Illinois Hopes To Green Light Men's Hockey Program By Year's End
Illinois AD Josh Whitman said that he "hopes to green-light" a D-I men's hockey program "by the end of the calendar year," according to Jeremy Werner of 247SPORTS.com. Whitman "acknowledges that adding a hockey program is 'an ambitious project' ... and that he must raise 'many, many more millions' of dollars to fund a 5,000-6,000-seat hockey arena." But Whitman said that he has "received several 'seven-figure' commitments for a downtown Champaign arena project that could cost" $50-60M. Whitman said that a funding model "includes private donations, corporate dollars, retail dollars, concession dollars and developer dollars." Whitman: "I’m increasingly confident in what this could [look] like and our chances of making this a reality. There does seem to be growing interest." Whitman said that a program "would likely take two to three years to start after greenlighting, but hockey would give Illinois another potential revenue-generating program." To add a men’s hockey program, UI "would need to add another women’s program to comply with Title IX requirements" (247SPORTS.com, 6/6). In Champaign, Bob Asmussen writes UI "doesn't need the sport." Plenty of teams "are already on campus and they all have wish lists." But a school with a Big Ten-sized athletic budget "can walk and chew gum at the same time." Part of the "beauty of the downtown arena proposal is there will be no impact on other campus athletic facilities." Once the money is "raised for the initial hockey investment, the sport will need to help pay for itself" (Champaign NEWS-GAZETTE, 6/7).
PERFORMANCE ENHANCING: In Illinois, Joey Wagner writes the school is also "seeing physical growth to its football facilities." Steel beams "are beginning to poke out of the ground at the home of the new Football Performance Center," a $79.2M facility that will open in '19. Whitman said that the facility "remains on schedule and on budget, and announced other amenities in the facility." The performance center will "include a two-lane bowling alley and a rooftop terrace." Whitman also said that the Irwin Indoor Practice Facility, which the performance center "will connect with, will expand on the west side that will add 'significant square footage' to the building" (Decatur HERALD & REVIEW, 6/7).
LEAVING A FOOTPRINT: In Champaign, Scott Richey notes UI "wants to maintain a presence in Chicago." That is why it "will continue to look for football opportunities after fulfilling their deal for two more football games at Soldier Field," with this season's game against USF "included in that number." UI also will "continue to play a men's basketball game each season at the United Center." The school will play a Big Ten opponent at United Center "thanks to the expanded 20-game Big Ten schedule" this coming season. UI's games in Chicago, which have "happened for 24 straight seasons, have played out to dwindling interest the past few years." A combination of opponent -- Oregon in '14 is the "only high major team in the last five years -- and Illinois' struggles have hurt at the gate" (Champaign NEWS-GAZETTE, 6/7).