November 11, 2017 - Hamilton, New York
One of the very reasons that we started Roaming The Rinks is to document arenas that may someday no longer exist, so when we heard that Colgate University, located in the small town of Hamilton, NY, was getting a new arena we had mixed feelings. Starr Rink, the school's previous arena, was not only one of our first stops when we conceived the idea of this website, it was also a filming location for Slap Shot. Colgate would have to work hard to better the feel and tradition of such a place, and with Class of 1965 Arena they have done so with flying colors, although of the maroon, gray, and white variety in true Colgate Raider fashion. This modern venue opened in 2016, behind the grandstand of the football stadium, and around the corner from the aforementioned Starr Rink. Named in honor of Colgate hockey player Steven Riggs, a class of 1965 student who was killed in Vietnam, this modern arena is a true prize, and a great venue for college hockey. The exterior of the arena features gray concrete walls, a curved end wall, and a very nice glassed in lobby area which serves as the main entrance. Elaborate stone work covers the lower parts of the exterior walls, and a gradually vaulted roofline is evident if you look at the building from a distance. Metal accents on the building add to the modern look as well, and a large "C" Colgate logo stands on the corner of the arena. The place looks state of the art has a big time feel, yet is small and welcoming at the same time. Competing in the ECAC conference, Colgate has a long hockey tradition, and plays schools with similar history and character, all in the small town setting of Hamilton. No detailed was spared on the construction of Class of 1965 Arena, down to the detail work as the door handles are in the shape of the Colgate "C" logo as well. Although it will take a while for this new arena to amass the character of the old barn around the corner, Colgate has clearly taken steps to capture the spirit of not only the old venue, but the thriving campus community and spirit, in the construction of this arena. This Saturday afternoon contest against Dartmouth saw a decent crowd arriving before game time, and tickets were $15, certainly a good price for Division 1 hockey.
Fans entering Class of 1965 Arena on game day will find themselves in the lower lobby, which has the box office in one corner as well as an information table straight ahead of the main entry doors. A large trophy case sits in the lobby as well, which displays the hardware from past Raider success. One unique, and memorable item sits in the lobby as well, just inside the entry doors, and that is a giant goalie mask adorned with Colgate colors. It is big enough that a person can stand inside the cage if you wanted to. This neat, oversized replica is of interest to young fans and the young at heart. Entry into the arena itself is up a modern looking stairway, and past the team merchandise kiosk. Once inside the arena itself you are atop the seating bowl and on the main concourse, which runs around the entire building. The seating bowl is made up of 7 rows of maroon plastic seats circling the ice. The gently arching ceiling sits above gray metal rafters, and open ductwork. The wide upper concourse features a pair of food concession stands in the corners, and as the concourse circles one end of the ice, there is a sitting area complete with couches where some students were hanging out and catching up on homework. The lobby end is curved whereas the other end is squared off a bit. One key feature of the old Starr Rink layout was the large block lettering on one end spelling out "Colgate Raiders", and that touch was carried over into this arena, as the student section here has that feature. The student section, behind the visiting goalie for 2 periods as it should be, features benches rather than chairback seating, and the front of the student section near the glass allows for standing 2 rows deep thanks to an elevated platform behind the front row. In keeping with the modern look the interior walls on the sides of the arena are gray, whereas the end walls are Colgate maroon. A lounge and bar area sits inside the concourse on the end opposite the student section, and a modern video board sits above center ice. The modern amenities are a far cry from the 1960's feel of Starr Rink. The team benches here are situated across from each other, an old school feature that we love. A large press box sits at center ice, and this arena has all of the top notch features that today's hockey fans could want. With the concourse running behind the seating bowl standing room is also readily available here for fans who choose to watch from a higher vantage point. Although the seating capacity of 2,222 seats is only marginally larger than Starr Rink this place feel much bigger, and is a very suitable venue for Division 1 hockey. It is evident that a lot of thought went into the design of Class of 1965 Arena to make it feel like home for the Raiders, and in only its second season of use the arena appears to be meeting that goal.
The game day presentation at Class of 1965 Arena for a Colgate hockey game is modern and professional but not over the top. The video board is used nicely without too many commercials being force fed to the fans. The sight lines in the arena are great, so no matter where you are seated you have a good view. The goal horn is very loud and there is a brief light show that takes place when the horn is blown, but much of the energy and atmosphere in the building is generated by the fans themselves. There is a band on hand, albeit a rather quiet one, and the student section seemed to fill up as the game went on, although there were very few organized cheers or heckles emanating from that end of the building. The crowd is knowledgable and into the game, they are just on the quiet side. Intermission is kept free of on ice activity and fan contests, although the crowd did get excited when vendors were handing out free ice cream in the stands for a bit. ECAC hockey is built on tradition and is a reliable product, both on and off the ice. Colgate salutes the tradition of their school, as well as former players who have gone on to bigger things. A reoccurring theme in the building is the number 13, with the number being displayed one the ice surface behind each goal, and a large, but nicely done, mural extending across a good portion of the concourse wall titled "Defend the 13". We won't go into detail of the significance of the numeral's importance in school history and lore, but were interested to read about it online and would encourage you to do so. A wall of jerseys is also present on the concourse paying tribute to former Raiders who went on the play pro hockey. The usual banners hang from the ceiling, including one marking the school's Frozen Four appearance in 1990. In another example of the arena's attention to the past is a plaque on the concourse wall recognizing the team's former arena, Starr Rink. The game itself was entertaining with the Raiders claiming a 3-2 win over the Big Green in a game that saw a pair of goals scored in the last minute of play. We really enjoyed our time at Class of 1965 Arena, and came away hopeful that as the classic hockey barns that we love are seeing their life-cycles come to an end that there is a chance that they can be replaced with buildings that will, eventually, share in the character and charm that the old storied arenas were able to develop. Perhaps it is the fact that a small town like Hamilton, NY is a place slow to change, or that the university has a longstanding tradition of having a great, yet underrated, hockey arena on campus with its prior building, but the designers of Class of 1965 Arena seem to have nailed the intangibles that make an arena one that can become great, and were able to do so while building a modern, comfortable, and appealing building that, although nearly the opposite of Starr Rink in design, detail, and sophistication, captures the spirit of the town and the university, and most of all the team.