October 15, 2016 - Syracuse, New York
A lot of planning goes into road trips around here at RTR. Hours are spent checking schedules, checking maps, and seeing how new arena visits can fit into the schedule with a regular full time job and family life. This trip to Syracuse was the exception to the norm however, as until 3 hours before game time there was no plan at all to visit Tennity Ice Pavilion. With a day composed of waking up in a hotel in Watertown after having attended a St. Lawrence University game the night before, and a pending arrival in Binghamton at 530 for the game I had to broadcast that night for the team I work, for there was time to kill in the afternoon. A quick check of the ACHA website found Syracuse playing a 2PM contest only 5 miles off my intended route, so the decision was made to check out some ACHA hockey. Syracuse is well known in the college sports world, with perennial powerhouses in basketball and lacrosse, and having had some football success over the years playing in the Carrier Dome. Hockey flies under the radar at SU, and the men's team is a ACHA Division 1 club squad, whereas the women's team is NCAA sanctioned. There was a football game going on across town in the dome, but traffic getting to the arena was minimal. Tennity Ice Pavilion is a modest facility which opened in 2000, and sits high up on a hill on the edge of campus, next to the softball stadium and tennis courts. The building sits with a grassy lawn out front, and has a small profile from the outside. The exterior has a modern look, with a curved end wall and metal beams protruding from the side of the structure. The sides of the building are windowless and made of dark blue metal siding. The entrance is on the end of the building, and there is a very small sign indicating the venue's name near the entry doors. A small patio sits in front of the entrance, and above the simple entry doors is a glassed-in wall. One feature of note is that the lower part of the curved facade which makes up the bottom 8 feet or so of the wall has rectangular cutouts of opaque bricks which allow light to transfer to the interior of the building. The upper part of the curved facade is made of vertically ribbed siding which is white in color. As mentioned, hockey is not one of the sports on campus that draws a lot of fan interest, although the Orange hockey teams have seen quite a bit of on-ice success over the years.
Once inside the Tennity Ice Pavilion you find a building that looks bigger on the inside than it does from outside. An open floor plan has a circular studio rink just inside the main entrance, thus explaining the curved entrance wall and facade. The hockey rink itself sits in the middle of the building, with both rinks in full view at the same time. A small information desk sits immediately to the left of the entrance, and further in near the hockey rink itself is a table taking donations for game entry. No tickets are sold here, but a $5 donation to watch some hockey seemed more than fair. Free lineup sheets were given out, although they listed only the home roster, and not the players for Binghamton University who was in town for this Saturday afternoon contest. The arena itself is just a basic ice rink. Seating is made up of 4 rows of aluminum bleachers along one side of the ice with plastic benches attached. Another couple pairs of portable bleachers sits at the end of the ice. Seating capacity is listed at a modest 350. A makeshift pressbox sits above the seating, with orange Syracuse banners affixed in front of the pressbox and across the ice above the team benches. The white, high peaked ceiling is held up by white painted metal rafters, giving the place a rather clean and sterile look. Blue and white cinder block walls make up the interior. A scoreboard sits above the goal on the far end of the ice. This place is all business, and, although rather different in its layout with the open floor plan, is nothing more than a simple community ice rink. Like many schools across the country where basketball and football get all the attention, hockey takes a back seat at Syracuse. Interestingly, as Syracuse has a large number of broadcast majors, the pressbox was a busy place with undergrads trying their hand at broadcasting the online feeds for the game. Tennity Ice Pavilion is not the kind of place that hockey fans will make a pilgrimage to to experience a game at, but since it was on our route to our next stop it made for an enjoyable place to spend two and a half hours watching some hard working hockey players.
The game day presentation for a Syracuse Orange game at Tennity Ice Pavilion is all business. The hockey takes the spotlight, and there are really no ancillary activities of comforts in the building. Music is played during stoppages over a stout PA system. Nothing happens at intermission, although some of the small crowd on hand stepped outside onto the front patio to enjoy some beer which they had brought themselves. The food and drink concession area consists of a pair of vending machines, one for snacks, the other for Powerade and other drinks. That's it. There is a small merchandise shop selling Orange gear just off the main lobby area. With only about 100 fans on hand there really was no fan atmosphere to speak of, and many attendees were family members or friends of the players. We suspect that if the building was crammed with 500 or so fans during a playoff game the atmosphere would be rather fun. The game itself was also very one sided, with the Orange taking a 10-2 win and out-shooting Binghamton 70-11. The level of play seemed decent, as we did not know what to expect from ACHA hockey. It is also likely that had a football game not been going on or the weather had not been so unseasonably warm that a few more students would have been on hand to cheer on the Orange skaters. With this being an afternoon game an interesting architectural feature was magnified a bit, and very noticeable to attendees. The opaque bricks in the curved end wall added beams of light which reflected like prisms on many surfaces inside the building, including the rink glass. This made for an interesting, although somewhat distracting, visual effect while watching the game. Someday Syracuse University may make the jump to NCAA hockey, and if they do it will certainly not be at Tennity Ice Pavilion. Despite it not being a big time facility, this little ice rink on the hill has some interesting features and a rather unique layout which make it a decent place to stop and catch some hockey.