UI hockey feasibility study recommends downtown facility

UI hockey feasibility study recommends downtown facility

Division I hockey currently has 60 men's teams and 35 women's teams.

Illinois isn't among those schools, but a new feasibility study released on Thursday indicates growing enthusiasm for the sport's potential addition to Illinois.

But the Illinois athletic department isn't prepared yet to add hockey as a varsity sport at Illinois.

"This will only happen if the DIA can successfully fund the program and receive needed support from various campus and community stakeholders," the department said in a release.

The feasibility study, conducted by Collegiate Consulting and commissioned by the NHL, the National Hockey League Players Association and College Hockey Inc., provides a possible timeline for when the program could start at Illinois.

A transition to Division I could start as early as the 2020-21 school year, with Illinois as an independent team before making the move to play its first Big Ten season in the 2021-22 school year.

The Big Ten currently counts Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin among its hockey members.

The study recommends the development of a new facility on the location proposed in downtown Champaign. The Illinois athletic department agrees with this recommendation "and will begin focusing its planning efforts on the downtown location."

Local developer Hans Grotelueschen proposed the downtown facility last summer, with cost estimates between $90 to $150 million for the new facility.

The facility, which would have seating capacity between 5,000 and 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," the department said, "with its easy accessibility to the many amenities and business establishments that downtown has to offer (and) should serve as a boon to the local economy."

As part of Grotelueschen's proposal, a conference center with a hotel and apartment building would go along with the new events center.