Illinois Ice Arena renovations needed to get done, according to players

By Erich Fisher, Staff writer

After three months of renovations, the University of Illinois Ice Arena officially reopened on Aug. 21. With these renovations comes excitement for Illinois’ Division I hockey club team.

Before the renovations, the Big Pond, as the arena is known by its frequent attendants, possessed boards and glass that were more than 25 years old. The age of the boards and glass played a factor in the team’s games.

“I think it was like Plexiglas so when you went to chip pucks off the glass, it wouldn’t go as far as you wanted it to,” said senior center Eric Cruickshank. “It was just something that needed to be done and needed a revamp.”

The most important addition to the ice arena will be the new refrigerator system being placed under the ice, which will keep the ice frozen by cooling down the concrete under the surface.

It was evident that the previous cooling system was not working to its full ability with there sometimes being cracks in the ice when it was not properly cooled.

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“The ice surface itself was wearing down; there were several nooks and crannies,” said sophomore forward Bobby Ernsting. “The ice wasn’t even at some places and there were holes in certain places on it.”

Senior defenseman Joey Caprio said there were some slabs of ice that weren’t breathing when the Zamboni went over it. He also mentioned that some of the ice was actually gone and down to the concrete.

The lights in the lobby of the arena have also been redone to make it properly lit.

A new speaker system has also been implemented. The previous one was very old, making it tough to hear things like announcements or the national anthem.

Cruickshank thinks the renovations in general can possibly make more people want to come to the team’s games.

“When you do something different to an arena and people hear about it, it definitely draws you to at least want to come and see what’s changed,” Cruickshank said. “I’m really hoping that with the renovations it will help out a little bit.”

This summer has proven to be very productive for the Illinois Division I club hockey team. First, they teamed up with the National Hockey Association to start a feasibility project in an attempt help make the Illini a NCAA Division I team.

And now Illinois’ home rink has had $1.6 million invested into improving it.

While the players agree this was a necessary move by the program, many are unsure what the next step is. That doesn’t mean they can’t speculate about what it may be.

“I think the goal of the program is to go Division I and that should be the ultimate goal,” Caprio said. “The Chicago area is a hockey hot spot and there’s a bunch of great players that come out of there. If they do make it happen, I think a new facility will be in order.”

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