Slater Family Ice Arena - Bowling Green State Falcons
,Photos by Marc Viquez, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Slater Family Ice Arena
417 N Mercer Rd
Bowling Green, OH 43403
Year Opened: 1967
Bowling Green State’s Hockey Madhouse
At the beginning of the decade, there was serious talk about Bowling Green State University dropping its hockey program for the school to save between $6-$10 million. The news was shocking for the fans of the club due to its tradition and the 1984 NCAA Championship club that defeated Duluth-Minnesota 5-4 in four overtime periods. Would hockey come to an end after 25 years since winning the school’s lone NCAA championship?
At the time, the Falcons hockey program was in mired of a 12-season losing streak, top players were not coming to the school, and the arena needed major renovations at a $4 million clip. This is where the program’s tradition from hockey to figure skating royalty stepped in to create the Bring Back the Glory Campaign. A move that would indeed accomplish that task to continue hockey being played in the building for the foreseeable future.
Notable alumni Rob Blake, Garey Galley, Alissa Czisny, Tom Blakeley, Steve Green, Scott Hamilton, and the club’s first head coach Jack Vivian all helped and donated money in the grassroots campaign to help with facility improvements, athletic scholarships, and more.
The first stage of renovations was completed before the 2010/2011 season that included new rubberized flooring in the lobby to allow skaters to wall back and forth between the renovated locker rooms and the new multipurpose facility that was once the old curling rink. Other changes included new lighting, an improved ventilation system, and three new compressors.
Renovations in 2017 included replacing the dasher boards, glass, and netting, along with the entire floor and the majority of the cooling system, which has been in place for nearly 50 years of the arena’s existence. At this time, there is a silent phase to enclose the south end of the building to add three new suites, a Falcon Club seating area with a full-service bar, and twin ribbon video boards for $7.5 million.
Hockey at Bowling Green State began as a club sport in 1963 and four years later the BGSU Ice Arena debuted with a seating capacity of 2,863. When Falcons hockey became a varsity sport in 1969 it ushered in a wave of success that resulted in 9 NCAA Tournament appearances from 1977-1990, the school’s lone NCAA championship in 1984, and multiple future NHL players. In 1989, the building’s capacity increased an even 5,000 for hockey games.
The arena gets its name from alumni Scott Slater, the head of Toledo glass engineering and contracting company, who donated $2 million towards renovations, and BGSU’s trustees voted to rename the hockey arena after Mr. Slater’s family in 2016.
The Falcons are coming off their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 29 seasons and it is quite the change from just a decade ago when the program was on its deathbed. The donations, grassroots efforts from notable alumni from hockey to figure skating, and the fans and students should be applauded as hockey is alive and well on the campus of Bowling Green State University
Food & Beverage 3
The food and beverage options are somewhat basic at the hockey game and include hot dogs, bratwurst, nachos, and Coca-Cola products. These are nice little snacks to have while watching the game and are perfectly affordable for anyone’s budget. However, if you are really hungry it might be best to grab something to eat somewhere near campus, especially across the street at BG Burgers.
Beer is sold in the building and features 20 oz aluminum bottles of Budweiser, Bud Light, and Bud platinum, in Yuengling. Each bottle sells for $7 and seems to be a popular choice for many fans during the event. As with other Bowling Green venues, their locally-produced Stadium salsa is served on the nachos.
It does not take long to realize that this is indeed a hockey school and many in attendance are true college hockey fans. The horse-shaped seating bowl consists of orange bleacher seats. An average crowd is somewhat near capacity against many teams coming into town except a few notable rivalries from Detroit Tec, Miami (Ohio), or the boys from Ohio State.
The student section begins filling up at the north end and right behind them the band takes their place prepping for tonight’s game. When the opposing club enters the ring during player announcements students hold up newspapers and shout: “Who’s that, never heard of you!” at the top of their lungs. Once play has begun the majority of the crowd focuses on the action on the ice and cheers and jeers appropriately.
The south end features tabletop seating against the glass that is intended for groups of four or more with wait service. This area is also open up to a few concession kiosks, one of the main entrances, and the official team store. This section has to be roped off after each period to allow the Zamboni to make its entrance onto the rink to surface it. This area does get a little congested during times but it adds much of the excitement to the game.
