Next March will be a busy time for Times Union Center.
The NCAA announced Friday that Times Union Center will be the site of the 2020 NCAA hockey tournament East Regional March 28-29. It will be the 12th time an NCAA hockey tournament event. The last time was in 2016.
The hockey tournament will take place the weekend after the downtown Albany arena hosts the first two rounds of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
“We’re ecstatic to be awarded that for 2020,” Times Union Center general manager Bob Belber said. “It’s actually going to be great to have it the week after the men’s basketball because there’s going to be some efficiencies. The signs inside the arena inside the bowl have to be covered for NCAA championship events. They’re going to be covered for the basketball event the 19th and the 21st, and we’ll just keep them covered until the following weekend so that you don’t have to take them down and put them up twice. Back-to-back weeks will be good from that standpoint. We’ll be able to save some money on labor and operation costs.”
Belber doesn’t foresee any major challenges hosting NCAA events on consecutive weekends.
“There’s no major problem whatsoever,” Belber said. “Once we get done with men’s basketball, which ends on Saturday the 21st, we’ll be making ice on Sunday and Monday. We’ll probably have some youth hockey teams come in on Tuesday to get the ice roughed up, and we’ll continue to flood [the ice surface] after that. We’ll have the best ice that you can produce so, by Thursday, it will be fully ready to have teams come in and practice. They’ll probably come in Friday and practice. But just in case, we’ll be ready on Thursday. We’ll have great ice.”
Of the previous 11 NCAA hockey tournaments Times Union Center has hosted, nine of them have been regionals. The regionals were an every-other year staple at Times Union Center 1990s and 2000s. The arena hosted the Frozen Four in 1992, when it was called Knickerbocker Arena, and in 2001, when it went by Pepsi Arena.
After the 2010 East Regional, Times Union Center went six years between hosting a hockey regional.
“I think the fans in this market that are into hockey, both college as well as the AHL,” Belber said, “with the AHL team not here, now more than ever, that thirst to be able to see competitive and, in this case, the best college hockey in the country, to be able to see that when perhaps they haven’t had the ability to see ice hockey in our building for the last couple of years since the AHL team [Albany Devils] left [for Binghamton], I think that actually might help increase the attendance. And certainly the draw of the teams that we get is going to make a difference.”
Belber would love to see Union and RPI make it to the NCAAs. The teams play the annual Mayor’s Cup game at Times Union Center. Union has never played an NCAA tournament game there. RPI was in the 1994 East Regional at then-Knickerbocker Arena, dropping a 2-0 decision to New Hampshire.
“I don’t think there’s any question that there would be a real big boost for Union or RPI if they got in it,” Belber said. “I don’t want to say home-ice advantage, but it’s certainly a lot easier for their fans if we have the regional here and they’re actually in it.”
The other regional sites for 2020 DUC Center in Worcester, Massachusetts (Northeast), PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania (Midwest) and Budweiser Events Center in Loveland, Colorado (West). The Frozen Four is at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
The 2021 regional sites were also announced Friday. Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport, Connecticut, will host the East Regional, SNHU Arena in Manchester, New Hampshire, has the Northeast Regional, Scheels Arena in Fargo, North Dakota will host the Midwest Regional and the West Regional will be back in Loveland. PPG Arena in Pittsburgh will host the Frozen Four.