UI Ice Arena renovation

UI Ice Arena renovation

Over the next 10 Mondays, we'll spotlight one of the 50-plus construction projects happening this summer on the UI campus. Up first: THE 86-YEAR-OLD ICE ARENA.


For one, a refrigeration system installed when Lou Henson was still coaching on campus finally conked out and was "getting very expensive to maintain," said Ice Arena Associate Bill Zeman. That's the most pressing problem — but not the only flaw — of a 55,000-square-foot facility built in 1931 and under Campus Recreation's management for the past 40 years.


A renovation expected to last five months calls for a new ice mat, rubber flooring (both surrounding the rink and in the lobby area) and new lobby lighting, among other upgrades. The new refrigeration system is already here and installed — on the roof of the Zamboni room — and "the new dasher boards and plexiglass have also been installed," Zeman said.


Officials estimate the total cost of the entire project to be $1.6 million. Where the money will come from should the UI decide to build anew down the road remains a mystery.


Closed since St. Patrick's Day, the arena is expected to be back up and running come the start of the fall semester. Making these changes gives UI officials more time to decide what to do in the long run, be it more projects or an all-new arena. The new refrigeration system comes with a guarantee of eight to 10 good years, according to the school's Facilities & Services division.


Andrew Troutt, president and CEO of Champaign Regional Speedskating, can't wait to see the finished product. The team normally does off-ice conditioning over the summer, so the shutdown hasn't had any effect. "I think the renovation will be very beneficial," Troutt said. "The new rink, while having new dimensions, should provide a great environment for practices and meets."


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