Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.29
Freitas Ice Forum
509 Stadium Road
Year Opened: 1998
Freitas Ice Forum
The Mark E. Freitas Ice Forum, named after Husky hockey player, benefactor, and class of 1981 alumnus Mark Freitas, opened in 1998 to replace the outdoor UConn Ice Arena and coincided with UConn hockey’s elevation to Division One status.
Food & Beverage 2
There is a snack bar located in the lobby, which is staffed by a local non-profit group raising funds for their charity. It’s not an uncommon practice in arenas and stadiums across the country, but I was surprised to see it in such a small venue as the Freitas Forum. There are two registers present to serve the entire crowd, and these two are plenty on most nights. Short lines do form during intermission, but there is plenty of time to get your food and return to your seat before the next period begins.
The menu here is basic, consisting of hot dogs ($4), nachos ($4/$6.50), pretzels ($4), peanuts ($4), popcorn ($3.50/$5.50), and assorted snacks. Coca-Cola products are featured ($3.50/$4.50/$6.00), with bottled water ($4) also available. Since the arena is often a very chilly place to be, coffee and hot chocolate are also offered ($3). Alcoholic beverages are not sold at the Freitas Forum, per NCAA regulations. As you might expect for an operation of this size, the quality of the food items is not the greatest.
Upon entering the Freitas Forum, it appears to be the type of standard local rink you would find in any town or city. The walls are aluminum, as are the bleachers. Credit should be given to the game day operations staff at UConn for taking what could be a boring, plain backdrop and attempting to infuse some life into the game day experience. You will find your typical hard-rock music during play stoppages, some giveaways and promotions during intermissions, and a great deal of staff around for a venue of this size. Too much intrusion from the PA announcer or DJ would certainly feel out of place in such a small venue as the Freitas Forum, so kudos to the staff here for striking a nice balance.
The tiny town of Storrs, Connecticut is dominated by the university. Storrs’ population of 10,000 is overshadowed by UConn’s undergraduate enrollment of 16,000, with an additional 5,000 enrolled in graduate programs. The university is located over a sprawling 4,000 acres, and is largely self-contained, which is a necessity given Storrs’ rural location. Fans looking to stay in Storrs will find their choices limited. Most fans who come to the area will do so as a day trip, moving on after the game to the larger cities of Hartford, 45 minutes away or Boston, located 90 minutes from the UConn campus. The twin casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun are located a short 45 minute drive from Storrs.
Fans at UConn, as in much of the rest of New England, know their hockey and are into the action throughout the game. Rules need not be explained, and heaven help the referee who isn’t calling the game well. The stands were full of families, alumni, and good old hockey folk. It says a lot about the support a team has when an arena can be half filled for a Saturday afternoon game during the winter semester break. There were not many students to be found on this afternoon, but again, that is entirely due to the fact that classes were not in session.
The University of Connecticut is located in rural Storrs, Connecticut, a village in the town of Mansfield. The campus is a 45 minute drive from Hartford, the capital and largest city in the state. Fans wishing to drive to the UConn campus will be well served in knowing that no highway serves Storrs directly, and a drive through the scenic eastern Connecticut countryside is necessary no matter what direction one is coming from. The closest interstate is route 84, which runs in a north-south direction connecting Hartford with the Massachusetts Turnpike. From I-84, fans will have to navigate local highways to the UConn campus.
For fans traveling by train or bus to UConn, be aware that there are no stations in the town of Storrs. However, the Union Station Shuttle transports round trip from the Storrs campus to Union Station in Hartford. The closest airport to the UConn campus is Bradley International Airport just north of Hartford. Shuttles are available to the airport from the university.
The Freitas Forum is located on the southwest edge of the University of Connecticut campus in eastern Connecticut. Adjacent to the hockey rink are several other athletic fields and buildings, as well as the impressive Shenkman training center and Gampel Pavilion, the largest on-campus basketball arena in New England.
For fans requiring special seating once at the Freitas Forum, access to much of the rink is not available to you. The seating areas are only accessible by climbing a set of stairs to reach the seats. However, fans requiring special seating will be pleased to know that the handicapped seating is located directly on the glass at the end of rink.
There are one set of bathrooms located in the main lobby. The restrooms are surprisingly large for a venue of this size. There were no lines to be found, even during intermission.
Return on Investment 4
Tickets to a UConn hockey game are very inexpensive for collegiate hockey at this level, with reserved seats going for a mere $8. Reserved tickets will get you a seat on the larger side of the arena, where there are nine rows of metal bleachers. The last row of the bleachers has seatbacks, while the other rows consist of only benches. The remainder of the arena consists of general admission seating, which cost $7. There are six rows of bleachers on the far end of the arena, also consisting of metal benches without seatbacks, with the exception again being the last row, which has seatbacks. There are five rows of bleachers on either end of the rink. Seniors can attend a UConn game for $4, and tickets will cost students a mere $3.
Parking is free in the spacious lot adjacent to the Freitas Forum. The lot is large enough that there is no backup after the game, and fans can be on their way home quickly. The prices at UConn rank them as one of the most affordable options in all of college hockey.
The Freitas Forum does not contain a lot of the bells and whistles one would find in many athletic venues these days. There are a few trophy cases scattered around the spacious lobby that showcase mementos from UConn hockey’s short history.
At UConn, hoops are king (and queen), and football is gaining quickly in popularity. Hockey, in many regards, seems to be nothing more than an afterthought. The Huskies have only been playing at the Division One level since 1998, and have not enjoyed a winning season since 2000. The hockey program does not offer scholarships, and it is difficult to maintain a winning program with such a restriction. Granted, the basketball teams cast an enormous shadow over the rest of the athletic program, but the hockey team cannot escape this large shadow with the restrictions currently in place. The Freitas Forum, while perfectly serviceable, does not match up with the top-notch facilities enjoyed by many other athletic programs at the university.