Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Toscano Family Ice Forum
523 Jim Calhoun Way
Storrs, CT 06268
Year Opened: 2023
Bringing the Huskies Home
The University of Connecticut ice hockey program started play in 1960. At the time, the team competed at the Division III level, playing at an outdoor rink adjacent to Memorial Stadium. The Huskies played outdoors until the construction of the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum in 1998.
The opening of the Freitas Forum coincided with the squad’s move to Division I. After spending a few seasons in the MAAC/Atlantic Hockey Association, the Huskies moved to the more prestigious Hockey East Conference in 2014. The team also began playing a portion of their schedule at the XL Center in Hartford. Eventually, the Huskies played their entire home schedule off campus, as the Freitas Forum did not meet NCAA or Hockey East standards. A study done by the university concluded that it cost the school $20,000 to hold a game in Hartford.
Wanting to move back to campus, the university began construction of a new $48 million hockey facility in the school’s athletic district. Named in honor of UConn Board of Trustees Chairman Dan Toscano (’87) and his family in recognition of a donation to the school, the first game at the Toscano Family Ice Forum was played on January 14, 2023. Included in the new rink are team offices, lounges, training areas, and strength and conditioning facilities. The rink is also made available for public skating sessions.
At the current time, the plan is to split UConn’s schedule between Toscano Forum and the XL Center. The Huskies have yet to qualify for the NCAA postseason tournament. Five UConn alumni have played in the National Hockey League.
Food & Beverage 3
In many new sporting venues, the concessions experience is a big focus. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be the case at Toscano Forum.
There are small concession stands in each corner of the venue. Each stand contains a slightly different menu, so you may need to wander around to find what you need. There’s not a whole lot offered at these stands, with hot dogs, pizza slices, and assorted snacks comprising the menu.
What saves Toscano from a sub-par score is the presence of Bear’s Barbeque in the southeast corner of the arena. Fans can choose from their popular pulled pork and brisket, served in a sandwich with chips or over mac and cheese.
Bottles of Coca-Cola products are sold at the Toscano Forum. Among the many different beers served at Toscano are two beers brewed especially for UConn athletics, Husky Hops IPA from Kinsmen Brewing and TwoConn Easy Ale from Two Roads Brewing. Fans looking for wine or mixed drinks will be able to find choices at UConn hockey games.
When designing the Toscano Family Ice Forum, the university made a conscious decision to keep the venue small so that it would be filled to near capacity most nights, maximizing the noise and energy during games. After attending a UConn game, it is clear that leadership’s vision has paid off.
Stadium Journey attended a game during the semester break, so there was a very sparse turnout from the student body. This had a minimal effect on the crowd and atmosphere, as the empty student sections were filled up by fans who otherwise might have been shut out from attending a game. The band was in attendance, filling the rink with music during play stoppages and continuing student section traditions, such as turning their backs on the opponents during play stoppages and taunting the visiting goalie whenever the opportunity arose.
The UConn staff put on a professional-level show, with a high-quality video board anchoring the presentation with hype videos, replays, crowd shots, and more. The PA announcer adds energy to the proceedings and an excellent sound system fills the venue with noise during play stoppages along with the band. Since the venue is filled primarily with season ticket holders, the fans in attendance are knowledgeable and enthusiastic.
The University of Connecticut is located in the village of Storrs, which is incorporated within the town of Mansfield. It’s a short drive from Toscano Forum to downtown Storrs. With just over 15,000 residents, Storrs’ population pales in comparison to UConn’s total enrollment of almost 33,000 students. It’s no surprise that the 4,000-acre UConn campus dominates this small town. Visitors to Storrs can still find some solid dining options in town.
Downton Storrs is located right across the street from the main entrance to UConn. While the downtown area has some good choices for dining, the must-see for any visiting fans is the UConn Dairy Bar. The Dairy Bar, operated entirely by students, has been in operation since 1953. All products are made fresh on-site. While enjoying your ice cream you can see the cows grazing in the adjacent fields.
Since there aren’t a ton of options for lodging near UConn, many fans coming to the area will move on to Hartford, located about a 30-minute drive to the west, or the twin casinos of Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun, located about 45 minutes to the southeast.
The response to the Huskies moving back to campus has been overwhelming. Tickets have been grabbed up almost as quickly as they have been made available, and Toscano Forum is packed night in and night out with rabid Husky fans. Stadium Journey attended a game during the 2023 semester break without much of a turnout from the student body, and the arena was still nearly filled.
Connecticut has never been thought of as a traditional hockey market, overshadowed by New York on one side and Boston on the other. However local hockey fans are as knowledgeable and passionate as any of their neighbors, and they make Toscano Forum an intimidating place for visiting teams.
The University of Connecticut is located in rural Storrs, a small village located about a half-hour drive east of Hartford. Storrs is not directly served by any highways, so fans visiting Toscano Forum will have to navigate some country roads to reach campus. Interstate 84 runs about seven miles north of UConn.
Toscano Family Ice Forum is located on the southwest edge of campus alongside UConn’s other athletic venues, including Gampel Pavilion, Elliot Ballpark, Marrone Stadium, and Freitas Ice Forum. Fans who have not been on campus in a while may be quite surprised by the changes in the area, as the baseball, softball, soccer, lacrosse, and hockey teams all have received new venues in recent years.
Fans visiting Toscano Forum will enter the north side of the venue into a small lobby, climbing a flight of stairs to reach the 360-degree concourse, which runs atop the seating bowl. The standing room and bar rail seating are located at this level. The seating bowl is steeply pitched, ensuring great sight lines from all seats in this cozy arena.
Restrooms are located on the east side of the facility and are large enough to accommodate even a sellout crowd. Lines are minimal at concession stands but can still form during intermission.
Return on Investment 2
The ticketing system for UConn hockey games at Toscano Forum is unique. Since the venue is very small, the first choice for seating goes to season ticket holders, with a portion of the seating reserved for students, visiting teams, families, etc. As you might imagine, this doesn’t leave very many tickets left over. Those tickets that remain are snapped up quickly when they go on sale to the public.
Most fans must then scour the secondary market for UConn hockey tickets. A recent scan of ticketing websites show that they start at around $45, increasing markedly from there. Add in concessions that are priced a bit on the high side, and attending a UConn game can become an expensive proposition.
Parking in the lots directly adjacent to Toscano Forum is reserved for season ticket holders. Fans attending UConn hockey games who do not hold parking passes must park at the South Garage, about a half-mile walk from the front door of the arena. This can be a tough walk on a cold winter night, and fans pay $15 for the privilege.
A great tradition at UConn hockey games is the playing of Brass Bonanza, the old Hartford Whalers goal song, after Husky goals.
Every self-respecting arena needs to have a signature selfie spot for that perfect Instagram post. Toscano Forum has a fire pit in the entry plaza and a giant goalie helmet on the concourse. Both have proven to be very popular locations.
There’s a display on the south wall of the arena that outlines some of the history of the UConn hockey program. Photos of every player on both the men’s and women’s teams are posted on the east wall of the facility.
When planning a new venue, size matters. Do you want a small venue that is guaranteed to be filled with rowdy fans, or a large facility that will be mostly empty most nights, but which will come in handy for a few dates each season? The University of Connecticut opted for the former. They could have built bigger, but would it have dampened this excellent facility?