Fox Development holding out hope for its hockey-based proposal


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CHAMPAIGN — Despite a feasibility study recommending downtown Champaign be where a potential Division I Illini hockey team play its games, Fox Development Corp. is still holding out hope for its proposed site on St. Mary's Road.

"We still believe that we have a lower-cost option, both in terms of construction costs and already having drainage and utilities on site," Fox Development CEO Andrea Ruedi told The News-Gazette on Friday.

Fox's plan included a 5,000-seat hockey arena attached to a community sports facility with another two ice rinks, along with an expansion of the conference center at the I Hotel.

It completed its own feasibility study in November, which favored its site over the downtown location proposed by developer Hans Grotelueschen, but never heard back from the stakeholders involved, Ruedi said.

"We've presented ours to all the stakeholders and still feel like we have the better option for the community," Ruedi said.

While the College Hockey Inc. study made public this week praised Fox's plan for having existing parking spaces and infrastructure, it ultimately recommended the downtown site for its proximity to hotels, restaurants and bars, as well as its ease of access to students.

"Having all those in close proximity to the arena we think helps to augment the atmosphere and make it a more appealing location for our students and for our fans," Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said. "It lends itself to a particularly social experience. ... I really like the idea of stepping outside what I would call our customary campus bubble. It extends our university into the community in a way we often haven't done."

Whitman said a potential varsity-level hockey team is still likely two or three years away and would require an investment of more than $50 million.

While the downtown plan — which also includes a hotel, conference center, apartments, office space, parking and improvements to the Illinois Terminal — received this study's recommendation, it presumably would still need to go through a formal bidding process, and the city said it is still doing its due diligence on the downtown project.

Regardless of whether FDC lands the hockey arena, it still plans to build the community sports facility at the southwest corner of St. Mary's Road and Fourth Street, Ruedi said.

"Those projects were independent," she said.