The WCHA preseason coaches conference call took place on Tuesday, and while much of the discussion centered around the league's two newest teams, Bemidji State and Nebraska-Omaha (no Penn State/Big Ten questions, please!), conference officials were obsessed with talking about the league's new rinks.
Not only will Bemidji be moving into a new arena to kick off its first year in the WCHA (see pictures from last night's season-ticket holder event here) but Minnesota Duluth will be moving into the new Amsoil Arena on Dec. 30. Omaha coach Dean Blais told the call that UNO soon will be announcing a new on-campus arena that the Red Mavs will move into in three years, while St. Cloud State is in the midst of a major overhaul ($31 million) to the National Hockey Center.
Bemidji's building sounds nice: 4,200 seats, 25 suites, 250 club seats. Duluth's building will have 6,732 seats and 16 suites. Blais said the new UNO arena will have between 7,200 and 8,000 seats.
Minnesota State is beginning its 12th season in the WCHA, but the Mavericks will be playing in the eighth-oldest building in the league (once UMD moves out of the DECC). Here's a look at all of the teams and when their arenas were built:
Bemidji State, Bemidji Regional Events Center, 2010
Minnesota Duluth, Amsoil Arena, 2010
Nebraska-Omaha, Qwest Center, 2003
North Dakota, Ralph Engelstad Arena, 2001
Denver, Magness Arena, 2000
Wisconsin, Kohl Center, 1998
Colorado College, World Arena, 1997
Minnesota State, Verizon Wireless Center, 1995
Minnesota, Mariucci Arena, 1993 (suites added in 2001)
St. Cloud State, National Hockey Center, 1989 (renovation planned)
Alaska-Anchorage, Sullivan Arena, 1983
Michigan Tech, MacInnis Student Ice Center, 1972 (recent renovations, including suites in 2009)
The Verizon Wireless Center seats about 4,800 and can fit more than 5,000 with standing room tickets. It has, I believe, 10 suites. Mankato has made a few upgrades to its arena recently, updating the scoreboards and the press area. There are been plans to get new seats (purple, perhaps) in the future, and there has long been talk of putting in a club room for years. The Mavericks themselves have also made nice upgrades to their locker room area over the last few years.
Attempts to get state funding for arena upgrades have been shot down several times in recent years, despite the fact that taxpayer money is helping fund the new rinks in Bemidji and Duluth, as well as the upgrades in St. Cloud. No state funding as gone into the Verizon Wireless Center, just local taxes.