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  • Writer's picturePaul Baker

Hart Center Rink - Holy Cross Crusaders


Photos by Paul Baker, Stadium Journey


Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 2.71

Hart Center at the Luth Athletic Complex

1 College Street

Worcester, MA 01610



Year Opened: 1975

Capacity: 1,600

 

The Hart of Holy Cross Hockey


The Reverend Francis J. Hart Center is part of the Luth Athletic Complex, a multi-purpose facility located on the campus of the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA (pronounced “Woostah” by locals). Reverend Hart was the guiding force behind intramural athletics at the College for more than 40 years, and his legacy is honored in this athletic center. John E. and Joanne Chouinard-Luth donated $32.5 million to the College to help finance major renovations to the facility in 2016.


The Hart Center houses not only the Holy Cross hockey rink, but a 3,600-seat basketball arena, a six-lane swimming pool with a separate diving area, rowing tanks, racquetball and squash courts, and the college’s strength and conditioning facilities.


Hockey has been played at Holy Cross since 1966. Today the Crusaders compete in the Atlantic Hockey Association, where they have won three conference championships. Holy Cross has qualified for the NCAA Tournament twice, most recently in 2006. That year, the Crusaders pulled off what is considered to be one of the biggest upsets in tournament history by beating Minnesota 4-3 in overtime. It was the first time a number 15 or 16 seed had beaten a number one or two seed. Two Holy Cross alumni (Pat Rissmiller and Jim Stewart) played in the NHL.

 

Food & Beverage 2


There is a concession stand in the main lobby of the Hart Center. A very basic menu is available here, with hot dogs and chicken tenders the anchors of the menu. In a refreshing change, tater tots are sold here rather than french fries. Pretzels, nachos, and popcorn are among the offerings should you just be looking for a snack.

 

Pepsi products are featured at the concession stand. Fans looking for an adult beverage will be pleased to find brews from local craft brewery Greater Good sold at this small stand, as well as Harpoon Rec League, Blue Moon, Coors Light, White Claw, and Angry Orchard.

 

Atmosphere 2

 

If you haven’t visited the Hart Center recently, the pair of large video boards that were installed at the rink in 2021 will certainly catch your attention. These boards, one at each end of the ice surface, are put to great use with replays, graphics, and game information. In a nice touch, Holy Cross plays videos of local first responders dancing after each Crusader goal.

 

The Hart Center Rink enjoys a nice sound system, which is put to good use throughout the game, but oddly, the PA announcer sounds much quieter and his voice murkier than the music.

 

Stadium Journey’s most recent visit to Holy Cross occurred during the semester break, so there was no representation from the student body on this night. Based on several previous visits, there’s generally not a huge turnout by the Holy Cross students, anyway.

 



Neighborhood 3

 

Worcester is the second largest city in all of New England but has never enjoyed much of a reputation as a destination location. That all began to change when the city announced that the Pawtucket Red Sox would be moving to the brand-new Polar Park, located just 2.5 miles from the Holy Cross campus.

 

Holy Cross is located in southwestern Worcester about three miles from downtown. There isn’t much in the immediate area of campus in terms of dining or lodging options, but the city of Worcester contains many excellent options.

 

Worcester’s acclaimed “Restaurant Row” on Shrewsbury Street is home to over forty different eateries, shops, and salons. It’s a favorite destination for locals looking to enjoy a night on the town. Fans will find additional options in the downtown area around the DCU Center. The up-and-coming Canal District, anchored by the new Polar Park, is rapidly growing and worth a look. Likewise, fans looking for lodging options should head downtown, as there is nothing around Holy Cross.

 

Traditionally overshadowed by its neighbors in Boston and Providence, Worcester is carving out its own niche as an affordable, attractive alternative to those cities. For fans visiting during ski season, Wachusett Mountain is located just ten miles outside of city limits.

 

Fans 2  

 

Holy Cross annually ranks near the bottom of the nationwide attendance rankings for Division One hockey teams. About halfway through the 2023-2024 season, the Crusaders are reporting an average attendance of just over 800 fans per game. While this figure marks a significant increase over the previous few years, it still places Holy Cross in the bottom ten nationally.

 

As mentioned earlier, Stadium Journey attended a Crusader game during the semester break. Still, there was a representative crowd on hand on a snowy Saturday night. Consisting of many family members, close friends, and die-hard Holy Cross fans, this crowd was enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the team on the ice. A quick scan of games during the school year did not reveal a huge increase in attendance figures, leading to the assumption that not a lot of students show up for Crusader hockey games.

 

Access 3 

 

The Holy Cross campus is located in southwestern Worcester, at the junction of Interstate 290 and Route 146. The Luth Complex is located at the southern edge of campus atop Mount Saint James, adjacent to many of the school’s athletic facilities. There is a large parking lot adjacent to the arena. The College of the Holy Cross’ location gives it spectacular views of the city below.

 

2016 renovations greatly expanded and modernized the facility. Fans enter into a bright, modern lobby that houses the ticket booths. The basketball arena and hockey rink share a concourse, which is where you’ll find the concession stands, restrooms, and Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame. Long gone are the 70’s style carpeting, trophy cases, and stained-glass windows of the old Hart Center.

 

The hockey rink is located to your right as you enter the facility. Fans enter the rink at the Hart Center on the near side of the rink, and all the seating is located on the far side of the ice. All seating is metal bleachers, with center sections containing cushioned seating. A standing room is available atop the seating area as well as at ice level. The steeply pitched seating area ensures excellent views of the action from virtually all points. There is minimal netting here to obstruct views.

 

With the small crowds present at the Hart Center, lines at the concession stand or restrooms are not an issue.

 



Return on Investment 5

 

Tickets to Holy Cross hockey games are very affordable, priced at $15 for reserved center ice sections and $10 for general admission seating. Parking is free in the large lot adjacent to the facility.

 

Concessions are reasonably priced, with most items costing six dollars or less. Even the craft beers sold here will only cost you nine dollars. It’s tough to find a similar value at a game these days.

 

Extras 2

 

Holy Cross was a national power in the sporting world for a significant portion of the 20th century. While their glory days are far behind them, Holy Cross honors its athletic past at the Luth Complex. The Holy Cross Athletic Hall of Fame is located in the building’s lobby. Several notable names can be found among the honorees, including Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn. Speaking of Cousy, there’s a statue of him just outside the entrance to the Luth Center.

 

Plaques in the Hart Rink commemorate significant individuals in Crusader hockey history and banners hang in the rink honoring conference titles and tournament appearances.

 

Final Thoughts

 

Many smaller schools in NCAA’s Division One have built shiny new arenas for their hockey teams. Meanwhile, Holy Cross soldiers are on in the Hart Center. While not as flashy or modern as many area rinks, it’s a solid place for the Crusaders to call home.

 



Follow Paul Baker’s stadium journeys on Twitter and Instagram @PuckmanRI.

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