Alfond Arena will have a bit of a cozier feel to it, as a result of summer-long renovations to the building.

The 34-year-old facility, which is home to the University of Maine’s hockey and basketball teams, is at the tail end of a $4.85 million renovation project that includes a new cooling system for the ice, seating upgrades in the lower bowl and new boards and glass for hockey. The facility is expected to be open in time for the women’s hockey opener Sept. 23 against Sacred Heart.

The building’s seating arrangement will be reconfigured and Alfond Arena will lose more than 350 seats. In years past, the arena has seated a capacity crowd of 5,445 for hockey, and Joe Roberts, Maine’s associate athletic director for external operations, said that the number of seats will shrink to between 5,000 and 5,100.

Roberts said that as of Tuesday, Maine had sold 2,000 season tickets — 400 fewer than last year’s total of 2,400. He noted the renovations to Alfond Arena as one of a handful of factors affecting season-ticket sales so far. Maine is implementing a new software system to process sales and the school still has a waiting list of existing hockey season-ticket holders. Season-ticket holders are invited to pick their seats on Sept. 23, prior to the women’s opener.

“It’s hard to say right now whether it’s up or down from years past,” Roberts said.

He said Maine has received orders for more than 2,300 tickets for Frozen Fenway, the Hockey East outdoor doubleheader that will feature New Hampshire against Maine on Jan. 7, 2012. Those orders were placed by season-ticket holders, students, alumni and Black Bear Club members.

“Those have gone faster than I’ve expected,” Roberts said.

Roberts said both season tickets and tickets for Frozen Fenway are still available. A second wave of online sales for Frozen Fenway began Tuesday through the university and the Boston Red Sox, and single-game tickets for home games go on sale Sept. 26.

THE NCAA recently released its annual Division I hockey attendance figures for the 2010-11 season and Maine was 14th in average attendance and total attendance among the 58 programs.

Maine averaged 4,928 fans in 16 home dates last season and the Black Bears drew 78,847 last season.

Attendance, on average, has steadily decreased over the past six seasons.

Wisconsin had the nation’s top attendance in 2010-11, averaging 13,226 a game and 290,970 in 22 home dates.

Wisconsin’s home rink, the Kohl Center in Madison, Wis., seats 15,237 for hockey.

Cameron Schuh of the NCAA said in an email that the NCAA keeps track of cumulative season attendance but does not keep track of game-by-game attendance numbers for Division I programs. He said the NCAA tabulates reports based on information provided by schools.

AMERICA EAST released its conference basketball schedules this week, and the Maine men and women each open a 16-game America East schedule Jan. 2 at Binghamton, with game times to be announced.

The University of Hartford will host the first three rounds of the America East men’s and women’s tournaments March 1-4 in West Hartford, Conn., and the men’s and women’s title games will be played the following week at the highest remaining seeds. The men’s championship game is scheduled for March 10, while the date of the women’s title game will be announced later.

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

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