CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman says he came close several times to announcing the addition of hockey in the last year but pulled the plug in the 11th hour after the final pieces to puzzle fell thru. Whitman says the project still needs more money to be green lighted but he hopes to have a team and arena in place by 2022.
During his annual “state of the DIA” address in front of reporters on Tuesday, Whitman upped the ante to $100 million. Last year at this time, the Illinois AD said $50-$60 million was needed to add hockey at Illinois. It all comes down to fundraising, especially for an arena. Whitman shared the University of Illinois would now like to own a downtown building, instead of leasing a property like they talked about previously.
One big change could help make Illinois’ 20th Varsity sport a reality. Whitman said the DIA will not need to add a women’s sport to meet Title IX requirements.
“For a long time I think we thought it would be necessary to add or subtract women’s or men’s and then ultimately we consulted with some people on the outside,” Whitman said. “We reached a conclusion that we can do this with just the men’s team and it makes it much more feasible for us to get there without having to worry about the financial considerations in particular of potentially adding a women’s sport.”
Whitman says he’s confident the team “can pay for itself” out of an operating budget between $3 and $3.5 million per year. That would cover everything from coaches salaries to recruiting costs, equipment and travel expenses.