The new Lawler renovations were highly anticipated by many and definitely had fans of Merrimack Hockey and Basketball stoked for the new season. With a brand new renovated facility, this was something a small D1 school could boast about. But after an amazing home opener victory against Clarkson to get Men’s Hockey in the win column…that was barely the talk of the campus.
Merrimack had announced on June 16th, 2023 that the college received a multi million dollar gift from Richard and Susanna Gallant. Which, because of the generous donation would contribute to the building of a new Gallant Pavilion, Champions Club, and upgraded premium seating within Lawler. The Pavilion would add said upgraded seating in the former student section area. They would add seats that would encircle the away end of the ice. It also included an open bar and there were seat upgrades for club members, as the former media areas were replaced as club seating and moved to the other side of the rink.
The renovations looked sleek and from first impressions, Lawler had finally broken the stigma of a “High School Rink” appearance. Mike Machnik, the color commentator for the Warriors, had some good things to say about the renovations: “I’ve been coming here for 40 years and it felt like I was in a new building,” said Machnik, “You could see the excitement in everyone’s eyes as they walked in.” While many (including myself) shared the excitement and anticipation of Mr. Machnik, for others, their perception of the renovations drew a more negative outlook as puck drop approached.
To start, the student section was moved to sections 1 and 13. Section 13 majorly sat the Merrimack College Band. These sections face each other on the home end of the rink. On social media it was informed to the students by student-run pages that the student section would be in sections 12-13.
But it was later revealed that the students were told to move from section 12 to 1 due to ticket purchases from outside fans in that section. For the students that didn’t receive the memo, they had to learn the hard way, little by little, paid ticket holders kicked out many students from section 12. Ultimately, this caused a wave of confusion and some anger amongst the students.
Fans, students and parents alike took to their respective social media platforms to speak their minds on the new renovations. Majority of Merrimack students in short, did not have fun with how the student experience was accommodated. Students took to the popular anonymous app called “YikYak,” where numerous complaints were expressed.
One anonymous person wrote “They turned an entire student section of the arena into premium seats that no one paid to sit in.” While many people were present in the Gallant Pavilion, not many of those people actually sat in the comfy renovated seats that were formerly bleachers for the students, and instead were present amongst the bar and buffet provided.
Other comments included, “It’s ridiculous that we had to wait for a rink that was built LATE and instead of improving the student experience, they upgraded areas nobody uses.” Another anonymous student wrote “I don’t care if you paid $20 for your seat, I paid 50K for mine.” There was an abundance of a police presence amongst where the students were seated. And apparently, they were a help in kicking out students from their seats. “Being a senior and getting kicked out of by seat by the cops is crazy,” says another student, “Do better Merrimack.”
I am limited to what I can quote in this student based article, as many of the comments left online aren’t considered PG.
Meanwhile, those of the Merrimack College Parents Facebook group also voiced not only concerns, but reliable solutions. One anonymous parent stated “It’s unfortunate that they let too many students in tonight, they get in for free so there is no way of knowing how many students will show up,” said the parent, “have them pick up a free ticket rather than show off their ID so they can keep track.”
This is not a bad idea, as the opening night saw so many students attending. There were about 4 rows of students in the standing room behind the home net. Merrimack, however, should’ve anticipated this, as last year’s team success saw a 99.2% fan capacity in Lawler, ranking 32nd in the country according to USCHO.com. The school averaged a 2,530 person attendance per game, Lawler Rink only sat 2,549 seats last year, which in retrospect is a packed house every night.
For students on the new tickets website (vivenu.com), it is currently impossible to reserve a seat for yourself in sections 13 or 1. While the website doesn’t confirm it, that insinuates to most people where the student section is. All in all, athletics has failed to advertise these new changes frequently, especially on social media. From what I saw there was only one post promoting season ticket plans from August 3rd. There were no official posts or notices from the school regarding student section changes. One parent exclaimed “This was starting to be a problem last year. The school needs to do better for these kids.”
So, what can be done? The opinionated comments on social media offered many complaints, but also possible solutions to the issue at hand. But, with the season already underway, and the late finish date on Lawler’s renovations, it was inevitable that it led to difficulties that weren’t considered by athletics. College students are the most passionate of an institutions fanbase. This is Mack Nation, and to truly exemplify that, the student experience must take priority when planning renovations to an already small rink with a growing campus capacity, as well as a growing hockey program.