Nick McAdam, Assist. Sports Editor
Aside from Pioneers’ games, faculty and students have both the Utica Comets and the new Major Arena Soccer League team, Utica City FC (UCFC), to root on. All three teams play at the Adirondack Bank Center, which is around a 10-minute drive from campus.
But according to statistics gathered by Ice Hockey Attendance, the Comets have one of the lowest average attendance numbers in the American Hockey League with 4,761. Despite that fact, both semi-pro teams offer discounts to UC students and staff.
When the Comets hosted the AHL All-Star Classic, students were able to use their school ID to get in for free, while UCFC has discount codes for college students in the surrounding area.
Faculty, such as Assistant Director for College Engagement Bethany VanBenschoten, have taken advantage of the offers given by the Comets, who began playing in Utica starting in the 2013-14 season.
“I’ve gone to a few Comets games here and there, but not often enough to give it a time,” VanBenschoten said. “One of the first times I went to a Comets game, we had fantastic seats right up against the boards, so it added to the excitement. It’s also always a nice way to see people I know from around the area, so it’s a social gathering place for me as well.”
The community atmosphere along with the professional connections right near home attracts VanBenschoten to the games. The Comets are affiliated with the National Hockey League’s Vancouver Canucks, and the team has hosted players such as Jordan Subban and Brett Murray.
“The part I enjoy most is seeing people I know, chatting and catching up, sharing a comment or two about a bad call by the referees or an intense fight that started on the ice,” VanBenschoten said. “The part I think I dislike the most, If I had to come up with something, is never winning the 50/50!”
Utica fans have also been seen mimicking the Canucks “Green Men,” who mock opposing players taking a trip to the penalty box while green bodysuits.
The Comets are currently sitting in eighth place on the Eastern Conference table, which is good enough for the last wild-card spot with three months worth of games left in the regular season.
Utica College sophomore Nicholas Spooner shares a similar interest to that of VanBenschoten by noting the excitement of Comets games.
“I’ve gone to a couple, and they’re very exciting and the atmosphere was always loud and full of energy,” Spooner said. “Overall, the experiences I had at the Comet games were great and I would definitely want to go watch more if I have the time.”
On the other side of the coin is Utica City FC, who started to play as recently as this winter. However, the new side has been able to amass a record of 9-4 in the MASL, which currently puts the team in fifth place out of 17 teams.
Adding on, UCFC also averages 3,508 people per game, according to the MASL website, which is third in the league. At the moment, a total of 22,504 people have attended a Utica City game. The number is three times more than Orlando FC, a city that’s over three times the population of Utica.
Not included in that number is Spooner, who notes interest in attending a game, but a lack of time and money creates an issue for the Utica College sophomore.
“I have not attended a Utica City FC game even though I would love to,” he said. “I don’t really have time or money to go see a Utica City FC game. I would love to go see one given the opportunity.”