In my first two posts, I talked about the history of the fan base and attendance records. But for my third post in this series I thought I’d talk about the barn that brings all these great fans together, Alfond Arena.
Alfond Arena was constructed in in the mid 70’s after Maine was able to establish a hockey team that was going to start competing in 1977 at Division II level. Prior to this they played games against universities in the state of Maine back in the 1920’s. Games were played on Stillwater river back then, it’s hard to imagine that today. The name for the arena comes from philanthropist Harold Alfond who gave a generous donation to the university to help construct the arena. Capacity for Alfond Arena was 3,000 when it first opened. The Balcony that today holds the students wasn’t built their initially, but was constructed just a few years later in 1979 expanding the capacity to 3,800.
“The crowds were good, the place was rocking, very loud.” -Tom Quirk (UMaine ’85)
Little renovations were done here-and-there during the 80’s, and as the team began to play well under the great head coach Shawn Walsh; ticket sales increased. Then in the late 80’s after Maine’s hockey team began to sellout game-after-game, the university realized that they needed more seats. This led to the expansion of the arena to building the grandstands we know today. This led to the capacity to go from 3,800 to 5,200 in 1991. Harold Alfond, who helped fund the Arena’s construction, supported the arena’s renovations with a generous donation.
The legend of the noise and atmosphere at Alfond Arena definitely got its notoriety during this period. “[The crowd noise was] Loud… and better once the Alfond was expanded. [It was] Jam packed after 1989-90.” Said Dan Quirk (Umaine ’93), member of the pep band and UMaine student during this period. This last renovation created the modern design of Alfond Arena that many of us recognize. In the late 90’s, the skyboxes were updated, expanding the capacity to 5,600.
In the early 2000’s, Maine moved the concessions stand from underneath the east grandstand (side next to Alfond Stadium) off to the side so Bear Necessities could move in that spot. The Shawn Walsh center (attached to Alfond Arena) was built in 2004, that featured updates to the coaches office, locker room, and weight room.
Maine had to undergo renovations on the lights in 2006 after power outages became a problem at the arena. In 2011, Maine underwent its most recent renovations (seen above), this included a new center-ice video/score board, scoreboards on both ends of the Arena, improved seats in the lower bowl of the arena, as well as a new ice system that included dehumidifier equipment.
Alfond Arena has been considered by many in college hockey as one of the greatest “barns” in college hockey. The atmosphere created by the fans have given the reputation of Alfond Arena holding one of the best home-ice advantages in hockey. The Alfond has been home to some classics, like Maine coming back from a 6-1 deficit to defeat rival BU 8-7 in 1980, and in more recent years when Maine has upset national powers like BC and North Dakota, as well as a couple of miraculous comebacks in recent years. The Alfond Arena, or simply “The Alfond” is one of the greatest barns in college hockey, and with the modern design of many college hockey arenas to that of the NHL, the Alfond stands out as one of its kind with many college hockey programs building new arenas in the last decade.
CBS Sports did a feature on Alfond Arena back in 2010 before Maine hosted North Dakota
Maine produced a video tour of Alfond Arena about a year ago