December 31, 2008 - Binghamton, New York
Readers of this site may have been wondering why there was no review of this fine arena on my site yet due to the fact that I live only about an an hour and a half from the place, and the fact that Binghamton is only an hour from my regular stomping grounds in Elmira. I am not sure why I procrastinated in getting a review on the site, but at least it is here now. Over the last 15 years or so I have made numerous stops here for games involving the AHL's Rangers and Senators, as well as a stop during the UHL era to see the B.C. Icemen, who had a pretty cool theme and marketing presence. This old school arena opened and saw its first hockey action back in 1973, and if you ask me this place should be the prototype for all minor hockey league arenas. It is small at only 4800 seats or so, but that is why I like the place so much. The arena sits in downtown Binghamton, and there are various parking lots and garages within a short distance. The structure is odd, although not unique as it is a virtual copy of the arena in Wheeling, WV, and, so I have been told , is also identical to the arena in Cornwall Ontario. I guess someone listened to me though about this place being a prototype as both Cornwall and Wheeling were built a few years after the BCVMA. The main entrance is up a concrete flight of stairs from the outside of the building, and there is a large concrete deck where fans gather awaiting the doors to open (at least when the weather is good.) The box office is at ground level and you can also take a flight of stairs up the inside of the building to get to the concourse. There is a nice memorial wall and monument to the area veterans outside the arena, and it is lit up at night for all to see. There is a large lighted marquee sign on the road near the front corner of the building. The most prominent facade of the building however is actually the back of the building as that faces the neaby highway which runs along the river. For this New Years Eve game I secured my $17.25 ticket high up near the redline and headed inside.
Once inside you find and awesome no-frills barn where hockey is the center attraction. The single concourse runs around the entire building, and is wide enough, although it does get crowded during intermission. I love the layout with the large windows along the entire concourse, which give a look outside from 1 story above street level. There are the usual food vendors and concession stands, and the main souvenir stand is in the wider part of the concourse near the main entrance. Restrooms are down a flight of stairs on the lower level, and are located in each corner of the building. The ice and seating area is hidden behind doors which open up to one of the best viewing perspectives in all of hockey. The seating in Binghamton is STEEP, and even a top row seat is very close to the ice and offers an amazing view. The doors to the concourse are about half way up the seating area, so you dont have to trek up hundreds of steps to get to or from your seat. The seating is in a "4 grandstand" design, therefore there are no seats in the immediate corners and there is actually some dead space there, although 2 of the corners are used as entrances to and from the lockerrooms. Perhaps my favorite thing when looking around the BCVMA is that there is just about no luxury seating. There is one small section high up across from the benches where the last couple rows have been converted to luxury boxes of sorts, but that is it. This is a hockey barn for the common man, and I like it that way. The architecture of the building also is something to behold. It is somewhat of an open floor plan design, and each individual grandstand is self supported and does not touch the ceiling in any way. From the top rows you can look over onto the concourse. Also if in the corners you can see how the support of the grandstand juts out at an angle on the corner of the concourse. The seats are all padded individual seats, although to me they seem a little low, kind of like you are sitting too close to the ground. The only seats which aren't great are the seats way at the end of the sides as the seats are not angled, so you have to turn your head all game to see the action, although these seem to be the last seats sold.
Taking in a game here is a blast. The place is seemingly always at or near capacity, and the entire community and surrounding area really supports the team, as such Binghamton is an ideal example of what a minor league hockey town should be. As mentioned the views are great. There are 2 video boards in opposite corners which do show replays. The PA system is quite good, and despite the low ceiling they have the blimp flying around during intermission dropping prizes into the crowd. The crowd for this game against Albany was pretty subdued, although I have seen this place get absolutely rockin' when a fight breaks out or during critical plays. The fans are so close to the ice I am sure it is an intimidating place for visitors to play. This particular game I attended was kind of a snoozer with Albany taking a 2-1 win, and everyone's gloves stayed on all game. Still the hockey atmosphere at this place is hard to beat. The fans know their hockey, and even clap for the subtle plays such as a good penalty killing rush where a skater just skates around with the puck killing time. The amenities are sufficient as well, and with such a great vantage point to watch the game from just about every seat, taking in a game here is always fun. I think the AHL wants to have more of the larger buildings, or buildings with more of a corporate presence, but if you ask me this is what the AHL was meant to be- a place to watch an amazingly high level of hockey, yet without the hassle of the NHL-type crowds and arenas. The BCVMA also exudes an air of history as watching a game here, save the video screens now in the corners, is identical to watching a game over 35 years ago, and that is how it should be.
*Note- The top photo of the exterior of the building was taken in the fall of 2007 when I was at the arena for a preseason game. It was too dark to get good exterior shots when I attended the game chronicled above.
Other information about the Binghamton Senators is available at: Senators home
Other information about the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena is available at: Arena home
More photos of the Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena are available Here