ECAC Moving Tournament to Atlantic City
CHN Staff Report
ALBANY, N.Y. ECAC Hockey has signed a three-year deal to move its postseason tournament championship from its hometown to Atlantic City, N.J. The first ECAC tournament there will take place in 2011, making this the last season the tournament will be at the Times Union Center in Albany, N.Y.
The deal, with the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority and SMG Management Group, moves the tournament to Boardwalk Hall, which received a $90 million renovation in 2001, and seats 10,300 for hockey. The arena, which dates back to 1929, is the former site of the famed annual Miss America Pageant.
Boardwalk Hall will be only the fifth location to host the championship in the league’s history. The championship has previously been conducted at Boston Arena (1962-67), Boston Garden (1968-92), Olympic Arena in Lake Placid, NY (1993-02), and Times Union Center (2003-09).
“From the moment we began the process of evaluating our options for the championship, the representatives of Boardwalk Hall and Atlantic City clearly demonstrated that they wanted to host our championship," ECAC commissioner Steve Hagwell said. "They were aggressive, in a very positive manner, enthusiastic and excited about the possibility of serving as the host site.”
Shortly after signing the deal to move the tournament from Lake Placid to Albany, the ECAC hockey schools split off to become independent from the over-arching ECAC, and moved its offices to from Cape Cod to Albany.
But despite being praised for its central location to the 12 ECAC schools, attendance in Albany never reached the level that league officials envisioned or hoped.
"We've tried a lot of different things and I don't have all the answers," Hagwell said. "When we first came (to Albany), I thought people driving a short distance in and out would come. But after the first couple years, when the atmosphere was good, the attendance has not been very good."
Boardwalk Hall first hosted hockey on December 28, 1929 when Ottawa faced off against the New York Rangers. The following year saw the debut of the first of Boardwalk Hall’s two home hockey teams, the Atlantic City Seagulls, who played until 1952.
Following the $90 million renovation to Boardwalk Hall, the ECHL-affiliated Boardwalk Bullies took to the ice in October 2001 and won the Kelly Cup in 2003. In between, an NHL preseason game was contested in 1982, but Atlantic City hockey had its biggest audience ever in 1933. On March 1, the Seagulls hockey team played the New York Rangers before the largest crowd at that time to see a hockey game; 22,157 people turned out for a benefit, bearing groceries and store orders for food, clothing and fuel in lieu of an admission charge. All items were turned over to the A.C. Chapter of the American Red Cross.
“I am thrilled to have the ECAC Hockey conference in Atlantic City for the next three years,” said Jeff Vasser, president of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority. “I’m a huge fan after attending an ECAC Hockey school so I’ve sought to bring this tournament to Atlantic City for years knowing it would be a perfect fit. Along with additional hotels and destination amenities, Atlantic City continues to expand on its offerings by adding to the entertainment featured in our world-class arena facilities. ECAC Hockey is the perfect complement to the sports already offered, including the A10 Men’s Basketball Championship and NJSIAA wresting.”
“On behalf of Boardwalk Hall and all of the hockey fans in our market I can say with confidence that this is an event that will be greeted with much enthusiasm,” said Greg Tesone, General Manager of Boardwalk Hall/SMG. “We have long been searching for a hockey event that makes sense for us and we couldn’t have asked for a better opportunity. We’re proud to welcome the athletes, coaches and fans of ECAC Hockey to Atlantic City and look forward to a great relationship.”
Boardwalk Hall is noted for what's billed as its "137-foot barrel-vaulted ceiling," a huge, domed, splashy structure.
According to the Boardwalk Hall, the arena is listed on the United State Register of Historic Places as a National Historic Landmark, and the renovation has received nine architectural and engineering awards, including a 2003 National Preservation Award, Design and Construction magazine’s 2002 Renovation Project of the Year, and Building magazine’s 2002 Modernization Award. In 2003 and 2004 Billboard magazine recognized Boardwalk Hall as the top grossing mid-sized arena in North America. In 2005, 2006 and 2008, Billboard and Venues Today recognized Boardwalk Hall as the highest grossing mid-sized arena in the world.