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Downtown Arena Recommended for Illinois Hockey

llinois Fighting Illini

A new study recommends a downtown Champaign location for the site of a new arena that would accommodate an Illinois hockey program. 

Illinois has been considering its options for hockey, and whether it could be added as a varsity sport. A newly released study that was commissioned by the NHL, the National Hockey League Players Association, and College Hockey Inc. finds support for an Illinois hockey program, and makes suggestions about a new arena. It recommends constructing the arena downtown, pointing to proximity to surrounding amenities as a distinct advantage.

Another site was considered in the study, as Illinois has been pitched on the idea of playing at a 5,000-seat arena that would be constructed as part of a project from Fox Development Corp. The development company previously completed its own study and is still hopeful that its proposal could work for an Illinois hockey team, but the downtown site is being noted for its advantages. More from The News-Gazette:

It completed its own feasibility study in November, which favored its site over the downtown location proposed by developer Hans Grotelueschen, but never heard back from the stakeholders involved, [Fox Development CEO Andrea] Ruedi said.

“We’ve presented ours to all the stakeholders and still feel like we have the better option for the community,” Ruedi said.

While the College Hockey Inc. study made public this week praised Fox’s plan for having existing parking spaces and infrastructure, it ultimately recommended the downtown site for its proximity to hotels, restaurants and bars, as well as its ease of access to students.

“Having all those in close proximity to the arena we think helps to augment the atmosphere and make it a more appealing location for our students and for our fans,” Illinois athletic director Josh Whitman said. “It lends itself to a particularly social experience. … I really like the idea of stepping outside what I would call our customary campus bubble. It extends our university into the community in a way we often haven’t done.”

The Fox Development site is located on St. Marys Road, and would be part of project that includes an arena attached to a community sports facility and the expansion of the I Hotel. The downtown project could offer several other amenities as well, including improvements to the Illinois Terminal, a conference center, hotel, and office space. The arena there would seat 5,000-to-6,000 fans and be designed to host other sports, including volleyball, wrestling, and gymnastics.

Illinois is still considering whether or not to launch the hockey program, which is estimated to cost more than $50 million to establish.

RELATED STORIES: Illinois Hockey Arena Pitched for Champaign Development

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