Inside Stories

Practice Rink to Follow Lowell INC?

Google Earth view of the Tsongas Arena and surrounding land

Much of the recent focus around the City of Lowell and UMass Lowell has centered on the Lowell Innovation Network Corridor, and deservedly so. However, LINC isn’t the only major project in the works for East Campus.

InsideLowell has learned that the long-sought after hockey practice rink has progressed to the point where a pair of April meetings are set to launch the concept into the next phase.

On April 3rd, the Department of Administration and Finance is scheduled to go into Executive Session to discuss specifics of a Request for Proposal (RFP) seeking to gauge construction costs. A week later, April 10th, the Board of Trustees is expected to vote to approve the RFP.

What those construction costs come in at, and whether a viable business model can then be put together, will determine where the process goes from there. Also to be determined is whether enough private fundraising can be secured to seal the deal.

The new facility would be located directly behind the Tsongas Center.

The lack of a practice rink has hindered the University’s efforts to maximize the Tsongas Center between the months of September and March, as the school’s Division 1 hockey squad prefers to stay on campus for practices, rather than travel to area rinks. In turn, the logistical challenges of converting an ice surface to other uses limits UML’s ability to host other athletic, entertainment or conference events when the hockey team isn’t on the ice.

A practice rink would solve that issue, allowing the hockey program to stay on campus while the Tsongas is used during the week. It could also allow the arena to be used as a convention center far more often than just occasional events like the Future Physicians and Medical Scientists events which bring thousands of people to the Mill City annually.

The effort to build a practice rink has been a priority going back to the days when University President Marty Meehan was UMass Lowell Chancellor and purchased the arena from the City of Lowell. In 2013, as the River Hawks skated in their first ever NCAA Frozen Four tournament, there was optimism by then Athletic Director Dana Skinner that a practice rink could become reality.

At that time, a high-level donor connected to both UMass and UML was prepared to spearhead the fundraising drive and make a major contribution himself. However, those efforts eventually faded from the forefront, until being recently revived as the University also worked on it’s Lowell INC development.

2 responses to “Practice Rink to Follow Lowell INC?”

  1. Joe Smith says:

    It would be very disappointing if the green space between the Arena and the river were lost. That area should be preserved as an amenity for those living and/or employed in the new developments.

  2. Paul says:

    Amen, Joe, not just for those living and/or employed in the new developments, but for all Lowellians and visitors. That park behind the Tsongas is a gem.

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