Mariucci Arena was named one of the top 10 venues in college sports by a national magazine five years ago. But it will turn 20 years old next year.
The time has come to look at fixing up the Gophers' home rink, men's hockey coach Don Lucia said Monday on his radio show and reiterated Tuesday.
"When you walk into Mariucci, it is as nice a rink as you will find in college hockey to watch a game," Lucia said in phone interview. "We've done a great job with murals and banners. But it's like anything else, you have to continue to update it."
Lucia said Mariucci hasn't received any major improvements since it opened in 1993.
"Kids go on a recruiting visit and, you know what, facilities are extremely important," Lucia said on his weekly show. "You want to be able to have kids come in and look through your arena and have a little bit of that 'wow' factor."
Lucia recently attended a game at his alma mater, Notre Dame, which has a new arena. He also regularly recruits against North Dakota, which opened the palatial Ralph Engelstad Arena in 2001.
Lucia said the foremost need for Mariucci is a new, high-definition scoreboard. "[With it] we can do so many things in-game to make it better for our fans, to show replays and hype up the crowd a little bit," he said. "That is really a must thing."
When asked via text message about possible upgrades to the scoreboard, Gophers athletic director Joel Maturi, who is retiring June 30, replied that he hadn't seen Lucia's comments but that improvements are "a need we hope to realize next year."
Other improvements on his wish list for Mariucci, Lucia said, are a better sound system, a players lounge and video room downstairs, an upgraded weight room and renovated coaches offices. Currently, the players have a small lounge on a different floor than their locker room, and they watch video on a large screen sitting in front of their stalls.
Minnesota Duluth and Bemidji State have new arenas, St. Cloud State is renovating its arena and Minnesota State Mankato is seeking state money to improve its facility. The fifth in-state Division I men's hockey arena is Mariucci. It is a great facility, Lucia said, but the university needs to look at how the game experience can be better for fans and players.
Lucia said there has been talk of making improvements for a couple of years, "so this is not something new." What is changing, starting next season, is the Gophers are switching to a preferred seating program for men's hockey. So 6,056 season ticket-holders for the 2012-13 season will be required to make a $100, $200 or $300 donation per seat. Preferred seating is expected to bring in an extra $600,000, a university official said.
Lucia said he hopes some of that additional revenue could be reinvested in Mariucci. The university seems in agreement on that. David Crum, associate athletic director for athletic development, said last June when preferred seating was announced that revenue would be used for scholarships and improving facilities.