University Ice Arena renovated, revamped

Josh Birnbaum

By Jonathan Wroble

The University Ice Arena, a 75-year-old building, has been renovated to look like a brand new facility.

In September, the Division of Campus Recreation completed renovations on the ice arena, 406 E. Armory Ave., amid rumors that a new skating rink was coming to Champaign-Urbana. The improvements also kept the ice arena from being overlooked during the current, large-scale remodeling of the Intramural and Physical Education Building.

“While IMPE is getting renovated, Campus Rec wants to make sure that campus and community know that they put as much time into the Ice Arena (as IMPE),” said David Bagger, assistant director of the ice arena. Bagger called the renovations a “huge team effort,” explaining that focus groups and surveys were used to determine what changes needed to be made.

As a result, the ice arena was repainted and is now orange and blue with whiter walls. The lobby’s old, wooden furniture was traded for round tables and chairs made of recycled plastic. The Campus Rec logo is more prominently displayed, along with the address to its web page. Bagger stated that these enhancements have created a warmer environment for guests.

“It’s a much more inviting place,” he said.

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In addition, the arena now features the Center Ice caf‚, which offers a menu of items for students and skaters alike. Formerly, the arena only provided concessions during hockey games and public sessions. Bagger hopes to increase the new caf‚’s popularity with one final upgrade.

“Within the month, we will be wireless,” he said. “(We will have) a true Internet caf‚.”

Guests have not been the only ones to benefit from the arena’s renovations. In early September, Campus Rec completed its remodeling of the hockey locker room in order to give the men’s hockey team more space. Smaller, individual lockers replaced the old metal lockers, which were often shared by two or three team members because they were limited in number.

“(The new locker room) is 100 times better than what we had before,” said Marshall Chubirka, senior in AHS, and left winger for the Illini hockey team.

Over the last month, Chubirka and other members of the hockey team have visited grade-school students and children in hospitals to promote both the arena and their undefeated team. The players bring posters, sign autographs and talk to kids about skating opportunities at the arena.

“All these things are great marketing techniques, but besides that, they show that we’re trying to give back to the community,” Chubirka said.

While most of the renovations at the arena are done, changes are still being made at the Outdoor Center, 51 E. Gregory Dr., which hosts the University’s Outdoor Adventures program. This semester, the Outdoor Center started offering more sports equipment for check out, including footballs, basketballs and volleyballs. Now open until 10 on weeknights, the Outdoor Center also offers drinks and snacks.

“Hopefully, the people that come in for sports equipment will see that we do have outdoor and camping opportunities,” said Bob McGrew, assistant director of Campus Recreation. “It’s a multipurpose thing.”

By spring of 2007, McGrew looks to add picnic tables and a picnic shelter to the Outdoor Center.

“We’re doing this to show off a little bit more,” McGrew said.

Bagger said he had similar goals for the ice arena.

“We decided to invest in the ice arena to create a new ‘wow’ factor,” Bagger said. “(It shows) that we’re here now, and we’re here to stay.”