Rochester Rec Center is good hockey venue, but it could be better
I took a day off on Friday and spent much of the weekend finishing off my hockey-watching season in grand style. I took in all or parts of a half-dozen games during the Tier III junior hockey tournament at the Rec Center and Graham 4.
It was great entertainment. There was some outstanding hockey played. The crowds — especially for the three games the Icehawks were involved in — were phenomenal. And the tournament was very well organized and officiated.
(One minor suggestion, though... I bought an all-games pass, which was well worth the $40 for someone like me who attended so many games. But when an official strapped a cheap plastic red band like the ones they give you at Valley Fair on my wrist, she said: "You'll have to keep this on through the tournament. If you need a new one, we'll cut it off and give you a new one." Which means I've had this thing strapped to my wrist for going on four days... through morning showers, a church service, at work and while I've slept. I know why they do it that way — so folks don't trade their passes around to friends and family. But I don't think it's reasonable to expect grown adults to wear wristbands for four or five days...)
Although the tournament was a big success, I was reminded during the games at the Rec Center of some shortcomings there. At 30 years old, the hockey arena at the Rec Center is still quite serviceable, especially after they put up new, NHL-quality glass last year. But the sound system is horrific. Honestly, I can understand only every fourth of fifth word the announcer says. To say the starting lineups and penalty announcements are "barely deciperable" is an overstatement. They're not even close to being decipherable, especially when there's a big crowd.
Also, the concession stands seem to be perpetually understaffed when there's a big crowd, especially at high school tournament games. During the Section One tournament championship game between the two Lakeville schools people were leaving the lines in droves because the wait was so long. Conversely, this past Sunday night, during the Tier III tournament, there was small crowd, maybe 300 people, because the two teams playing — Hudson, Wis., and Seattle — were out of contention. So, there wasn't a lot of concession business, and the one stand that was open was shut down during the second period . That meant there were no concessions available between periods and for the rest of the game. I could see maybe sending all but one worker home. But shut down completely?
As an aside, I'm curious to know what you think of the concessions offerings and prices at local sporting events in Rochester, as compared to other amateur sports venues around the state. I've been to dozens of venues, most of them in the southern metro and throughout southeastern Minnesota, and I'd rank the concessions at the Roseville Ice Arena at the top of the list. There's lots and lots of variety, the food is fresh and tasty and the prices are about as reasonable as you're going to find.
All in all, though, we should be proud of the hockey facilities we have here. There aren't many communities in the Upper Midwest that compare.