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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Hart Recreation Center - Holy Cross Crusaders hockey

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.57

Hart Recreation Center

1 College Street

Worcester, MA 01610

Holy Cross Crusaders hockey website

Hart Recreation Center website

Year Opened: 1975

Capacity: 1,600


The Hart of Holy Cross Hockey

The Reverend Francis J. Hart Recreation Center is part of the Luth Athletic Complex, a multi-purpose facility located on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA (pronounced “Woostah” by locals). Reverend Hart was the guiding force behind intramural athletics at the College for more than 40 years, and his legacy is honored in this athletic center.

The Hart Recreation Center houses not only the Holy Cross hockey rink, but a 3,600-seat basketball arena, a six-lane swimming pool with a separate diving area, rowing tanks, racquetball and squash courts, and the college’s strength and conditioning facilities. Behind the Hart Center is a full-size track, practice fields, soccer field, and a lighted turf field which service numerous sports and intramural programs.

In 2016 Holy Cross embarked on a renovation and expansion project at Hart Recreation Center. Among the improvements to the facility are a 60-foot high indoor turf football practice facility, an auxiliary practice gymnasium, suites for basketball, administrative offices and meeting rooms, a new strength and conditioning center, a new lobby, and new locker rooms. The renovations give the Hart Center an increased presence on campus and hope to make this small Catholic school a more attractive destination for student-athletes.

Hockey has been played at Holy Cross since 1966. Today the Crusaders compete in the Atlantic Hockey Association, where they have won three conference championships. Holy Cross has qualified for the NCAA Tournament twice, most recently in 2006.

That year, the Crusaders pulled off what is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in tournament history by beating Minnesota 4-3 in overtime. It was the first time a number 15 or 16 seed had beaten a number one or two seed. Two Holy Cross alumni (Pat Rissmiller and Jim Stewart) have played in the NHL.

Food & Beverage 2

There is a single small concession stand in the shared Hart Center concourse. A very basic menu is offered here. Hot dogs, pizza slices, and nachos anchor the selections, with a variety of snacks, including pretzels, popcorn, and fried dough also available. Pepsi products are featured at the Hart Center. There is no alcohol sold at this on-campus facility.

Atmosphere 2

The atmosphere at the Hart Center for Holy Cross hockey is pretty much what you would expect from a game held at a small rink such as this. There isn’t a whole lot of extra stuff going on here. Music blares over a tinny PA system that is turned up way too loud for a rink of this size. The resulting feedback makes it hard to understand the PA announcer a lot of the time.

A good portion of the crowd is made up of students, who scatter throughout the seating bowl. With the small size of the Hart Center rink, fans are right on top of the action and can make a lot of noise.

Neighborhood 3

Holy Cross is located in southwestern Worcester about three miles from downtown. There are not many dining or lodging options near the college. Fans will find many excellent dining choices a short 5-minute drive from campus. Worcester’s acclaimed “Restaurant Row”, located on Shrewsbury Street, is home to over forty different eateries, shops, and salons. It is a favorite destination for locals looking to enjoy a night on the town.

Often overshadowed by its neighbors in Boston and Providence, Worcester is carving out its niche as an affordable, attractive alternative to those cities. Worcester is not generally considered to be a destination city, and fans traveling from out of town will usually head on to Boston to spend their time. For fans visiting during ski season, Wachusett Mountain is located just ten miles outside of city limits.

Fans 2

Holy Cross averages about 1,000 fans per game at the Hart Center, which places them in the bottom ten in terms of attendance nationwide. Hockey is a big deal in this part of the country, and the fans know their stuff and are really into the action on the ice.

Access 3

The Holy Cross campus is located in southwestern Worcester, at the junction of Interstate 290 and Route 146. Hart Recreation Center is located at the southern edge of campus atop Mount Saint James, adjacent to many of the school’s athletic facilities. There is a large parking lot adjacent to the arena. The College of the Holy Cross’ location gives it spectacular views of the city below.

The renovations to the Hart Center are apparent before fans even enter the facility. The center has been greatly expanded and is now visible before even entering the campus. Fans will now enter a lobby that houses the ticket booths. The basketball arena and hockey rink share a concourse, which has been modernized and renovated. Gone are the old 70’s style carpeting, old trophy cases, and stained glass windows, replaced by modern, contemporary décor. New to the concourse are the Holy Cross athletic Hall of Fame and team shop.

The hockey rink is located to your right as you enter the facility. Fans enter the rink at the Hart Center on the near side of the rink, and all the seating is located on the far side of the ice. All seating is metal bleachers, except a few seats at center ice, where padded seatbacks have been installed. A standing room is available on three sides of the ice surface.

The seating area is steeply pitched, ensuring excellent views of the action from virtually all points. There is minimal netting here to obstruct views. With the small crowds present at the Hart Center, lines at the concession stand or restrooms are not an issue.

Return on Investment 4

Tickets for Holy Cross hockey at the Hart Center are sold in three tiers: chairback seating for $20, reserved bleacher seating for $15, and general admission seating for $12. Discounts are given to seniors, youths, and young alumni. At what point a young alumnus becomes an old alumnus and ceases to qualify for a discount is not clear.

Most fans simply purchase general admission tickets and sit wherever they please.

Parking is free in the lot adjacent to the Hart Center, and concessions are reasonably priced. A night at a Crusader hockey game is not going to break the bank.

Extras 2

While the Holy Cross hockey team does not have the history that the basketball or football teams have, banners commemorating both the men’s and women’s teams’ championships and tournament appearances line the Hart Center walls. Members of the Holy Cross Hall of Fame are commemorated both inside the hockey rink and in the Crusaders Hall of Fame on the concourse.

An extra point is awarded for the renovations that have transformed this formerly tired, dated facility into a modern, attractive one. Gone are the 70s-era carpeting, stained glass and old trophy cases that used to line the concourse.

Final Thoughts

With Notre Dame’s defection from the Hockey East Conference last year, there were serious rumors that the conference was considering adding Holy Cross as a member. If that were to happen, the Hart Center would not meet Conference specifications, and the team would have to move its home schedule downtown to the DCU Center.

Concerns over that building’s availability scuttled any realignment talks for the moment, but it is an issue that is sure to be revisited shortly. Until then, the Hart Center remains an adequate, if unspectacular, home for the Crusaders.


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

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