Column: The $18,000-dollar seat

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UConn’s plans for a new hockey arena will cost $45 million and have a maximum of 3,500 seats if expanded. (File Photo/ The Daily Campus)

I’m back. And I’m going to keep fighting the good fight.

A story came out in the Hartford Courant today that highlighted the numbers surrounding the official plans for a new hockey rink on the UConn campus.

In case you haven’t heard about these plans, they’re ridiculous.

Our lovely university has proposed the construction of an on-campus hockey rink, located right where the current Freitas Ice Forum is located. The arena would only be used for, at most, half the team’s home games per season. Even better, the plan is for the arena to have a capacity of just 2,500, falling short of the Hockey East’s capacity minimum requirement of 4,000 seats.

So why waste your time, UConn? More importantly, why waste the $45 million dollars?

Yes, you heard me right. It’ll be $45 million dollars for an arena that’ll still be below the league-requirement and host only half the home games.

Sure, it’s a requirement for every Hockey East team to have an on-campus arena. So why would UConn spend $45 million on a haphazard arena? I’m going to repeat that number: 45 million dollars. For 2,500 seats.

But wait! There’s hope! According to the university, the arena will be constructed to allow renovations to push capacity up to 3,500. So still 500 below the league requirement. What a joyous day that will be!

A capacity of 3,500 would bump UConn from dead last in on-campus arena capacity to third-from-last, passing Merrimack and Providence. Mind you, the Huskies have had some of the highest fan-attendance numbers since starting Hockey East play in 2014.

Ignore the capacity numbers for a second. The way the school plans to pay for this arena should be enough to scrap the project.

According to the Courant, the school will pull $12.5 million from their own funds and another $10 million from the recent sales of the UConn West Hartford branch and the Nathan Hale Inn. The remainder is where it gets complex. The school plans to hire a developer for the project, the developer is planning on forming a “special purpose entity” that will essentially design, construct, own and operate the new arena. This company will pay for the rest of the construction.

UConn and this entity will be entering a 30-year lease in return, in which the school will be paying an annual fee of anywhere between $1.2 to $1.6 million a year. Basically, the school will be paying at least $36 million over the next three decades to maintain the rink as a separate entity operates and manages it.

Everything about this plan is wrong. If the school isn’t going to build this arena the right way, don’t build it at all.


Connor Donahue is the digital editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at connor.f.donahue@uconn.edu. He tweets at @conn_donahue.

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