Last week, Larry Mahoney published a well-written piece in the BDN that a new turf surface for Alfond Stadium is a top priority for the University of Maine’s athletic department. READ BDN STORY HERE
Athletic administrator Ken Ralph noted in the story that the University’s softball, track and field and field hockey facilities needed upgrades as well.
That’s all good and all, but what about UMaine’s dilapidated hockey arena?
Yes, I’m talking about Alfond Arena, which is celebrating its 42nd birthday this upcoming season.
Why are Ken Ralph and company ignoring it?
There are a lot of great things about the Alfond: The history, the balcony, the fact that the fans are right on top of the ice.
But it’s time to be realistic. This is 2019. Not 1977. The Alfond is not a modern-day facility that simply will not work from a long-term perspective.
There are tons of obstructed views. The chairback seats in the lower bowl are tiny, and if you’re tall, your knees are going to be scrunched into the row in front of you. Concession options are limited, which leads to fans standing in line through an entire intermission for a Coke or a hot dog.
You can’t recruit talented players by selling the national championships of 1993 and 1999. Jimmy Howard and Paul Kariya are not walking through that door. And Jimmy Montgomery sure as heck isn’t leaving his cushy NHL job to come back to Orono, so don’t go there.
UMaine completely missed the boat by not playing hockey in the pristine Cross Insurance Center in downtown Bangor, which the Black Bears’ hoops teams now call home. The design of the building resembles UMass Lowell’s Tsongas Arena – which is in my opinion the best barn in Hockey East – and there’s tons of eating and drinking options just a walk away.
Simply put, the University needs to make a new hockey arena a high priority for its athletic department. If you keep renovating the Alfond, you’re essentially putting lipstick on a pig. We can’t act the way Bob Cimbollek did when he fought to no avail to save the Bangor Auditorium.
No disrespect to the football program, but hockey is and always will be UMaine’s best chance to bring another national championship home. And the Bears are going to keep struggling by not playing in a modern facility.
The memories in the Alfond will always be there, but it’s time to let go of the past and think of the future. The “old girl” has lost its luster.
By Ryan McLaughlin