Gophers abandoning Olympic ice sheet at Mariucci?

  • Article by: AMELIA RAYNO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 1, 2014 - 2:13 PM

Proposal is to spend $8 million on smaller ice sheet, more seats, improved sight lines.

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Mariucci Arena, in 2002.

The University of Minnesota already has big goals for athletic venue upgrades. This spring, it’s looking to add one more building to its to-do list: Mariucci Arena.

The university is considering an $8 million renovation of Mariucci that could potentially include a smaller ice sheet, better sight lines and increased seating.

The proposal, which was requested by the university Board of Regents, is separate from the $190 million master facilities plan the athletic department released last summer.

Also in the Mariucci considerations: expanding the weight room in the 21-year-old building, adding other training facilities and renovating both locker rooms.

“We’re excited about some of the things we can do with Mariucci, and it will be a great shot in the arm for our hockey program, ” athletic director Norwood Teague said. “We have a couple of a la carte projects such as this that we’ve been planning on funding for a while.”

Teague said the makeover would be entirely privately funded.

Minnesota has gone through the pre-planning stage and is seeking a pre-design consultant. A decision on exact plans could be reached by the end of next month. The university has contracted with Stevens Engineers to work on a new refrigeration system for the arena.

What, exactly, the renovations would entail is still a matter of some debate, Teague said, and could be affected by cost. A reduced ice sheet (about 92 feet, 6 inches by 200 feet) from the current Olympic-sized dimensions (100 feet by 200 feet) has been discussed.

The notion of a smaller rink will be a hot topic for hockey fans, some of whom argue the Gophers need to get better on the smaller sheets. NCAA Frozen Fours are played in NHL arenas with ice sheets of 85 feet by 200 feet.

None of the projects in the university’s larger master plan has advanced past the fundraising stage, although Teague said it’s going “very well”. He said the first project to gain enough funding will be the first to hit the construction stage.

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