The arena also features low-level seating that Harkens back to old-time hockey from the 1960s or 1970s, or whatever your definition of old-time hockey is depending on your age. There is a sense of this being an old barn or just a typical hockey rink but based on the amount of action and fans in place during a game it is quite a special place to take in an evening of hockey.
The walls are decorated with famous alumni who have made their way to the National Hockey League, represented the U.S. at the Olympics, or who have captured the Hobey Baker Award as being the top college player in NCAA hockey. There are also murals and retired jerseys hanging up of Nelson Emerson, McPhee, and Brian Holzinger.
The concourses are very narrow and feature the majority of the concessions and a few tables are set up for anyone who wants to enjoy the iconic chuck-a-puck contest or perhaps grab an extra pen key chain from one of the many businesses who come to the game.
The Slater Family Ice Arena is located on the BGSU campus within a few yards of other athletic venues including Doyt L. Perry Stadium, Stroh Center, and the baseball and softball fields. Just across the street from the basketball arena are various fast-food chains and hotels. Downtown is about a mile west of campus which offers a few more options.
BG Burgers is across the street from the building and features locally-sourced burgers where customers can build their own or choose from special menu items. They also have chicken wings, Panini sandwiches, or desserts from The Cheesecake Factory. However, they are open until 10 pm (11 pm on weekends); it might be wise to grab something before the game.
City Tap and The Attic is in historic downtown that offers its range of freshly made burgers plus many craft beers on tap from $4.50 to $5.50. The Jackie O coffee blonde is quite tasty but their grill closes before 10 PM on weekends.
The downtown core features buildings constructed during the city’s “brief boom” from the late 19th century to the early 20th century. The storefronts have been kept intact while the interiors have been altered into bars, restaurants, shops, and other forms of retail.
One of them is Grounds for Thought, an impressive coffee shop and used book store that is quite large and busy with customers playing board games, using their computers, having something to eat or drink, putting a puzzle together, or catching up with some reading.
The Falcons, as of last season (2018-2019), averaged around 2,300 people in gangs in a 5,000-seat building; that is somewhat down from its heyday of the 1990s. However, the place never feels empty nor like a dirge and that’s because many who are in attendance are true hockey fans there for one purpose and one purpose only, you’re there to cheer the Falcons to victory. This is not a night out for social gatherings but rather a night specifically designed for college hockey.
The building is located off I-75, about a fourth of a mile from the exit ramp. The parking is ample and workers help guide motorists to the proper parking spot near the building. Follow the crowd heading to the game and you will have little trouble finding the entrances.
The seating bowl can become congested but there are enough entrances from the main concourse to help guide visitors to the restrooms and exits. It might be beneficial to leave your seat for something to eat or use the bathroom before certain areas of the concourse are temporarily roped off for players to make their way to the dressing rooms or for the Zamboni to make its way on the ice for surfacing duties.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices for games range in price at $15 to $22 if purchased in advance. These prices change from $17 to $24 if purchase the day of the game at the box office. However, it should be noted that games against Notre Dame and Miami (Ohio) will fetch higher pricing of anywhere between $24 to $35 if purchased the day of the game. If you happen to be in town during the exhibition season all tickets are $5 apiece.
Slater Family Ice Arena earns a point for deep hockey traditions that are on display throughout the concourse featuring gold medal Olympians, former NHL players, and NCAA college All-Americans.
The arena earns a second point for keeping fans roped off on the concourse during intermissions for the Zamboni to make its way onto the ice and for players to make their way to the locker rooms. Fans can line up against the rope to reach their hand out for a lucky handshake.
The low ceiling gives the building a nice charm and creates a home-ice advantage with the noise decibels bouncing off during games.
The last point is for the student section singing Summer Nights at the start of the third period. A tradition when the song became popular in 1977 and one that has maintained its course in Bowling Green hockey tradition.
It is amazing to think that the BGSU hockey program was on its deathbed a decade ago, but donations and grassroots efforts from notable alumni, fans, and students have kept hockey alive and well on the campus of Bowling Green State University.