A Long Time Coming: A Potential New Ohio State Ice Arena Would Be a Boon to Columbus Hockey

By Jeff Svoboda on May 9, 2017 at 3:29 pm
A new facility could be coming to Ohio State hockey

According to a report from Columbus Business First magazine, Ohio State is looking at building a new on-campus, 4,000-seat ice arena to house its men’s and women’s hockey teams.

This is a plan both somewhat new and somewhat old. In 2008, Ohio State developed an athletic facilities master plan that included a wish list of future buildings for the school’s 36 varsity sports. On that list? A new ice rink.

Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither are about a dozen athletics facilities. The master plan was a 20-year vision of what Ohio State athletics could be, and for a variety of reasons, the ice rink was clearly a long-term vision rather than something the school would be attacking in the near future.

Fast-forward about a decade and a number of the facilities on that original master plan are in motion or even completed. Ohio Stadium has been expanded and kept up to date, both from a maintenance and aesthetics perspective. The Schottenstein Center has undergone massive construction that includes a new practice gym and weight room for the basketball teams, with a renovation of the building’s interior on the way. Demolition recently began on the old Biggs athletic training facility attached to football’s Woody Hayes Athletic Center, with plans to replace it with the Schumaker Student-Athlete Development Complex.

These are all major projects Ohio State has actively been working on for years – along with smaller projects that have provided new facilities to sports like golf, field hockey and tennis – and there’s one more that particularly ties into the hockey news. The combination of Covelli Arena – expected to take over hosting duties for the court sports currently held in St. John Arena – and Jennings Wrestling Facility now has a site and moves closer and closer to fruition.

The fate of the court sports and ice sports are intertwined. St. John Arena houses many of the mechanical systems for the attached OSU Ice Rink – where the men’s and women’s teams practice and where the women’s team holds its games – and French Field House, the school’s indoor track facility.

In other words, any plans to tear down the venerable St. John and return the land to the university – plans that have been discussed for years and recently were put on the back burner for the time being – means the Ice Rink would have to go with it. And OSU can’t have the hockey teams practice in the Schott given the basketball and event schedule of the building.

So in many ways, it makes sense that Ohio State would eye a new hockey facility. The Schottenstein Center with a capacity of 17,500 for hockey is wildly oversized for a men’s team that averaged 5,335 fans last season – solid numbers by college hockey standards but not even close to filling the building.

Though the program is on the rise, having returned this year to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009 under head coach Steve Rohlik and recently produced Ottawa Senators forward Ryan Dzingel, the arena in many ways is a recruiting disadvantage.

Not only does it feel largely empty even during the biggest games with curtains draped across the upper bowl of the arena, but the team often must dress at the Schott and take a bus across the Olentangy River to the Ice Rink just to practice. Finding a suitable home for the women’s team, which plays in the charming yet ancient Ice Rink, is a concern too.

There’s also a major hockey tie-in that could bring one of the world’s top events to Columbus, The Dispatch's Aaron Portzline reports.

A new rink would also seemingly help continue the growth of Columbus area hockey. From such NHL players as Dublin native Sean Kuraly (Boston) and Columbus' own Jack Roslovic (Winnipeg) to the rise of Blue Jackets prospect and New Albany native Kole Sherwood, Ohio's capital is producing more high-level talent than ever before. Having a sterling new facility provide a shot in the arm for the local college program can do nothing but help.

According to Business First, the plans for the potential rink remain preliminary, though the building was included on a new facility plan released earlier this year.

How much would such a facility cost? Notre Dame build its 5,000-seat Compton Family Ice Arena in 2010 and ’11 at $50 million, while Miami’s 3,600-seat Goggin Ice Center opened at 2006 at a cost of $34.8 million. In other words, this won’t come cheap, and because Ohio State athletics must raise its own funds for facilities projects, it likely won’t come soon, either.

But if you’re a fan of Ohio State hockey and Columbus hockey in general, the news that OSU is moving in this direction is a welcome thought.

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