- Greg Venuto
Martire Family Arena - Sacred Heart Pioneers
Photos by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 4.00
Martire Family Arena 3135 Easton Turnpike Fairfield, CT 06604
Sacred Heart Pioneers men’s hockey website
Year Opened: 2023
There's No Place Like Home
After playing hockey off campus for 29 and a half years, the Sacred Heart men’s hockey team was able to recite a familiar refrain “There’s no place like home”, as Martire Family Arena opened to a sold-out crowd of 4,200 on January 14 versus Boston College. The state-of-the-art $70 million facility will be home to the men’s and women’s hockey programs and figure skating.
The eye-catching, well-lit structure has glass surrounding the outside of the building on three sides and is situated on the West Campus. It sits on the site of the former General Electric headquarters in Fairfield. The windows can be adjusted to allow for more or less light coming into the building depending on conditions outside.
Frank and Maria Martire donated $5 million to the building. Frank Martire is an alumnus, who graduated in 1969, and a chairman of the Board of Trustees. He also has an equity interest in the Vegas Golden Knights.
As fans enter the arena from an underground parking garage, they are funneled to the suite level and then the choice is stairs, elevator, or escalator down to the lower bowl seating area. There is also an entrance from street level at the front of the arena which leads fans to the top of the lower bowl.
The team store is just to your left as you enter from the garage with a large concession stand to the right. Bathrooms are also on the right side of the Sacred Heart side of the rink.
Food & Beverage 4
Food choices include two Old Post Market (a respected Fairfield restaurant) stands. For savory, one sells clam chowder ($10) and chili ($8). For sweets, the other mobile cart offers sugar waffles for $8 and $10 with chocolate sauce, hot chocolate ($4), and coffee ($3).
Food and Drink Stands at Martire Family Arena, Photo by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey There is a beverage cart selling 16 oz. Coors Light and Blue Moon, Angry Orchard (12 oz), Truly Berry 16 oz, and Truly Vodka 12 oz. all for $8.
The conventional food choices include pretzels ($7) with cheese sauce, nachos ($8), crinkle chili cheese ($9.50), cheese or regular fries, Nathan’s hot dogs ($6), chicken tenders, Greco and Sons Italian sausage and peppers and Margherita, pepperoni and pesto bianca pizzas. Snacks include popcorn ($6.50), cracker jacks, peanut M&M's, snickers, sour patch, Twizzlers, deep river chips, and large cookies. Pepsi products are sold. Soft drinks are $5 and water is $4.
The atmosphere is first-rate. The arena is well-lit, with great acoustics and a clear sound system. The noise level is just right a bit loud, but not overbearing. The band is solid and plays often during breaks. There is a bell just behind the band that is rung at the start of each period and follows Sacred Heart goals. When the Pioneers find the back of the net, the arena lights are turned off and the ice is lit by lavender lights, a roaming spotlight, and a booming goal horn.
The high-definition scoreboard is fabulous. The only negative was for some reason replays were not shown on the big board. There is a red signage board above the main scoreboard that wraps around the entire ice surface and keeps fans up to date on the latest real-time stats for both teams.
The crowd was enthusiastic and loud throughout the game and the students were noticeable. The only needed touch is some banners to add to the empty rafters but Sacred Heart is yet to win a conference championship or make an NCAA appearance. The Pioneers play in the 10-team Atlantic Hockey Association.
There is not much to do nearby as the campus is just off the Merritt Parkway with no stores or restaurants close by.
The Westfield Mall in Trumbull is about two miles away and is a good spot to pre-game. There are also some food options on Main Street in Bridgeport. Frank Pepe’s in Fairfield is a 12-minute drive.
Fan support has been great since the Arena opened. The Pioneers used to average less than 1,000 per game but the on-campus venue is attracting about 4,000 per contest. The highest average attendance was 2019-20 at 897 when the team played in Bridgeport. This season the team is attracting 2,154 per contest and only seven of the Pioneer’s 16 home games have been played at Martire.
The fans are buoyed by the band which plays often and even leads some cheers.
Sacred Heart Pioneer School Band, Photo by Greg Venuto, Stadium Journey
The Arena is just off the Merritt Parkway Easton Turnpike exit 46 and Easton Turnpike Route 59.
There is free parking on campus. The garage has a lower and upper level and fans can enter the arena without going outside.
There is an area for Uber pickoff/dropoff outside the front of the building. Campus shuttles bring students from the east campus to the Arena. There is a bus (Greater Bridgeport Transit No. 3) that stops just outside campus, but public transportation is not really an option. The bus runs every 30 minutes on weekends. Metro North railroad stops are in Fairfield and Bridgeport is not close by.
Return on Investment 4
Ticket prices range from $10-$20 for individual games. The sightlines are stellar from almost any section. The seats with small table tops at the top of each concourse offer a great view of the action. The only drawback is in the upper bowl with slightly obstructed views right next to the Suites. The glass and the railing impede the view of the right side of the ice along the boards in Section 202. Upper bowl seating is only available on the Sacred Heart side of the ice.
The arena is well conceived with high ceilings, a wide concourse, good entry points, and a well-presented game presentation.
The lower bowl offers an open concourse which allows fans to see the action from all vantage points and the suite level includes a beer garden, an upscale bar area with a hot buffet, a president’s suite, three boxes, and a media center.
Martire Arena is a great venue to take in a hockey game. Both families and local hockey fans should not pass up the chance to check out the impressive new facility and watch Sacred Heart as the program attempts to make its mark on New England hockey.