Champaign — Feasibility studies show that Illinois can add another revenue-generating sport by adding a men’s ice hockey program, athletic director Josh Whitman in the Red Zone Looking at the process, I was prepared for the following possible announcements. Change the landscape of Illinois athletics.
It was last March. Before the pandemic.
Instead of possibly announcing hockey in April 2020, Whitman puts those discussions off and hopes it’s a “short-term pause, not a long-term pause.” did.
The suspension was lifted after 15 months. Hockey conversations in Illinois will resume at least this month and next month.
Clarifying the full extent of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is the first step in Illinois. Whitman said Wednesday that the loss of total revenue for the inter-university track and field club would be between $ 12 million and $ 18 million. It’s better than expected, but it’s still a burden to overcome. He also said that hockey DIA partners, including the city of Champaign and local businesses, need to evaluate the same aspects.
However, the idea of Division I Hockey in Illinois and the potential new Downtown Champaign Arena will be revisited.
“Besides saying that it remains a topic, I don’t want to have a timeline when there may or may not be additional information about it,” Whitman said. “We’ve been on the road so far, so we can’t leave it without at least resuming the conversation and seeing if it continues to make sense. Where the conversation will be in the coming months. I know if I’m going. “
Illinois, College Hockey, Inc. in the spring of 2018. Has invested in hockey with just time and effort since a feasibility study conducted in collaboration with the NHL and NHLPA showed that the sport could be successful in the champagne. The promise of multiple seven-digit gifts later that year only facilitated Irini’s efforts to add sport.
Currently, the entire project needs to be reassessed through the post-pandemic lens. Not to mention the NCAA’s situation, which can change significantly depending on the outcome of the Supreme Court’s decision on Alston v. NCAA and how names, images and portraits affect college athletics.
“We were very close to green lighting hockey,” Whitman said. “There is no question about that. How close we were, I feel obliged to resume the conversation and reassess it to see where we are at this point … What I don’t feel is obliged to do it. The pandemic gives us the flexibility to understand what makes sense in this new space, if nothing else. I did. “
The decline and flow of nationally participating hockey schools can also influence Illinois’ decisions. Alaska Anchorage has just entered its final season as a Division I program, and Robert Morris announced in April that he would cut both men’s and women’s teams. This leaves 60 Division I men’s hockey programs compared to the men’s basketball 354.
“Based on our initial analysis, we decided that hockey could be a profitable sport for us,” Whitman said. “I think it will be the third profitable sport after soccer and men’s basketball. We hope that fans will accept it and see it as a driving force for engagement and engagement with the fans. If it diminishes dramatically, it changes. That’s what we have to monitor and take into account. “
The initial fiscal spending to add hockey in Illinois was projected to be over $ 50 million. It was a combination of building a new arena and the initial costs associated with the program. The proposed downtown arena was also intended to be a new home for volleyball, wrestling and gymnastics in Illinois. Some internal DIA changes regarding the long-term facility needs of wrestling and gymnastics have the potential to reduce budgets in smaller arenas.
“We didn’t intentionally receive cash for hockey,” Whitman said. “We had a lot of commitment. People who can help us fund when we’re ready, but we weren’t sure, so we said,” When you’re ready, come to you and I will receive some of the money. “We know where we think the money was. You need to go back and see if it’s there. “