Initial Pledges Exceed $1 Million of Targeted $6 Million, Early Positive Response from University Officials
Ice hockey at the University of Virginia has seen two iterations, from 1973 to 1978 and more recently from 1995 to this season’s final hurrah. Both teams experienced success, but the privately owned ice arenas that were their homes have been repurposed. Four UVA alumni associated with those early years and a former coach of the men’s team want to make sure version three is permanent and sustainable.
The Committee for Home Ice includes Rick Ramsey (ENG ’76), UVA men’s ice hockey coach (1995-2010) Roger Voisinet, Bill Hurt (CLAS ’76), Dan Smythe (CLAS ’79, DAR ’84) and Rob Hilliard (CLAS ’74). Ramsey, Hurt and Smythe all played for the Cavs back in the ‘70s, while Hilliard was the inaugural team’s marketing/promotions manager.
“There was certainly disappointment when the ice arena on Greenbrier closed,” said Ramsey, the team’s top defenseman during his three seasons on the club. “To a certain extent, it wasn’t terribly surprising given the emergence of ice hockey in the south and the demographics of the Charlottesville/Albemarle area back in the 1970s.”
According to Voisinet, midway through the 1990s and into the 2000’s the changing profile of the local populace taken with the incredible growth and popularity of ice hockey and figure skating nationwide, enabled the Main Street Arena to succeed financially. The founder of the UVA hockey team went on to explain that as well as the Arena did from a business standpoint, “it did even better in terms of property appreciation.” Eventually, the owners were able to sell based on the underlying value of the land, selling to a local group that is creating a state- of-the-art center for high-tech businesses.
This situation made the Main Street Arena’s closing all the more difficult to take. In its second chance at competitive ice hockey, the UVA men’s team captured a combined nine ACCHL championships, with participating student-athletes coming to the University from 26 states, five Canadian provinces and a couple of European countries. UVA also fielded a successful women’s team and sported a competitive figure-skating program, while broom ball became an intramural fixture. Outside the University community, robust Charlottesville-based youth and adult hockey leagues and a figure-skating instructional program all flourished. The NHL motto “Hockey is for everyone” is truly reflected in the Charlottesville experience.
“All of these activities face uncertain futures,” according to Voisinet, an area real estate broker and long- time skating proponent who decades ago had been a significant player in developing two ice arenas at Miami University in Oxford, OH. In addition to his role as coach of the UVA men’s team for 15 years, ACCHL Hall of Fame inductee and Sports Information Director for the ACCHL, he’s been a leader in helping local residents grow their passion for ice sports. “Of one thing we’re certain: Given the academic expectations for student-athletes, our current and future hockey players and figure skaters can’t be competing on the road all the time or regularly using ice rinks in Lynchburg or Richmond. It’s simply not a sustainable option,” said Voisinet.
Currently, more than $1 million dollars is pledged to a project requiring at least $6 million, preliminary meetings with some key University officials have taken place and letters of support from a range of stakeholders are now in hand. Now the Committee for Home Ice believes it’s time to “go public” with their efforts, moving the project to “top of mind” among a wider swath of potential donors and UVA decision-makers.
Ramsey, a co-chair for the UVA Engineering School’s campaign that, in part, led to creation of the LEED certified Rice Engineering Building, said the vision of our Committee for Home Ice is to create a sustainable and energy-efficient ice facility serving all aspects of the University and greater Charlottesville communities. “To this end, we see a role for our architecture and engineering students in both the design and monitoring of the arena.”