UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN River Falls
By: Zach Dwyer
Falcon News Service
Permission to republish this story is granted provided credit is given to the author and to Falcon News Service.
Recent renovation of Hunt Arena on the UW-River Falls campus have improved many amenities and created an entirely new fan experience for those in attendance at Falcons hockey games.
Updates to the arena will have an impact on how fans experience Falcons hockey. Interim Athletic Director Crystal Lanning described some of the most noteworthy additions fans can look forward to.
"One of the biggest concerns with Hunt Arena previously was the sightlines and the number of seats. The way the seating was arranged spectators would walk in front of the seats and between the seating and the boards," Lanning said.
This concern was rectified by moving the seating up and allowing better sightlines for spectators sitting above the glass. Fans also now have the option of sitting right up against the glass around the whole arena to get close to the action. Lanning also promised that chair back seating is in the works to be completed this season on the far end of the arena.
Construction of the new Falcon Center has led to improvements across the board. Updates to Hunt Arena and the addition of Page Arena for basketball have led to a very busy construction zone surrounding the new arena.
Construction started on Hunt Arena in March as soon as the men's and women's hockey teams hosted their final home games of the year. The push to be ready to open for this season was completed when the men's hockey team hosted its first game on Oct. 28.
A few fans who were interviewed had positive things to say about the new arena. John Parsons, a 51-year-old resident of River Falls, was one who voiced his approval of the new seating.
"You definitely have a lot better sightline on the end where you get a little bit higher and you can look down over the goal. I'm looking forward to when they finally get all the cosmetics finished up in here," Parsons said.
While the seating is one added bonus, it doesn't begin to sum up the other improvements that have been made. The added upper walkway to navigate the arena was another big plus in Lanning's mind.
"Spectators having the ability to walk around on the mezzanine level is just an added feature that you don't often see in Division III hockey," Lanning said.
Even with all of the new additions, changes still need to be made to complete the arena. Two other Falcon hockey fans noted the lack of a permanent concession stand and the journey through the new Falcon Center hallways to the arena doors as the main improvements that need to be seen.
"There's always growing pains when you move to a new facility when it's still an active construction zone," Lanning said. "But on the main concourse level will be a shared concession stand for the entire facility, whether it be Page Arena, Hunt Arena or Knowles. It will be very nice when we have multiple events going on"
The facility is still in the growing phase, but Page Arena is on its way to being finished. This will correct the problem currently forcing fans to take different entrances into the facility.
But even with all the additions and work in progress, fans like Parsons are excited for what the future holds.
"With the new basketball arena behind us going up and to have the doubleheaders of hockey and basketball playing Saturday nights, it should be quite the hopping area around here," Parsons said.
Lanning's final thoughts on the renovation also point to high hopes for the future of the venue.
"Hopefully next year, when we're fully renovated and fully functional, we will have one of the best arenas in Division III hockey," Lanning said.
Parsons and the two other fans agreed about one aspect of the improved fan experience: The quality of the hockey will be the key factor in keeping people coming back. With the men's team coming off a conference championship and the women's team ranked No. 2 in the country, fans will have plenty to cheer about in the new arena this season.