The History of RIT University Arenas

"The History of RIT University Arenas" with a modern image of RIT's hockey locker room with orange uniforms hanging in the lockers

RIT is known for it’s high level of academia, advanced technology, unique student body, and our incredible recreation and athletics facilities too. RIT is a school that is always transforming; how did University Arenas even develop into where it is today? 

1968 - Frank Ritter Ice Arena

Empty Frank Ritter ice arena with fresh ice and the RIT tiger logo in the center

Constructed in 1968, the O.G. of University Arenas is the Frank Ritter Ice Arena. The ice arena was actually one of the original buildings on RIT’s campus when they made the move from downtown to Henrietta. The ice arena is named after Frank Ritter, a founder of Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute, which was RIT’s original name. Ritter Ice Arena is smaller than our newest ice arena, but is big enough to hold 2,100 fans.

RIT Hockey played at the Division III level until the 2005-06 season, when they transitioned to Division I. The RIT Hockey teams used Ritter as their main arena until 2014. 

RIT continuously makes updates to the Frank Ritter Ice Arena including “a new sound system, lights, ceiling, a full service press box and dasher boards have been added, as well both team locker room renovations and additions. Skylight wells on the roof were also added to provide natural light to the locker rooms and the main lobby.”

If our Division I Hockey Teams don’t use Ritter Ice Arena anymore, then how is the space currently used?

Throughout the school year, RIT students have many opportunities to use this space by participating in club ice hockey, intramural sports, wellness courses, and open skate. Beyond RIT students, faculty, and staff, outside organizations able to use this space, as well! 

2004 - Gordon Field House Activities Center

Empty Gordon Field House with a tennis court net up

Possibly our most versatile space at RIT, the Gordon Field House Activities Center opened in 2004, thanks to Lucius “Bob” Gordon and his wife, Marie, for their generous contributions. The Gordon Field House Activities Center “houses a 60,000 sq. ft track & field event venue, a three-pool aquatic center, fitness center, & meeting space.”

The Gordon Field House is used for all sorts of athletic competitions and activities, including varsity sports, club sports, intramural sports, wellness classes, and open hours. RIT frequently uses the space to host events for outside organizations, as well. 

The Gordon Field House Activities Center is also used as an event space. It’s perfect for the university’s large events, as the space can hold nearly up to 7,000 people. Over the years, the Gordon Field House has hosted many cool speakers and performers. Just a few the celebrities that have visited the Gordon Field House since it’s opening include Howie Mandel, Al Pacino, Snoop Dogg, Alec Baldwin, Rihanna, Jimmy Fallon, John Legend, and Bill Nye.

2014 - Gene Polisseni Center

Empty GPC with fresh ice and a tiger logo in center ice

Our newest addition to University Arenas is the Gene Polisseni Center. The $38 million ice arena opened in 2014, and holds 4,300 fans (more than double the capacity of Ritter). Gary Polisseni and Tom Golisano gave a $4.5 million partnership gift to help create The Gene Polisseni Center to the Tiger Power Play, the campaign for RIT Hockey. The facility was named after Gene Polisseni, as he was a “prominent business man, philanthropist and avid sports fan." 

Although mainly used for RIT Division I men’s and women’s ice hockey, the facility is also multi-purpose and occasionally hosts different events. When it comes to watching hockey, the Gene Polisseni Center is no joke. The space includes a “full service hospitality area, six luxury suites, two full-service concessions stands, RIT Athletic Hall of Fame, a fitness facility and state of the art locker rooms.” 

Construction of the Frank Ritter Ice Arena, black and white photo

Our University Arenas have come quite a long way since the construction of the Frank Ritter Ice Arena. Throughout the years, RIT continuously updates and expands on University Arenas. Because of this, something tells me that there are even greater things for University Arenas in the future! Check out our Instagram or Facebook pages for more throwback photos of these facilities! 

Tagged: activities gene polisseni, Gene Polisseni Center, gordon field house, history, hockey, ice rink, rit hockey, Rochester Institute of Technology,