UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS (WCIA) — A comprehensive study, completed by Collegiate Consulting, supports creating an NCAA men’s hockey team on campus.
The UI Division of Intercollegiate Athletics released the study Thursday morning. It was initiated in June and commissioned by the National Hockey League, National Hockey League Players Association and College Hockey, Inc.
Based on interviews with, and feedback from, campus and community stakeholders and strong support from the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL, the report indicates there is growing excitement among the statewide hockey community about the UI starting a Division I hockey program.
The report states, 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.
Illinois has the sixth highest youth hockey participation in the country, having grown nearly 300% since 1993. The Land of Lincoln also produces the fourth-most Division I hockey players with 85 currently competing on Division I teams.
“The strong consensus of everyone involved in college hockey is that NCAA men’s hockey will flourish at the University of Illinois,” said Mike Snee, executive director of College Hockey, Inc. “From the number of native Illinois players currently playing college hockey to the continued growth of youth hockey players in the state, there are many reasons to be confident that the Fighting Illini could quickly become a top national program and sustain it every year. We are very appreciative of the University administration’s willingness to consider bringing NCAA hockey to Champaign.”
The study recommends development of a new facility on the location proposed in downtown Champaign. The DIA concurs with this recommendation and will begin focusing its planning efforts on the downtown location.
The facility, which would have seating capacity of 5,000 – 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, and could serve as a boon to the local economy.
At this time, the DIA is not prepared to make the ultimate decision about adding hockey as a varsity sport.
It will happen only if the DIA can successfully fund the program and receive needed support from various campus and community stakeholders.
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