Most St. Thomas athletes get to put their practice clothes on, warm up and prepare for games on campus, however the St. Thomas men’s hockey team puts the key in the ignition to travel about 15 minutes to their home rink in Mendota Heights.
However, Parker Burgess, the men’s hockey team’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator, drafted a plan that may solve the issue as part of his master’s program project.
“I did a project… that looked at the possibility of an on-campus rink and because we’re landlocked at UST the best possible location would be underground, below the baseball field,” Burgess said. “The baseball team would have to play at a different location for a year, which would not be ideal, but in the end they would get a brand new turf field.”
Burgess said he thinks that the advantages of an on-campus rink are endless, especially because of increased ticket sales.
“Hockey games are played on Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. College students enjoy going out on Fridays and Saturdays, so it is a perfect start for an evening out for our students,” Burgess. “If we had an on-campus rink that seated around 2,000, I believe we would pack it for every home game.”
However, Athletic Director Steve Fritz said since the university is in the process of completing the half billion dollar Capital Campaign, he doesn’t see the on-campus rink as being a priority for any fundraising in the near future.
“I doubt we’ll ever have a rink on campus,” Fritz said. “They’re just very very hard to run, you’ve got to run them 24 hours a day.”
But Fritz didn’t rule out the possibility.
“I think anything’s feasible, I just doubt it’s ever going to be a real priority,” Fritz said.
Sophomore forward Sam Olson said he noticed a drastic drop in fan attendance from when he played junior hockey to now, when he plays for St. Thomas.
“Coming from junior hockey, we’d have 1,500 to 1,600 fans a night watching our games. Now it’s less than 100 a lot of the times. It’s a different atmosphere,” Olson said.
Having an hockey atmosphere on campus could be an advantage too.
“As the recruiting coordinator, the first question I get asked from every possibly recruit is, “is your rink on campus?” Burgess said.
Olson said he also thinks that an on-campus rink would benefit St. Thomas’ and St. Paul’s community.
“When the men’s and women’s hockey teams aren’t using the rink, we could rent it out to youth hockey teams in the area, or high school teams that don’t have their own rink. We could also do figure skating or open-skate for $5. Club hockey could also use the rink,” Olson said.
While the possibilities are endless, the idea of a hockey rink underneath the baseball field would add up financially. Through calculations made in his project, Burgess said this rink could cost anywhere between 10-20 million dollars.
“I do not believe this will happen soon. The school has spent a lot of money on athletics recently and not their focus will be putting money into our academics, which makes sense. I would love to see it happen in the near future, but it’s a long shot,” Burgess said.
Junior defenseman Jake Rossman said he too can see the idea happening, but not for a while.
“While we’re here it’s not going to, but maybe in the future,” Rossman said.
Sophomore forward Alex Altenbernd said the distance hinders fans from attending hockey games and makes the men’s hockey team feel left out of the St. Thomas community.
“We don’t get the recognition we deserve around campus. We’ve won 37 straight seasons in a row. We’re the most winning Division III team in the nation” Altenbernd said.
Despite champion athletes and teams, St. Thomas does not have an on-campus rink. The idea wasn’t feasible because St. Thomas simply doesn’t have enough room on campus for a rink.
“Many students do not want to deal with the hassle of driving all the way to Mendota Heights to get to a game, especially in the Minnesota winters,” Burgess said.
Kayla Bengtson can be reached at email@example.com.