November 1, 2018

UConn’s $45M hockey arena moves forward

PHOTO | UConn men's hockey via Twitter
PHOTO | UConn men's hockey via Twitter
UConn is moving forward with plans to replace the 1,650-seat Freitas Ice Forum with a new $45 million arena.
Image | UConn
A map showing plans for the proposed hockey arena attaching to the Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs.

UConn is moving forward with plans to build on its Storrs campus a $45 million hockey arena slated to open in 2021.

The school's board of trustees approved plans for the hockey rink in September and two board committees greenlit its financing Monday. The board has granted the school authorization to begin negotiating with three private arena developers over the coming months, school officials said.

UConn will fund the 75,000-square-foot arena, which will play home to some UConn men's and all women's hockey games, through a public/private partnership: $12.5 million from reserves; $10 million from revenues accrued from recent sales of its former West Hartford campus and the Nathan Hale Inn; $22.5 million through debt financing.

A developer will design, build, own and operate the new rink through tax-exempt financing. UConn said it plans to enter into a 30-year lease with the developer to repay the bonds over time.

The project will also be partly offset by the more than $400,000 that UConn expects to derive annually from its share of revenue for renting the rink to recreation groups, hockey leagues and others.

A donor has also discussed offering $6 million for the arena's development. Dave Benedict, UConn's director of athletics, said there will be other donor opportunities, too.

UConn says the arena's blueprints will vary depending on the developer.

The school will build the 2,5000- to 3,5000-seat arena adjacent to the existing on-campus rink called the Freitas Ice Forum. The arena will also include parking for about 750 vehicles adjacent to the new arena, several locker rooms, coaches' offices and a video replay scoreboard.

If plans go accordingly, the school plans to begin an 18-month construction period in early 2020 for completion in fall 2021.

Most men's games will continue to be played at downtown Hartford's XL Center, with some held in Storrs. The new arena will become the women's sole home venue.

UConn's new campus rink is being driven by the men's entrance in 2014 into the 12-member Hockey East Association, which requires an on-campus arena with at least 4,000 seats. The conference granted UConn the option to build a smaller arena because its XL Center games draw well.

The women's team has been a Hockey East member since 2002.

The 1,650-seat Freitas Ice Forum, built in 1998, cannot be expanded to meet Hockey East and NCAA Division I requirements, according to UConn.

Benedict said the on-campus rink may spur the student fanbase, translating to more ticket sales at the XL Center.

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