Illini Hockey? If So, Illinois Terminal Site Is Chosen
Along with a feasibility study released today that was originally commissioned by the NHL, the National Hockey League Players Association, and College Hockey, Inc., the University of Illinois Division of Intercollegiate Athletics (DIA) announced that Illinois will continue to advance their efforts toward bringing Division I hockey to Champaign-Urbana.
The report expressed that, "with the expanding enthusiasm for ice hockey at all levels in the state of Illinois, the foundation appears to be in place for Illinois to develop a men's hockey program that will, in a relatively short timeframe, become financially viable and competitive on a conference and national level."
The report also, "recommends development of a new facility on the location proposed in downtown Champaign," which is part of a planned expansion by the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District (MTD) of Illinois Terminal that is the result of a partnership with private developer Hans Grotelueschen and the City of Champaign.
"We are ecstatic that the Illinois Terminal expansion site was chosen as the proposed site for a hockey facility for the University of Illinois," said MTD Managing Director Karl Gnadt. "A project like this-that brings together public and private investments-will be good for transit, good for the downtown, and good for the entire area. We’re looking forward to continued work with all of our partners on this expansion."
Division I hockey currently has 60 men's teams and 35 women's teams.
Illinois isn't among those schools, but a new feasibility study released on Thursday indicates growing enthusiasm for the sport's potential addition to Illinois.
But the Illinois athletic department isn't prepared yet to add hockey as a varsity sport at Illinois.
"This will only happen if the DIA can successfully fund the program and receive needed support from various campus and community stakeholders," the department said in a release.
The feasibility study, conducted by Collegiate Consulting and commissioned by the NHL, the National Hockey League Players Association and College Hockey, Inc., provides a possible timeline for when the program could start at Illinois.
A transition to Division I could start as early as the 2020-21 school year, with Illinois as an independent team before making the move to play its first Big Ten season in the 2021-22 school year.
The Big Ten currently counts Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin among its hockey members.
The study recommends the development of a new facility on the location proposed in downtown Champaign. The Illinois athletic department agrees with this recommendation "and will begin focusing its planning efforts on the downtown location."
Local developer Hans Grotelueschen proposed the downtown facility last summer, with cost estimates between $90 to $150 million for the new facility.
The facility, which would have seating capacity between 5,000 and 6,000, could provide new competition space for hockey, volleyball, gymnastics and wrestling.
"The downtown location allows the University to partner with the City of Champaign," the department said, "with its easy accessibility to the many amenities and business establishments that downtown has to offer (and) should serve as a boon to the local economy."
As part of Grotelueschen's proposal, a conference center with a hotel and apartment building would go along with the new events center.