Ingalls Hockey Arena
Ingalls Hockey Arena is one of the premier structures designed and created by highly touted
architect Eero Saarinen. Saarinen was noted as one of the premier architects in the world at the time and
well received the honor of being able to come back to design a landmark of his alma mater. The Arena is
located on the campus of Yale University; the highly prestigious Ivy League School located in New
Haven, Connecticut. Ingalls has a storied history of being home to numerous national champion
collegiate hockey teams and the training grounds of many world-renowned figure skaters.
Eero Saarinen was the son of the famous Finnish Architect Eliel. Eero
was born in Helsinki, Finland and then immigrated with the rest of his family to
the United States in 1923. He later graduated from Yale in 1934 and then began
working at the Cranbrook Academy of Art where his father was president.
Saarinen is probably most well known for his beautiful and innovative furniture
designs, where you can see some of the ideas he put into his furniture take place
in the building form of Ingalls.
The structure, officially named David S. Ingalls Rink; also known as the “Yale Whale” because of
the design of it’s humped back roof and the arch of the three-hundred foot backbone that supports it (the
roof). Many have said that the design of the roof was Saarinen’s representation of the grace and beauty of
skating. Shortly after the facility was opened, it gained national recognition by being placed in Sports
Illustrated. Being in Sports Illustrated was just the beginning of a landfall of publicity which has led the
Arena to being one of the most prestigious hockey and skating facilities among the collegiate and
Ingalls Arena was completed in 1958 and was a very prestigious piece of architecture and replaced
the previous local facility of New Haven Arena. The Arena acquired it’s name from David S. Ingalls
(class of 1920) who twice was the varsity captain of the Yale Hockey Team and also after his son, David
Junior (class of 1956) who served both as the captain of his freshmen and varsity hockey teams. The
construction costs of the Arena were almost double that of the original budget of the facility which came
to a final cost of one-point-five million dollars. The Ingalls family footed a massive portion of the bill
and funding for the construction of the facilities.
The Rink today seats 3,486 fans to watch men’s and women’s hockey, recreational skating, figure
skating, intramural hockey and local youth hockey leagues. The entire Arena is 61,646 total square feet
with a two hundred-foot by eighty- five foot (17,000 square feet) skating
surface which is kept frozen by two one-hundred and ten ton compressors using
Brine which is cooled by ammonia to refrigerate the ice and the Arena.
Recently, a new four inch concrete slab with a refrigerant cooling system was placed above the original
skating surface to amplify the quality of a pure skating area. Also revitalization was done to the locker
rooms of Ingalls to provide an enjoyable place within a landmark as the decades continue to pass.
Architecturally, Ingalls Hockey Arena is a magnificent spectacle; its prominent telling feature is
the sloping roof, which resembles that of a whale’s back. The structure of the Arena is made of concrete
while the roof is made of aluminum and is suspended by numerous cables throughout the structure.
Something that had been done prior to this, but in it, still a marvelous structural accomplishment.
Thought the roof’s design can be attributed to it’s “whale” like features, or that of the grace of skating, it
also serves of the practical purpose of shedding snow in the sometimes harsh environment of Connecticut.
This great spectacle of a ceiling reaches seventy-six feet high at its zenith. The roof of Ingalls is still
marveled to this day.
Ingalls Hockey Arena contains fully functional facilities, which include a weight room, three
locker rooms, and a reception room. The reception room features photos of Yale hockey teams dating all
the way back to 1895. Both the men’s and women’s locker room areas were
both recently refurbished along with the ice surface within the Arena.
Yale has added numerous technological features to the facility while
keeping the kindred spirit that Saarinen intended for the Arena to have,
Ingalls today is one of the most up-to-date skating facilities in the world.
The interior of the building can be re-configured to accompany various events. Starting out as an
ice-hockey surface with full boards and plexi-glass around the rink, the glass can be removed to
accompany a figure skating performance. Also, Ingalls can support various other non-ice-related
functions by removing the boards and placing a temporary surface over the ice. If the event is to be more
long term, then the ice can be melted down and the rudders that contain it removed and the event can be
held on the underlying concrete floor surface.
Ingalls Arena holds a great cultural significance to the surrounding area. The building within itself
is a great cultural and social hub of student life on Yale Universities’ campus. From intercollegiate
hockey games down to an intramural championship game. From a marvelous figure skating performance
to a local youth skate night, crowds fill the stands for various events. The Arena provides a place to let
loose and have fun. It provides a wonderful social atmosphere where many can come together and enjoy
the beauty of grace on ice.
The activities, which go on within the walls of Ingalls, can fluctuate throughout its eighteen hours
of operation each day. An aspiring young figure skater in the morning before school starts. A men’s
hockey practice after breakfast. A women’s intercollegiate game in the afternoon that brings with it a
packed house of screaming fans. And a youth hockey practice in the early evening for those wishing to
someday play for Yale University and the tradition that it has brought with it. Not only in the success of
it’s teams, but in the success of the Arena that they play in. Many collegiate hockey players, even those
from other universities from around the country look forward to the day that they play at Yale’s Ingalls
Arena, just because of the presence of the life and history that it brings with it to college hockey.
Ingalls Hockey Arena is a national landmark among the ranks of the hockey community. Along
with a storied history of champions and its beautiful architectural aesthetics Ingalls is in a class of its own.
When Saarinen designed the Arena, he must have been thinking about what kind of magic that just
entering within its walls could bring upon a person. Because Eero created a truly magical space that has
an aura of its own, that can take one’s breath away when they enter the facility for the first time. It’s
beauty, it’s function, and its purpose all come together to create a cohesive being that is known as David
S. Ingalls Rink.