At RensselaerFrom the Archives
CELEBRATING 50 YEARS
Since its construction 50 years ago, the Houston Field House has played a significant role in the cultural and social life at Rensselaer and beyond.
The mammoth facility, home of Rensselaer’s popular ice hockey team, was named after Livingston Houston ’13, Rensselaer’s 11th president. It was a product of Houston’s passion to strengthen the collegiate and extracurricular sides of student life.
Once a Rensselaer undergraduate active in hockey and other athletics, Houston wanted a facility to help further the educational, cultural, and recreational needs of students and the local public.
The time to create such a facility had never been better. With multitudes of World War II veterans returning to universities for a better education, Rensselaer’s registration quickly doubled. At the same time, the federal government was offering to give away war-surplus buildings around the country to serve as sports and recreational facilities.
Rensselaer applied for a large Navy warehouse in Rhode Island. The government moved and set up the steel-frame facility in Troy. The university then poured in more than a half million dollars in renovations.
The Field House was officially dedicated in the fall of the 1949-1950 academic year, during the celebration of Rensselaer’s 125th anniversary. The university—and the public—now had a facility as expansive as Madison Square Garden, with seating capacity of up to 8,000.
The sports arena’s central feature is, of course, its 185-by-85 foot ice hockey rink that can be transformed into a wooden floor for basketball, concerts, commencements, inaugurations, and other events.
Over the years, ice hockey has established itself as the university’s premier sport, with Field House hockey events drawing thousands of people from the campus community and the surrounding region. Rensselaer won its first national hockey championship in 1954, another in 1985, and continues to rank prominently among the top teams nationally.
Besides sports, the Field House hosted large-scale industrial council meetings in the 1950s, expanded commencement exercises, and numerous social events, including concerts for students and the community.
In October 1950, the Boston Symphony Orchestra drew a record crowd of 6,000 to the Field House. Popular musical acts, such as Santana, Bruce Springsteen, and Gordon Lightfoot, also brought crowds to the arena.
The Houston Field House experienced a major renovation in 1983. The makeover included a new roof and the ice rink floor was dropped 2 1/2 feet. A weight room and varsity locker room also were added.