Hockey rink construction considered and challenged

Skoglund Athletic Center’s field house needs a makeover. Water sometimes drips from the ceiling, and the room echoes so much that two players on either side of a ten- nis court can hardly make conversation. The St. Olaf 2016 Framework Plan, a twenty-year plan to improve the campus through con- struction and re-allocation of space, desig- nates the entirety of Skoglund as past due for renovation.

Giving the field house a facelift could also give St. Olaf the opportunity to construct an ice rink for the hockey teams to use.

“We are excited about the possibility of an on-campus arena and the tremendous ben- efit it would have to our hockey programs and students on campus,” hockey coach Sean Goldworthy said.

The construction of this facility is long overdue, and, according to SGA president John Bruer ’16, while the previous framework plan labeled the rink’s creation as a “guideline,” the athletics department has “identified creat- ing the rink as a priority” with “Skoglund field house as a strong place” for its construction.

Unfortunately, the resolution of one prob- lem may be the cause of many others. The field house has been an essential, multi-use space for some time – it was even once used as an interim basketball court for the week preced- ing and following Christmas Festival. More commonly, the space is needed for various teams’ practices. St. Olaf has 27 intercollegiate athletic teams, and many, including the ulti- mate frisbee, tennis, lacrosse and rugby teams, use the space, as do some athletic classes. Ad- ditionally, the space is open to and used by students, faculty and Northfield residents. The

space deficit was acknowledged in the Frame- work Plan, which states that athletics and rec- reation currently occupy 187,091 square feet on campus and that the suggested guideline is 269,340 square feet. As a result, some are afraid that the field house may soon be taken out of use, and teams are worried about los- ing their practice spaces. These fears are rep- resented on the plan’s page.

Tennis coach Scott Nesbit echoed those fears.

“Quite a high percentage of the St. Olaf population does something in Skoglund field house,” he said.

According to Nesbit, if the space were elim- inated, club sports teams would have the op- tion to practice at 6:30 a.m. or not practice at all. However, he echoed the excitement of oth- ers at the prospect of an on-campus ice rink, clarifying that he would be happy to give up

the field house, as long as an adequate space was provided to accommodate the displaced teams. Given the Minnesota climate, the op- portunity to play sports outside is extremely limited due to unpredictable weather and a long winter season. If the field house were to be replaced with a rink and no extra space was created, it is likely that many of the people who usually use it would be left with no alter- native.

If the rink is constructed, it is likely that the administration will introduce extra space, but there are questions as to whether it will be enough.

Assistant Vice President for Facilities Pete Sandberg suggested that if the rink was built in Skoglund, the staff would work to improve the space on the floor of Tostrud Center in the middle of the track. The school has been inves- tigating a multipurpose acrylic rollout surface that would be put on the floor, allowing for a variety of sports including tennis and volleyball. This surface would be introduced before transforming the field house into an ice rink. Acknowledging that the To- strud space would not be sufficient to accommodate displaced teams, Sandberg suggested that the school may be open to building another space behind Sk- oglund, but those plans are still not clearly defined.

As of right now, the Framework Plan is a “Flexible Blueprint,” so many things are still subject to change.

Bruer suggested that it was ultimately a “matter of money to fund these projects,” adding that these de- cisions are difficult to predict because the school’s capital campaign, which determines the allocation of school funds, has not been totally launched yet. While the plan still exists in this mostly preliminary state, it is likely that the administration may genu- inely accept student feedback.

“With enough student concern, Student Government would be interested in conveying that concern to the involved parties,” Bruer said.