IOWA CITY, Iowa. (KCRG) - The ice rink at the Coral Ridge Mall was constructed in 1998 and ever since its served as the home rink for both the Hawkeye men's and women's club hockey teams.
Starting next August, the men's team will start playing at the ImOn ice arena after the two sides came to a two-year agreement.
“This will always be home to us." said head coach Kevin Brooks while referencing the rink at the mall. "I can honestly say that and say that with a smile because every senior that’s ever come through will tell you that.”
The men's team has 29 players and has been contemplating finding a new home for quite some time. The team plays division two with the aspirations of someday moving up to division one. In order to do that, the team must expand its resources.
"When you are recruiting kids to come here, you know, from across the nation to leave home, you have to have a top notch facility.” Brooks said.
Logistically, the ImOn arena is quite a bit further than the alternative Xtream arena that is currently being built in Coralville. According to the team, Xtream arena was not able to offer them one of their top priorities. A locker room.
"This is their home away from their dorm rooms, we wanted somewhere that they could be proud of,." Brooks said.
“We need to keep our stuff there." said team captain Jake Vennetti. "We can't travel with four bags and a car especially with freshman on the team who don’t have a car here yet, it just makes the most sense."
According to the Iowa Events Center General Manager Chris Connolly, Xtream arena will have two locker rooms. One is reserved for the Iowa volleyball team that will play all of their home games there. The other is being saved for an expected minor-league hockey team.
While no official announcement has been given, Connolly was confident that an announcement will be in the near future.
"We are hopeful to be able to announce partnership with a hockey team here soon." Connolly said via the phone.
Because there wasn't enough room, the Hawkeyes' attention shifted north to Cedar Rapids.
"It was great." Brooks said. "Cedar Rapids stepped up immediately."
“We're excited about the relationship." said Iowa on Ice general manager Erik Hudson. "The Hawkeyes are a household name around here and you know to have them here is great for our community, its good for the students that play for the team and it should be fun.”
According to Hudson, the arena doesn't foresee any scheduling conflicts regarding ice time.
“There's plenty of ice time to be had and with the Roughriders playing 30 home games, that still leaves us with quite a few weekends available that don’t conflict with their schedule.” Hudson said.
Being able to play in an arena built for hockey gives the team an opportunity to start selling tickets, which is vital to the program as it is still a school-sponsored club. The funding for the program comes from outside of the university through team dues, sponsors & donors, and alumni.
The hope is that eventually the Hawkeyes can follow the path set forth by Arizona State and Penn State, which started at the division two level and eventually moved into division one.
“As a program, you always want to be at your highest level." Brooks said.
"Other teams in the past, they start at the D-2 level and they moved up to ACHA D-1. That would be our next step. That’s our ultimate goal and that option has already presented itself for us, we just want to sustain the budget and make sure we are going to be able to compete at that high level. I would look for that step to probably happen here in the next few years."