New locker rooms accompany arena

St. Olaf broke ground on a reconstruction and extension of Skoglund Athletic Center in February 2018.  The new building includes a brand new ice arena to serve as the home rink for both men’s and women’s hockey teams, as well as seven new varsity locker rooms and an extension of maintenance-related facilities to service the ice arena.

The overall project is one the College has wanted for a long time.

“Construction of the facility had been identified as a need as a part of the capital campaign,” Senior Associate Athletic Director Mike Ludwig said. “We made the decision when we got to a certain point in fundraising to go ahead and break ground.”

Ludwig went on to explain the extent of these new facilities.

“The original plan was to just have men’s and women’s hockey teams, and visitor, locker rooms,” Ludwig said. “We made the decision to change and go away from visitor locker rooms in there, in lieu of other sports teams’ varsity team locker rooms.”

The new locker rooms will service seven varsity teams in total. St. Olaf will add new locker rooms for both men’s and women’s soccer, baseball, softball and volleyball.

St. Olaf sports teams and athletes across campus are excited and eager to move into their facilities.

“I think it is a fantastic new addition that will benefit our team for years to come,” softball Captain Emily Carr ’19 said. “Upgrading our facilities makes us have some of the best resources and opportunities in the MIAC and even the country. It will help immensely with recruiting.”

Baseball captain Thomas Peterson ’19 shared similar excitement for the new baseball locker room.

“Having our own year-round locker room brings a lot of great things to our program,” Peterson said. “We now have a ‘home’ for the team where guys can meet up, get around and really develop and grow an already strong culture of brotherhood.”

Both men and women hockey players are ecstatic to finally have a home ice arena on campus.

“We will no longer have to drive ourselves to Northfield Ice Arena and get dressed in three separate locker rooms,” men’s hockey forward Dylan Kooner ’21 said. “Having our own area on campus to call home will only benefit our team’s camraderie.”

This sentiment is shared by all members of the hockey community – a clear recognition that the new St. Olaf ice arena will be an instrumental step up for the programs from the previously used Northfield Ice Arena.

With the construction of the new facility, teams and intramural activities that formerly used the former Skoglund fieldhouse moved into the Tostrud Athletic Center. While the shift has been difficult, Ludwig believes students have handled the transition well.

“[The new facility] just shifts the sort of availability that we have,” Ludwig said. “We upgraded the surface in Tostrud to accommodate tennis, and it’s a better tennis surface than what they had in what was the old Skoglund fieldhouse.”

The facility is not just for the benefit of St. Olaf athletics but will also be used as a space to serve the community as a whole.

“The first event that will be in there will be an open skate for the community on Jan. 3,” Ludwig said. “This is an arena for our community, it’s not just a hockey arena. The first event that we wanted to have in there was an open skate.”

Arena Manager Brandon Koontz expanded on the impact the arena will have on the community.

“The arena will be a great asset to the St. Olaf community, with intramural games, open skating, club sports, varsity sports and classes all scheduled for the future,” Koontz said. “My biggest hope for this project is that we, as a campus, can find new ways to utilize the space, and that I, as manager, can provide as many students opportunities to play, work and learn as possible.”

While the arena will open to the community on Jan. 3, the first games to take place in the arena will be the following day, Friday, Jan. 4. Women’s hockey will face University of Wisconsin-River Falls at 4:00 p.m. and the men’s team will follow directly after, hosting University of Wisconsin-Stout at 7:00 p.m. that night.

Following the open skate and the two inaugural games, the arena will host a grand opening ceremony on Jan. 19 where the facility will be formally presented to the community with alumni events and a men’s home game against Hamline University.

“We’re thrilled with the way the process has gone,” Ludwig said. “It’s going to be a tremendous facility, not only for student athletes but also for the campus at large.”

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