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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Thompson Arena - Dartmouth Big Green

Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57

Thompson Arena 4 Summer St. Hanover, NH 03755

Year Opened: 1975

Capacity: 3,500


Big Green Pucks


Thompson Arena was designed by noted architect and structural engineer Pier Luigi Nervi, the “Poet in Concrete,” renowned for buildings he designed for the 1960 Rome Olympics. It was built in 1975 to replace Davis Rink, the home of Dartmouth hockey from 1929 to 1975. The facility was named for Dartmouth class of 1928 alumnus Rupert C. Thompson, who was a major benefactor of the arena.


Dartmouth adopted a shade of forest green as its official color in 1866. Starting in the 1920s the school’s athletic teams were referred to as the “Indians” until the nickname came under criticism in the 1970s. The nickname “Big Green” refers to the Dartmouth Green in the center of campus.


Hockey has been played at Dartmouth since 1906. The Big Green have qualified for four NCAA Tournaments, most recently in 1980. The squad has reached the Frozen Four every time they have played in the tournament, reaching the finals in 1948 and 1949. Eighteen Big Green alumni have played in the National Hockey League.


Food & Beverage 3


There are concession stands in opposite corners of the arena. Basic stadium fare is served here, with hot dogs, pizza slices and nachos anchoring the menu. There’s a good selection of snack items available, including popcorn, pretzels, churros and ice cream novelties. You can even pick up a piece of fruit should you be so inclined.


Coca-Cola products are featured at Thompson Arena, along with a selection of hot beverages which come in handy on a cold New Hampshire winter night. No alcohol is sold at this on-campus facility.


A bit of variety is achieved in the concessions menu with the inclusion of the Boloco stand, which features a variety of burritos. Hungry fans can choose from chicken, steak or vegetarian fillings.


Atmosphere 2


Thompson Arena is a fairly old-school facility without a lot of modern amenities. For example, the rink still employs an old dot-matrix scoreboard hung at center ice. As you may expect, the game day presentation is pretty basic and reserved, especially when compared to the many newer arenas in the area.


The Dartmouth athletic staff do a lot right here, with a nice sound system and an enthusiastic PA announcer keeping fans appraised of the action and the energy level up. T-shirt tosses and youth skates during intermissions keep casual fans involved. However, without a strong presence from the student body and arena staples like a pep band, there’s only so much energy a small crowd can generate.


Still, the fans are into the game, knowledgeable about their team and enthusiastic in their support. Many fans in attendance have been coming to Big Green games for decades and will gladly tell you about the good old days when Dartmouth squads were more successful. The compact footprint of the ECAC means that there is likely to be a strong turnout from visiting fans during your visit. Visits from traditional Ivy League rivals bring out a stronger fan presence throughout the season.


Neighborhood 5


The village of Hanover, New Hampshire boasts a population of about 9,000 citizens, not much larger than Dartmouth College’s enrollment of 6,350 students. As you would expect, there is a great small-town feel to Hanover. The Dartmouth Green acts as a focal point for all town activities and the campus is worth a stroll to experience its classic Georgian architecture.


Located just a five-minute walk from Thompson Arena, Main Street features a bunch of shops and restaurants and is a great place to explore during your visit. Highlights include the Dartmouth Co-Op, where you can pick up some Big Green gear, Lou’s Restaurant and Bakery for a snack, and Murphy’s on the Green for a traditional pub experience. There are a good dozen eateries located within a few blocks here on Main Street.


Should you wish to stay in Hanover, there are lodging options located in this area as well, including the Hanover Inn and Six South Street Hotel. Visitors looking for other things to do in the area will find a wealth of outdoor options, including the Appalachian Trail, which runs right through Hanover. In the snowy winter months of the hockey season, several ski resorts are located just a short drive away.


For a unique and quintessential small-town New England experience, cross the Connecticut River into Vermont and visit the Norwich Inn. It’s said to be the inspiration for the television series Newhart. The Inn features a quaint, small pub that seats about 25. Despite its small size, the Inn brews their own beers and features an excellent pub menu.


Fans 3


In the seasons since the pandemic, Dartmouth has averaged about 2,200 fans per game at Thompson Arena. This ranks them around 40th among all the teams in Division One, just under the national and Ivy League averages.


While hockey is the marquee winter sport at Dartmouth, there’s not a huge presence by the student body at most Big Green hockey games. Much of the crowd in attendance is made up of locals and families out to enjoy an affordable night of entertainment. Fans are enthusiastic and supportive, but not rowdy. You can feel comfortable bringing the family to a Dartmouth hockey game. With the compact footprint of the ECAC conference, it’s not unusual to see a decent turnout from visiting fans.


Access 4


Dartmouth College and the small town of Hanover, New Hampshire may be well off the beaten path, but that doesn’t mean it’s difficult to get to. Located just a few miles from the intersection of Interstates 89 and 91, Thompson Arena is located to the southeast of the Dartmouth campus, near the school’s other athletic facilities, including Memorial Field, Red Rolfe Field at Biondi Park, Leede Arena and Scully-Fahey Field.


Driving is easily the most efficient method to arrive in Hanover, but there are bus and car services that run from Manchester, located an hour to the southeast, and to Logan Airport in Boston. Also, Amtrak has a train station just across the Connecticut River in White River Junction, Vermont.


There is a large parking lot adjacent to Thompson Arena. The main entrance to the rink is on its west side. Fans will enter into a small lobby, where the ticket booths are located. After a quick security check, fans will find themselves on a 360-degree concourse that wraps around the top of the seating bowl. All seats in Thompson Arena are plastic bleachers with backs. The steep pitch of the seating bowl ensures great sight lines no matter where you sit. There is plenty of standing room all around the facility, along with accessible places for fans.


Concession stands and rest rooms are located in opposite corners of the facility. Lines can get long during intermission, so plan your trips wisely.



Return on Investment 5


All seats at Thompson Arena are priced at $15. Youth aged 3-15 can purchase tickets discounted to $10. Parking is free in the lot adjacent to the hockey rink. Concessions are moderately priced, with no single item at the main stands costing more than five dollars. Free roster sheets and posters are available for all visiting fans. Put together, a night at a Big Green hockey game is a most affordable entertainment option for local sports fans.


Extras 3


As you might expect from a team that’s played as long as Dartmouth, there’s a lot of history to the program. This history is displayed throughout Thompson Arena. On the east end of the building are banners commemorating conference championships and tournament appearances from both the men’s and women’s teams. Sharp-eyed fans will also see a bunch of banners honoring figure skating titles on the west end of the rink.


Photos of alumni who have played in the National Hockey League and who have represented their countries in international competitions line the concourse. There are also displays chronicling the history of Dartmouth hockey, hockey Hall of Famers and more.


If you happen to visit Hanover for a matchup with rival Princeton, be prepared for a barrage of tennis balls to rain down onto the ice after Dartmouth’s first goal. Why? During a road game against Princeton in 1998, a Princeton student threw a single tennis ball at the Dartmouth goaltender after the Tigers scored their first goal. When Princeton came to Dartmouth later in the season, the Big Green student body responded by throwing not just one tennis ball onto the ice after the first Dartmouth goal, but several hundred. The tradition continues to this day.



Final Thoughts


Thompson Arena is one of those unique old hockey barns that make Stadium Journeys so interesting. While Dartmouth fans will gladly tell you about the Big Green’s good old days, they continue to support the team through thick and thin.


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


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