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Gophers looking at downsized Mariucci Arena

The University of Minnesota athletic department is looking at changes to Mariucci Arena, including a smaller ice sheet and more seating.

Mariucci Arena sports an Olympic-sized ice sheet: 100 feet by 200 feet. This is bigger than an NHL ice sheet — 85 feet by 200 feet. While the larger sheet has served the Golden Gophers style of play over the years, it’s seen as a hindrance when it comes to Big Ten and NCAA tournament play, usually held in NHL arenas on the smaller ice surface.

Moving to a smaller ice sheet — a 92-feet-by-200 feet rink is in the plans — will allow new premium seating to be installed at the arena. Add in renovated weight rooms and locker rooms, and you’ve got an $8-million renovation in the works, which is currently being raised by the athletic department. From the Star Tribune:

“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.

When it opened 21 years ago, Mariucci Arena was one of the best college-hockey arenas in the nation, but since then it’s been surpassed in the Big Ten by newer arenas at Wisconsin and Penn State, and in the state by a gorgeous new Duluth arena.

Photo by Jim Robins.