Feb. 12, 2009
Notre Dame, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame will begin construction next year on a new, freestanding, on-campus ice arena designed to meet the needs of both the nationally ranked Irish hockey team and the local community, Notre Dame executive vice president John Affleck-Graves and athletics director Jack Swarbrick announced jointly today.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring of 2010 on a projected 5,000-seat arena - with the venue ready for play to start the 2011-12 season.
The University's Board of Trustees approved the project at its meetings last week on campus.
"We're thrilled about the plans for a new ice arena on our campus, particularly based on the superb job Jeff Jackson and our hockey team have done to position our program as one of the best in the nation," said Swarbrick.
"In addition to providing a first-rate home for our hockey team, this new facility will be made available whenever possible to our community as a whole, and, in particular, to the many area youth hockey and figure skating programs that are in need of an additional venue," Affleck-Graves said.
"This is the most important and missing piece of the puzzle to this hockey program. The new building will create an environment that our fans, the students, the players, and our hockey alumni can be proud of," said Irish coach Jeff Jackson.
"There are so many individuals -- players, coaches and others - over the history of Notre Dame hockey who have helped lay the foundation for this decision. This building also is going to be very much about the legacy our players have built, starting with my first year here - T. J. Jindra, Mark Van Guilder, Erik Condra and next year's seniors. It's as much about what they did to help elevate the profile of this program as anything else. They all should be extremely proud of what they have accomplished over the last four years."
The new ice arena will be located south of the Joyce Center, just north of Edison Road, and just west of where the new Irish track and field facility is being constructed. In addition to the track and field project, the University currently is in the process of building new stadia for both soccer and lacrosse (both scheduled for completion this year) - in addition to the ongoing Joyce Center arena addition and renovation that began in September 2008.
The majority of the general public arena seating will be of the chair-back variety. The facility will include two sheets of ice (one of them Olympic-sized), with limited seating availability for the second sheet.
The plan also will include offices and locker room and weight and cardio training facilities for the Notre Dame hockey program. Locker rooms also will be available for campus and community use of the facility.
The new ice arena will replace the Joyce Center fieldhouse as Notre Dame's home for ice hockey. The Joyce Center was dedicated in December 1968 as the Athletic and Convocation Center. It was renamed in 1987 in honor of Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Notre Dame's executive vice president and chair of the Faculty Board on Athletics from 1952 to 1987.
The current Joyce Center facility has bench seating for 2,713. The Irish drew a standing room only-crowd of 3,007 for a game Jan. 30 against seventh-rated Michigan, marking the largest home attendance figure since March 1995. Notre Dame has drawn capacity crowds in eight of 13 home games this season, and the remaining three regular-season home events are sold out. Notre Dame averaged 2,722 fans per game last year (more than the listed capacity of the Joyce Center), best in program history.
The University originally planned to renovate the current Joyce Center ice facility, but additional studies changed that plan to instead feature a new building. Once the new facility is completed, the ice rink will be removed from the Joyce Center fieldhouse, making that north dome space available for a variety of other events.
Meanwhile, Notre Dame's hockey program is in the midst of the most successful three-year run in its history:
* The Irish so far in 2008-09 stand 21-5-3, including a 15-4-3-3 league record good for first place in the Central Collegiate Hockey Association. They played for more than three months without losing a game (accounting for a 20-game unbeaten streak), from a loss to then-10th-ranked Miami on Oct. 25, 2008, until a Jan. 30 defeat against Michigan. Notre Dame also achieved a 12-game road unbeaten streak (11-0-1) that ended with a Feb. 8 loss at 15th-ranked Ohio State. Currently rated number two in the national polls, the Irish had been ranked number one for nine straight weeks -- beginning with the polls dated Dec. 1, 2008.
* Last season in 2007-08, the Irish made a storybook run to the NCAA Championship game, defeating number-one regional seed New Hampshire and Michigan State in the NCAA regional round, top-ranked Michigan in the national semifinals, then facing eventual champion Boston College in the title game. Notre Dame finished 27-16-4 overall and third in the final USA Today poll.
* In 2006-07, the Irish for the first time ever won both the Central Collegiate Hockey Association regular-season and post-season tournament titles - while also holding the number-one ranking for seven consecutive weeks in February and March. The Irish advanced to the NCAA Championships for only the second time in history, knocking off Alabama-Huntsville in a regional semifinal before falling to eventual NCAA champion Michigan State - and ended up 32-7-3 overall.
All of this has come under Jackson, the national coach of the year in 2007, who stands 93-47-14 in his four seasons at Notre Dame. Since the start of the 2006-07 season, Notre Dame has had the winningest hockey program in the country, based both on victories and winning percentage. Jackson is the winningest active Division I college coach (on a percentage basis), thanks to his 10-season 275-99-39 mark (.713). To date, $26 million has been raised toward the hockey facility project. The University is actively seeking additional contributions, and fundraising is continuing toward a goal of breaking ground in the spring of 2010. In the meantime, the University will work with architects to create a specific design for the facility, as well as a final construction timeline. The total financial commitment for the hockey project won't be determined until that process takes place. In a related announcement last April, the ice rink at Notre Dame's new arena will be named the Charles W. "Lefty" Smith Jr. Rink, in honor of the first coach in the program's history.
Naming of the rink was made possible by the generosity of the John and Mary Jo Boler family of Inverness, Ill., and Sanibel Island, Fla.; their daughter, Jill Boler McCormack (Notre Dame '84) and her husband, Dan; and their son, Matthew Boler (Notre Dame '88) and his wife, Christine. They were joined by the family of Frank and Mary Beth O'Brien of Albany, N.Y., who have six children who all graduated from Notre Dame, including their late son, Frankie, who played both hockey and lacrosse at Notre Dame from 1984-88.
Smith came to Notre Dame in 1968 to help start the hockey program and remained the head coach of the Irish for 19 seasons before retiring in 1987 with 307 career victories. Under his tutelage, Notre Dame produced six All-Americans - Eddie Bumbacco (1973), Bill Nyrop (1973), Jack Brownschidle (1976, `77), Brian Walsh (1977), Greg Meredith (1980) and Kirt Bjork (1983) - and finished second in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) twice (1972-73, 1976-77). He was the WCHA coach of the year following the 1972-73 season.
Smith served two years as president of the American Hockey Coaches Association (AHCA). After retiring from coaching, Smith became the director of the Loftus Sports Center, now part of the Guglielmino Athletics Complex, where he remains today coordinating all events and activities.