A group of University of Virginia alumni and hockey boosters wants to bring an ice rink to Grounds.
The Committee For Home Ice announced on Thursday that it has received over $1 million in pledged donations towards an ice rink on university property.
“We are partnering with the university to find land [for the rink] on Grounds, so it will be part of campus culture,” said committee member Roger Voisinet. “We are trying to make it as easy and effortless for the university as possible. In the end, they will have a nice facility they can be proud of.”
Charlottesville lost its only ice rink when the Main Street Arena closed in April. The building is scheduled for demolition this summer to make way for the Charlottesville Technology Center, a six-story office building being developed by Taliaferro Junction, LLC and Jaffray Woodriff.
“The Main Street Arena closing… is one reason [UVa Hockey] alumni are anxious to donate,” Voisinet said. “They see the crisis opportunity here.”
The UVa men’s ice hockey club is an American Collegiate Hockey Association team competing in the Atlantic Coast Conference Hockey League. The team will play its “home games” in Richmond for its upcoming season.
According to the team’s website, members pay dues of $1,200 per season and must provide their own ice skates, hockey sticks and other essential gear.
“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,” Voisinet said in a news release.
A real estate broker and solar energy consultant, Voisinet coached the men’s ice hockey team from 1995 to 2010 and was an investor in the Main Street Arena.
Voisinet formed the Committee For Home Ice with Rob Hilliard, Bill Hurt, Rick Ramsey and Dan Smythe.
Hurt, Ramsey and Smythe were members of the UVa hockey team as undergraduates in the 1970s, while Hilliard served as the team’s marketing and promotions manager.
Ramsey said he has met with UVa administrators and current and former members of the university’s Board of Visitors to discuss the ice rink project.
“We have to raise the money, and we have to make it fit in [architecturally] with what Thomas Jefferson wanted,” Ramsey said. “We also want to make it as energy efficient as possible.”
Voisinet said the Committee for Home Ice hopes to reach $3 million in pledged donations before the UVa Board of Visitors’ next meeting in September. The total cost of the rink is estimated to be at least $6 million.
Voisinet said the committee has identified “a very good location for the university and the community,” but would not specify where the rink could be built. He said the rink at UVa would be partially sustained by revenue from public skating and community sports programs.
A Virginia Athletics spokesman said he could not comment on the proposed ice rink because it did not involve any of the university’s varsity teams.
Last week, University Architect Alice Raucher presented a proposed master plan for the athletics precinct on North Grounds to the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board of Visitors.
The 82.4-acre athletics precinct currently includes four structures scheduled to be demolished by 2020: University Hall, Onesty Hall, the Cage and a sports medicine facility.
The master plan includes a new football operations center, a new Olympic sports building, additional practice fields, a new softball stadium, and a promenade for pedestrians.
If the Committee For Home Ice is successful, the rink at UVa could join another proposed ice rink in Albemarle County.
Riverbend Development has submitted an initial site plan for a rink in Brookhill, a planned multi-use development along U.S. 29 near Polo Grounds Road.
Thomas Thorpe, CEO of Afton Scientific, served as a board member for Friends of Charlottesville Ice Park. The group managed the Main Street Arena rink in its final year of operation and acquired some of its assets.
“Every month, every season Charlottesville goes without a rink we might lose not only adult hockey and curling teams, but children’s hockey and figure skating and coaches for those sports,” Thorpe said.
Thorpe said the rink proposed for Brookhill could potentially open by the fall of 2019— well before the proposed rink at UVa could be completed.
Thorpe said the Brookhill rink would likely be better suited for birthday parties and small private events than the rink at UVa. He said it also would be more accessible to people north of Charlottesville.
“You would think [having two rinks] would be dilutive… but I think it’s a win-win,” Thorpe said. “They would have different business models.”