From The Daily Atheneum
By Luke Blain
Last week, the Morgantown Board of Park and Recreation Commission (BOPARC) revised renovation plans for the city’s ice arena after hearing concerns from community members. Local teams can now have a shortened 2023-24 hockey season, with the first of two phases of renovations beginning in March.
At West Virginia University, the announcement that the city’s ice arena was getting an upgrade was pleasing to hear. However, leaders of WVU club hockey say they were hoping for more.
Todd Gookin, president of WVU club hockey, said the renovations are welcomed and that his players are happy to get part of a season. But he added the team could use an additional arena altogether.
“We’re hoping that this might also open up some avenues for more ice,” Gookin said. “We need a second pad of ice in Morgantown. That’s just a reality.”
Some of the renovations listed by a press release from BOPARC include mechanical, electric and plumbing upgrades and replacement of the ice slab and under-slab piping, as well as new siding, insulation and roofing.
When the levees were initially being passed for the renovations, Gookin gave the Morgantown City Council two requests. He wanted more ice, either in the style of a studio sheet or a second sheet of ice, and better lines of sight for spectators.
Neither of those requests are being met, according to Gookin.
“It’s still not gonna be a good venue after they spend 15 million renovating it,” Gookin said. “That’s the thing that just got me shaking my head is we’re putting a lot of money into something that still isn’t ideal for what we need.”
The team is run through the American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA), which is separate from the NCAA. WVU’s team, however, still plays against NCAA teams.
The ACHA allows schools to have multiple teams. WVU has men’s teams in all three divisions as well as a Division II women’s team. With a total of four teams, ice time can be hard to come by. WVU D-I hockey coach Shane Buckley believes a second rink would be a big help in that aspect.
“Having a second sheet of ice would alleviate some of those things and also make life easier for youth hockey where, maybe there’s a team who’s able to get on the ice a little bit more every week, which helps with development [and] helps with the enjoyment of the game,” Buckley said.
The current plan is to have the renovations take place in two phases that would allow for a shortened open season of the ice rink, as opposed to a full year of construction. The full-year plan would result in the hockey program having to miss an entire season.
The plan has flipped between the two options in the past month, and Gookin said WVU’s hockey program has not been kept up to date with new information.
“We had a Zoom meeting on [Dec. 29] where they said we’d have a shortened season,” Gookin said. “Two days later in the newspaper, they were shutting the rink down altogether.”
The announcement was very unexpected, according to Buckley.
“We were all kind of blindsided by it,” Buckley said. “That’s one thing that I wish could have been done a little bit differently so we could have had a little more of a heads up so we could have prepared something for our guys.”
The news of a full-year shutdown sparked outrage and protest from the local community.
After reconvening, city council members and BOPARC decided on a shortened 2023 season. While it may not be ideal for the team to have a shortened regular season, Gookin said the players are happy to be able to play.
“At first they were just afraid that they would have no ice,” Gookin said. “So they’re happy that we have ice next year.”
While a second rink is not in the works right now, Gookin remains hopeful something can happen in the future.
“It’s a partnership,” Gookin said. “It’s kind of opened that dialogue, which has been refreshing given that we’re talking to people that a month ago, would not entertain this conversation.”
The current hockey season will end on Feb. 26, 2023, and renovations are scheduled to begin on March 1.
(Originally published at https://www.thedaonline.com/sports/wvu-hockey-looking-for-more-ice-after-boparc-agreement/article_be5ce232-96ae-11ed-bd62-0b6fd5c2f187.html)