Harold Alfond Sports Arena – Maine Black Bears
Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.71
Harold Alfond Arena
Orono, ME 04473
Year Opened: 1977
Originally built in 1977 and expanded in 1991, Alfond Arena is located on the campus of the University of Maine in Orono, and serves as home to the Black Bears men’s and women’s hockey teams. Mr. Alfond has donated over $6.5 million to the university since 1968 and was honored by the university for his generosity by having both the arena and next-door football stadium named after him.
Since the hockey program began in 1977, the Black Bears have appeared in eighteen NCAA Tournaments, and eleven Frozen Fours and have won two national championships during their time at Alfond Arena. Fifty-four UMaine alumni have played in the National Hockey League, including Hall of Famer Paul Kariya.
Food & Beverage 4
There are a pair of concession stands at Alfond Arena with menus that do not stray far from the basics. Standard arena fare including hot dogs, burgers, and chicken strips anchor the menu at the stand near the front entrance, while the stand on the far side of the arena features pizzas and calzones.
Both stands feature an assortment of snacks, including popcorn, pretzels, and candy. Two of the more popular items at Alfond Arena, Maine Whoopee Pies and Black Bear Biscuits (an ice cream sandwich) are sold at both stands. In addition, there are three portable stands around the facility which sell pretzels, popcorn, churros, and drinks. Coca-Cola products are featured at Alfond Arena. Alcoholic beverages are not sold at this on-campus facility.
One of the best things about the atmosphere at a college hockey game is the presence of a school’s student section and pep band. The UMaine student section has traditionally been known as one of the more intimidating and engaged groups of its kind in the country.
Unfortunately, years of losing hockey have taken their toll on Orono. The student section at Alfond Arena, which hovers right over the ice on the north end of the arena, no longer fills to the brim for games. While the pep band fills Alfond with music throughout the game and the students who do show up are enthusiastic and energetic, Alfond Arena is just not the deafening place to catch a game that it used to be.
Veteran college hockey fans will find a lot that is familiar at a Black Bear game. There are contests for the younger fans in attendance. The Black Bear mascot, named Bananas, interacts with young fans and participates in promotions. T-shirt tosses, 50/50 raffles, and sponsor tables round out the experience.
The University of Maine campus is located in the small town of Orono, a town in central Maine about 15 miles north of Bangor. The campus is located on the banks of the Stillwater River, a couple of miles north of downtown. Visiting fans won’t find much to do within walking distance of campus.
For a small town with a population of just over 11,000, Orono has some good dining options. The original location of Pat’s Pizza, a Maine pizza institution, can be found on Mill Street. The Family Dog is a favorite spot of the student body. Fans looking for a more traditional pub experience can check out the Orono Brewing Company, Woodman’s Bar and Grill, or Bear Brew Pub.
Many visiting fans will choose to travel to nearby Bangor, Maine’s third-largest city, where there are more options for dining, lodging, and entertainment. Be sure to stop by the giant Paul Bunyan statue, right in front of the Cross Insurance Center, for a photo. Bangor’s most famous son, Stephen King, resides here, and his home is a popular spot for visitors and pictures.
The Black Bears average over 3,700 fans per game at Alfond Arena, placing them in the top 20 nationwide. Crowds generally pick up throughout the season as the Hockey East season progresses, but tickets can generally be found if you wait until game day.
In central Maine, the Black Bears are the only game in town and enjoy great support from the locals. You can expect a crowd at Alfond Arena to be made up of a good mix of locals, alumni, and families. It makes for a lively crowd and a fun night at the rink.
Alfond Arena is easy to get to from Interstate 95. Simply take exit 193 (Stillwater Ave.), turn towards the shopping center, take a right onto College Ave., and turn left onto Munson Road at the first University of Maine sign. The campus is located about two miles from the highway, with all the athletic facilities, including Alfond Stadium and Mahaney Diamond, grouped on the northern edge of the campus.
Parking lots are located adjacent to and in between the hockey arena and football stadium. Should the crowd at a particular event be especially large, there is ample overflow parking at lots throughout the campus, or the many fraternity houses located along College Street. Of course, the brothers at the houses will ask that you pay for the privilege of parking at their house.
Fans enter Alfond Arena through two sets of doors, one on the right for students, and one on the left for the general public. There is another, less frequently used entrance on the side of the arena. Once inside the arena fans will see the Bear Necessities shop immediately on their right. The large Black Bear statue announces his presence with authority to visitors, and the merchandise spills from the boundaries of the store into the hallway.
Seating at Alfond Arena consists of individual folding stadium seats in the lower sections, and molded bleachers further from the ice. The student section is located on the north end of the rink, consisting of bleachers that hang right over the ice. Luxury boxes line the southern end of the arena. A walkway is located halfway up the seating bowl that circles the entire arena.
With the building’s small capacity and big crowds, getting around Alfond Arena can be difficult at times. Long lines form during intermission at the concessions and bathrooms. Be sure to time your expeditions properly.
Return on Investment 4
Maine utilizes variable prices for its hockey games. The majority of seats are sold for $20. In a bit of an anomaly, the most expensive seats are located in the front part of the upper level and are sold for $50. Tickets along the glass are sold for $40, with lower deck seats in the center ice sections sold for $35. Parking is free in the lots adjacent to Alfond Arena. Concession prices are in line with other venues in the area.
An extra point is awarded for the Bear Necessities store at Alfond Arena. The store contains such a great variety of items that the products spill out from the physical constraints of the store into the concourse. The entire front concourse is now the store. If you need any sort of Maine gear, you’ll find it at a Black Bears game.
Extra points are awarded for the Maine hockey memorabilia displayed at Alfond Arena. From the Maine Hockey Hall of Fame display to the photos of Black Bear Alumni playing in the NHL, UMaine hockey history is front and center. Retired numbers for Paul Kariya, Scott Pellerin, Jim Montgomery, and Shawn Walsh line the walls, and the Hobey Baker statues won by Kariya and Pellerin are on display, along with the school’s NCAA championship trophies and more. Be sure to take some time to explore all of it.
A final extra point is awarded for what may be the most modest championship banners you will find anywhere. Two plain white cloth banners commemorate the school’s 1993 and 1999 titles from the rafters in front of the student section. Anything more flashy would just not fit here in Maine.
Several seasons of sub-par results have dulled the shine a bit at Alfond Arena, but the fact is, it’s a fantastic place to catch a college hockey game. While the standing-room-only crowds and intimidating atmosphere of the school’s glory days may be a thing of the past, central Maine hockey fans still turn out in solid numbers for the state’s most popular sport.