Photos by Gregory Koch, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.00
Prince William Ice Center 5180 Dale Boulevard Woodbridge, VA 22193
Year Opened: 2011
Mason on the Ice
The George Mason Patriots ice hockey team competes in Division I of the ACHA, the top level of intercollegiate club ice hockey in the United States. Play at this level is roughly comparable to Division III of the NCAA, but predominately features teams like Mason which do not sponsor the sport at a varsity level.
The Patriots play their hockey at the Prince William Ice Center in Dale City Virginia, about a half hour drive from their campus in Fairfax. The original Prince William Ice Center opened in 1996 but collapsed in 2010 due to heavy snow. Thankfully, nobody was injured as they were able to get everyone out in time, but the building was completely destroyed. The current version opened in November 2011.
In addition to Mason, several youth and adult teams of various levels play at the Prince William Ice Center, and many figure skaters and speed skaters train here as well. There are two rinks at the PWIC, an Olympic-sized one and an NHL-sized one. Mason always plays on the NHL-sized one.
Food & Beverage 4
There is a snack bar located in the lobby of the Prince William Ice Center, to the left of the front doors to the building and directly across from the doors to the NHL-sized rink. There are some tables you can eat at and warm up during intermission, or you can bring in your food and eat it in the bleachers while watching the game. There is a good range of offerings here, including several all-day breakfast options, plus food like pizza, burgers, chicken tenders, and hot dogs which are more conducive to the time of day Mason usually plays. bottled water and a wide range of soft drinks and energy drinks are available, as are ice cream floats.
Alcohol (beer, wine, and hard seltzer) is available to fans of legal drinking age, which is surprising for a municipal rink. Pries are reasonable - other than alcohol, everything is $7 or less, and most of it is much less.
Walking into the Prince William Ice Center will put you in a spacious lobby with display cases, banners, and trophies dedicated to the various teams who play here. The NHL rink is to the left of the entrance while the Olympic-sized rink is to the right. Mason always plays on the NHL rink, but if you want to confirm, you can ask at the front desk.
Once inside the rink area, there are a few rows of bleachers on one side of the ice. Netting extends from the top of the glass to the ceiling, so you will be watching the game through it no matter how high you sit. That being said, all seats are pretty close to the action so you should have a good view.
There is not much going on here besides the game itself. Music is played during breaks in the action, though it is not so loud as to become annoying. The PA announcer announces the starting lineups and will typically announce goal scorers, but often does not announce penalties. They do put the time remaining on the penalty up on the scoreboard, so you can at least see who it was called on and whether it was a major or a minor. Like most of the ACHA, this is a pretty basic experience in a standard municipal rink.
There is not much in the immediate vicinity of the Prince William Ice Center. There are a few fast food restaurants, gas stations, and the like, but this is a standard suburban area with not much going on. There are some shopping centers closer to I-95 which have some dining and other options, but nothing beyond the ordinary. The Dale City/Woodbridge area is a typical suburb of Washington, DC.
By our estimation, there were between 100 and 200 fans in attendance when Stadium Journey visited the George Mason game, most of whom had some connection to the players on the ice. The crowd could be loud at times, while at other times it was quiet enough to hear the live stream commentator if you were sitting close by. This is a pretty standard crowd for ACHA, more than some people might expect for a team few know exists, but a far cry from what you'd see at an NCAA level.
Since the Prince William ice Center is half an hour from Mason's campus with no transportation available, you will find few if any of their students in attendance.
The Prince William ice Center is located a few miles off I-95, and it is easy to get to, though we suggest using a GPS as it isn't clearly signed. Once you get in the lot, the ice arena is located behind the Boys' and Girls' club. Follow the road past that building to the Ice Center lot. Once you get there, you may have trouble finding a space as the lot is relatively small. Even if you get there early, you may struggle to find a space. This is a municipal rink, so other groups are usually using the ice before Mason's game. You may need to circle the lot a few times waiting for someone to leave.
As mentioned, other groups often have the ice before George Mason does, so if you arrive early, you may have to wait for them to clear out before you go in the rink. This could be as late as 20-30 minutes before the game starts. That being said, you can eat something at the tables in the snack bar while you wait, or watch the TV which is often showing a hockey game or some other sporting event.
Getting in and out of the stands can be difficult, as there is a small space between the bleachers and the entrance that may have a lot of people trying to crowd into it at once. It can get bad during intermission, but iis even worse before and after the game, as people will be coming for one event at the same time people are leaving the other. You shouldn't have too many issues, but it can be claustrophobic for a minute or two before you manage to get where you need to go.
Restrooms are located in a walkway between the NHL and Olympic rinks, and you should have no issues here. There was water on the floor of the men's room when we went, but this is to be expected when people are trekking ice from the rink in there, and there is no reason to suspect it was anything but water.
Return on Investment 3
Tickets to George Mason hockey games are $10 for students and $15 for adults (i.e. non-students.) This is on the high-end for ACHA hockey but certainly will not break the bank. Concessions are reasonably priced as well.
Look for the banners in the rink and displays in the lobby honoring the myriad of teams and individual athletes that call or have called the Prince William Ice Center home.
There is a large George Mason logo on one set of doors to the building, plus the team logo on center ice. Even though this is a municipal rink, it feels like the team's home, not just some rented place they play at.
There is a merchandise table just inside the entrance to the link that sells GMU hockey gear.
While Prince William Ice Center is a municipal rink, don't let that fool you. A George Mason ACHA hockey game here is definitely a fun experience for college hockey fans in Northern Virginia. With no NCAA teams calling this area home, club hockey is basically the only way to check out the college level of the game. George Mason fans and college hockey fans in general will definitely want to make the trek down to Dale City to check out a Patriots game.