. There is a Dippin’ Dots stand as well which is open sometimes. Ultimately, however, unless you want to take a chance on The Grill being open, it’s best to eat before or after the game.



Atmosphere 3

When you walk through the entrance of the Holleder Center, you will be in the lower lobby, which has the ticket window and turnstiles. However, unless you are going to courtside seats, you will then need to walk up a staircase to get to the upper lobby and concourse, from which you will walk up or down to your seat after going through a portal. As all seats are general admission for most games, you will generally be walking down unless you want to sit up high.


Christl Arena has chair backs on both sidelines with a few bleachers in the last few rows which are never used except for the Navy game. Behind both baskets, there are risers which are generally used by any cadets who show up. However, the crowd of cadets will be significantly smaller than at football games, as they are not required to attend, and will be non-existent over Thanksgiving and winter breaks.


There are dot-matrix scoreboards behind each basket. One just shows the score and time, while the other shows more detailed information as well such as timeouts and player stats. Christl Arena shares a building with Tate Rink, so you can peer into the hockey arena before the game if you want.


There are several unusual architectural elements of Christl Arena. One is the bright yellow piping in the ceiling. Although visible pipes aren’t all that unusual, the coloring certainly is and makes them stand out. Additionally, there are windows behind one of the baskets which enable people to watch from the concourse. Occasionally you’ll see people standing and looking through those.

Neighborhood 3

Although there is a lot to do on Academy grounds, there is not that much in the surrounding area. With all the history at West Point, a visit there could easily make a full day on its own. Guided tours are available for a small price and are well worth it if you have time. Although the fall foliage can be beautiful at West Point, the leaves are usually mostly off the trees by the time basketball season starts.


The nearest town is Highland Falls, which is small and has very limited offerings. A couple of restaurants and hotels are available, but not much else. Andy’s on Main Street is a local favorite, serving up burgers and other comfort food.


Fans 3

The Black Knights get a typical crowd that you’d expect from this level of play. Although the arena will never be anywhere close to full except for when they play fellow service academy Navy and maybe Air Force, it will seldom be deserted either.


Many of the fans are small children with families, and usually, the children are more into the game than the adults, screaming and cheering for their team at every opportunity while the adults sit silently most of the game and politely clap after making baskets. For games against another service academy, it’s a completely different story, however. Christl Arena will be packed to the gills and will be an amazing atmosphere. It’s not quite the same as Army-Navy football, but still very much a good experience.


Access 2

Unsurprisingly, considering it’s on an active military post, Christl Arena is hard to access. Just to get on post, you will have to go through a security checkpoint, show ID, and possibly have your vehicle searched. Just to add to the confusion, some of the guards don’t know what is required and will tell you that you need a visitor’s pass even though this is not required when attending an event on the post.


Keep in mind, however, that all of this could change at a moment’s notice depending on the state of national security at the time. Before coming to a game, be sure to check the athletics and USMA websites to make sure everything here is still accurate. It should not be this hard to get to a basketball arena, but it’s somewhat understandable given the unique security situation.

Once you finally do get onto the post, parking is available for free in lots a short walk from the arena. The guards at the checkpoint will direct you there if you ask. From the lots, it’s about a three-minute walk to the Holleder Center, down a couple of staircases and a hill. This seems easy until you realize you have to go back up all that when the game is over.


Return on Investment 5

Tickets are $12 for general admission seating for most games, $15 for a couple, and $20-$30 for reserved seats for the doubleheader against Navy, which also gets you into the women’s game. A few other games are doubleheaders with the women as well, mostly during the non-conference schedule; for these, the $12 ticket will get you into both.


You can pay $30 for courtside seats, but as the $12 ticket will get you literally anywhere else in the arena, this hardly seems worth it. Note that there is usually one other game a year with reserved seats, as it is a weekday afternoon game where local schools bring students in on a field trip, but the tickets to this game will still be $12. Throw in the free parking and affordable if limited concessions and Army basketball can be a great value for the whole family.


Extras 3

One bonus star for all the history right on the West Point grounds. A second for the fact that the Holleder Center is basically two venues in one, so you can check out the hockey arena as well without even having to leave the building. A third and final star for the displays in the upper and lower lobbies, including a trophy case and plaques showing the Black Knights’ athletic captains for each year.


Final Thoughts

Fans looking for the same raucous atmosphere as at Army football games at Michie Stadium will be deeply disappointed. It’s clear that this is a one-sport school as far as the fan base is concerned, and basketball isn’t it. However, attending a game at Christl Arena can be an enjoyable and affordable experience for the whole family if you’re just looking to spend an afternoon or evening watching a basketball game.

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