Stony Brook University has no plans to build an on-campus ice rink despite the success of the ice hockey club and students’ desires for improvements to campus life.
“Hockey is an extraordinarily expensive sport to run,” Stony Brook University President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. said at a media conference in February. “Before we can add another expensive sport like that, we would have to make sure it would make economic sense.”
Ronald Parr, the head of the commercial and industrial division at Parr Organization, estimated that the cost of a 4,000-seat indoor ice rink would come out to $20 million. The organization constructed the Twin Rinks Ice Center at Eisenhower Park.
The ice rink would generate ticket sale revenue from the school’s club ice hockey team, which has found yearly success. The team has won four straight Eastern State Collegiate Hockey League Championships and finished this past season as the number-two ranked team in the American Collegiate Hockey League, which extends nationwide.
“I think the hockey team is awesome,” Stony Brook’s Director of Athletics Shawn Heilbron said. “I can’t tell you how many people come up to me and congratulate me on our hockey team, and I say, ‘I wish I could take the credit for them.’” If the team were NCAA, it would be recognized under the school’s athletics banner, and Heilbron would be involved with it.
An on-campus ice rink would make it easier for the ice hockey club to become an NCAA team and generate more student attendance at games. The team currently plays at The Rinx in Hauppauge, which is about a 15-minute car ride from campus.
“I think it’ll create sort of a culture and environment that will keep students on campus for the weekend,” Pete Hall, a former Stony Brook ice hockey player who graduated from the university in 1989, said. “I’ve seen it firsthand that some of the teams we played against that had rinks on campus had students that stuck around on the weekend, and the hockey rinks were filled with students.”
Title IX, which states that no person in the United States shall be excluded from any educational program or activity on the basis of sex, serves as another hurdle in making the men’s ice hockey team a part of the Athletics Department. Heilbron said that if the school added another men’s team to its NCAA banner, it would likely need to add three women’s teams to compensate. He is considering field hockey, rowing and equestrian as potential women’s teams to add, but he wants to ensure that any new program would be successful.
“I don’t want to add a sport just to add a sport,” Heilbron said. “It has to make sense for our program as a whole. We have to have a facility for them, but we also have to be able to win and be competitive.”
Even if the team doesn’t go to the NCAA, it still has proven that it could put a schedule together each year against other schools’ club teams.
Stanley has concerns that if the school were to enter the NCAA, it would have trouble finding competition in the northeast.
“There’s a limited number of schools throughout the country that play [hockey],” he said. “So you really have to look very hard and understand how that, economically, it would make sense.”
The northeast region of the United States is a hockey hotbed, however. In the Atlantic Hockey Division of Men’s Division one Hockey, there are currently 11 teams that Stony Brook could play whose schools are accessible by bus. Those include Holy Cross, Mercyhurst, Canisius, Sacred Heart and more. “In the northeast, the popularity of hockey is tremendous,” Heilbron said.
Hall said that the idea of building an ice rink on the campus has been floating around since the 1980s. “I did a lot of research at one point and someone offered to build a rink on campus and it got turned back late in the 70s, early 80s.”
Whether it remains a club team or joins the NCAA, Hall said he believes that a 4,000-seat arena would fill out for the ice hockey team’s games.
“I think the students would be extremely supportive,” Hall said. “If you could put a team on the ice that could compete like Stony Brook can…Students go to see winners.”
The men’s basketball team made school history this season as it went to March Madness for the first time before falling to Kentucky 85-57 in the first round. Students consistently packed out Island Federal Credit Union Arena while the team made its historic run.
“You can do the same thing with an ice hockey team as Stony Brook did with its basketball team,” Hall said.
The hockey team using an ice rink on Stony Brook grounds wouldn’t be its only use. Campus life may benefit as well by opening its ice to the students, providing an alternative to the Recreation Center.
“Student life on the weekends is dead; everyone goes home,” senior finance major Susana Polanco said. “There should be more activities that will make people want to stay on campus.”
Hall has seen activities such as recreational hockey, curling and broomball played firsthand at Arizona State University. “Quite honestly, [the rink] is not just to go to games, it would become part of the recreation life,” Hall said.
Ice skating would be another activity offered by an ice rink at Stony Brook University.
“I think if you open up recreational ice skating, that would definitely attract people and help campus life out a bit,” freshman psychology major Sophie Peterfreund said.
A potential $30 to $40 increase in student activity fees may be necessary to fund the rink’s construction and upkeep.
“Personally I don’t think that’s a huge deal because, if ice skating were available, I wouldn’t mind,” Peterfreund said.
Polanco said that while she would be okay with paying additional fees, she doesn’t think everyone would. “It would be awesome to have an ice rink, though.”
Students would also see an increased athletics fee as a result of the school supporting an NCAA ice hockey team.
“I would be reluctant to do that in this point and time,” Stanley said. “From an economic standpoint, I don’t see [an ice rink] happening.”
In order to determine whether an on-campus ice rink would be economically beneficial, the school would have to conduct a research study. The costs of construction and maintenance of the rink and, potentially, the ice hockey team, would be factors. The school’s financial return would largely come from ticket sales and renting the venue to the public, if the university opted to do so.
“To my knowledge, there hasn’t been a formal study done on hockey,” Heilbron said. “I know it’s something that’s always out there as a question, so I think to say it’ll never happen would be very shortsighted on my part.”
The cost of an indoor ice rink on state property would be high, and the university would likely have to rely on a donor.
“We’ve had people identify themselves and say they can raise the money,” Heilbron said. “It comes back to President Stanley and what his vision is for the university.”
To support an ice rink and an NCAA hockey team, it would cost the university and its students money, but the potential result would be another potentially successful school team and additional campus life options.