In terms of convenience to fans, there is no conceivable way that Atlantic City presents a more palatable option than the Capital District. Some quick work with Google Maps has yielded numerical data for us:
|City (Member School)||To Albany, NY||To Atlantic City, NJ||ΔTime (h:mm)||ΔTime (%)|
|Providence, RI (Brown)||2:52||5:22||+2:30||87.2%|
|Potsdam, NY (Clarkson)||4:32||7:46||+3:14||71.3%|
|Hamilton, NY (Colgate)||2:17||5:41||+3:24||148.9%|
|Ithaca, NY (Cornell)||3:19||5:04||+1:45||52.8%|
|Hanover, NH (Dartmouth)||2:51||6:44||+3:53||136.3%|
|Cambridge, MA (Harvard)||2:49||5:56||+3:07||110.7%|
|Princeton, NJ (Princeton)||3:09||1:44||-1:25||-45.0%|
|Hamden, CT (Quinnipiac)||2:27||3:48||+1:21||55.1%|
|Troy, NY (RPI)||0:14||4:39||+4:25||1892.9%|
|Canton, NY (St. Lawrence)||4:28||7:31||+3:03||68.3%|
|Schnectady, NY (Union)||0:22||4:38||+4:16||1163.6%|
|New Haven, CT (Yale)||2:35||3:46||+1:11||45.8%|
Only Princeton sees its travel time shortened. Nine of the twelve schools are further from Atlantic City than the farthest from Albany (SLU, at 4:32). The median1 rise in trip length is a shade under 80 percent. This is not like ACC basketball or SEC football - most fans develop their ties to these programs while attending the member institutions, not through geographical or television exposure. Making it more difficult for nearly all student fans to reach the tournament site seems about as counterproductive as you can get.
I've been to the ECACs in both Lake Placid and Albany. Each has advantages and drawbacks. LP is somewhat out of the way and a bit pricier in terms of lodging, but it benefits from a beautiful location and a historic venue. Albany isn't as nice, but it's a bit cheaper, has places to drink in the immediate area, and is centrally located with respect to the twelve ECAC members. Atlantic City, from everything I've heard so far, combines the seediness of Albany with the exorbitant lodging of Lake Placid, and throws in long drives for nearly everyone and a questionable venue (it's clearly designed for concerts; the seats appear to not even extend all the way around the rink).
To sum up, talk about taking a dump on your fans. Hopefully this decision is reversed by 2014, if not sooner.
(EDIT, 9:00 pm, to correct serious personal idiocy: the lack of seating around the rink's full circumference isn't in and of itself a bad thing. After all, Lynah has the same quality. It still doesn't sit well with me to be playing the conference's showcase event in a concert hall, to say nothing of one whose primary claim to fame is being the long-standing home of the Miss America pageant.)
1 Median is used here because the average is distorted by the fact that RPI and Union are both less than half an hour from Albany.