February 12, 2009 PRINT Bookmark and Share

Notre Dame to Construct New Ice Arena on Campus

CHN Staff Report

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Jeff Jackson has given Notre Dame everything it wanted, and now Notre Dame is giving Jackson what he — and lots of players, alumni and fans — have wanted.

Notre Dame announced today that construction would begin next spring on a new, freestanding, 5,000-seat on-campus ice hockey arena, with completion in time for the 2011-12 season.

This replaces the idea of renovating the Joyce Center into a more modern, hockey-centered facility.

When Jeff Jackson was brought in as coach, he was assured his program would eventually have the kind of facility deserving of a nationally-contending team. Jackson held up his end of the bargain, getting the Irish into the national spotlight, getting as far as the national championship game last season, and a No. 1 ranking for much of this year.

Now the administration, and new athletic director Jack Swarbick, have gone beyond the original plan.

"This is the most important and missing piece of the puzzle to this hockey program," Jackson said. "The new building will create an environment that our fans, the students, the players, and our hockey alumni can be proud of.

"There are so many individuals — players, coaches and others — over the history of Notre Dame hockey who have helped lay the foundation for this decision. This building also is going to be very much about the legacy our players have built, starting with my first year here — T.J. Jindra, Mark Van Guilder, Erik Condra and next year’s seniors. It’s as much about what they did to help elevate the profile of this program as anything else. They all should be extremely proud of what they have accomplished over the last four years."

The University’s Board of Trustees approved the project at its meetings last week on campus.

"We’re thrilled about the plans for a new ice arena on our campus, particularly based on the superb job Jeff Jackson and our hockey team have done to position our program as one of the best in the nation," Swarbrick said.

The new ice arena will be located south of the current facility, the Joyce Center. In addition to a new track and field project, the University currently is in the process of building new stadia for both soccer and lacrosse (both scheduled for completion this year) — in addition to the ongoing Joyce Center arena addition and renovation that began in September 2008.

The majority of the general public arena seating will be of the chair-back variety. The facility will include two sheets of ice (one of them Olympic-sized), with limited seating availability for the second sheet.

The plan also will include offices and locker room and weight and cardio training facilities for the Notre Dame hockey program. Locker rooms also will be available for campus and community use of the facility.

The new ice arena will replace the Joyce Center fieldhouse as Notre Dame’s home for ice hockey. The Joyce Center was dedicated in December 1968 as the Athletic and Convocation Center. It was renamed in 1987 in honor of Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Notre Dame's executive vice president and chair of the Faculty Board on Athletics from 1952 to 1987.

The current Joyce Center facility has bench seating for 2,713. The Irish drew a standing room only-crowd of 3,007 for a game Jan. 30 against seventh-rated Michigan, marking the largest home attendance figure since March 1995. Notre Dame has drawn capacity crowds in eight of 13 home games this season, and the remaining three regular-season home events are sold out. Notre Dame averaged 2,722 fans per game last year (more than the listed capacity of the Joyce Center), best in program history.

The University originally planned to renovate the current Joyce Center ice facility, but additional studies changed that plan to instead feature a new building. Once the new facility is completed, the ice rink will be removed from the Joyce Center fieldhouse, making that north dome space available for a variety of other events.

Currently, the Irish are 21-5-3, including a 15-4-3-3 first-place CCHA record.

The Irish had a disappointing finish to last year's regular season before making a dramatic NCAA run. The previous year, under the guidance of Jackson — who took over in 2005 — the team had its first-ever CCHA tournament and regular-season title, before losing to Michigan State in the NCAA regional final.

To date, $26 million has been raised toward the hockey facility project. The University is actively seeking additional contributions, and fundraising is continuing toward a goal of breaking ground in the spring of 2010. In the meantime, the University will work with architects to create a specific design for the facility, as well as a final construction timeline. The total financial commitment for the hockey project won’t be determined until that process takes place.

In a related announcement last April, the ice rink at Notre Dame's new arena will be named the Charles W. “Lefty” Smith Jr. Rink, in honor of the first coach in the program’s history.

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