February 3, 2006

Home Away From Home?

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They say it takes a lot to make a house a home, but when it comes to hockey teams, one definite prerequisite is a rink that’s open for business – something which Cornell may not have next fall, according to Athletics Director Andy Noel.

Lynah Rink’s renovations may not be done in time for next year’s first home game, Noel said, leaving the athletics department searching for a yet-uncertain contingency plan.

“It’s really difficult to know right now what date Lynah will be ready for home games,” Noel said. “Right now, it is very unlikely that it will be ready for the first game.”

Although the hockey team will still be able to practice at Lynah, fans won’t be allowed to fill the seats until construction is finished due to safety considerations.

Among the options being considered is the possibility of playing home games in Elmira, Binghamton or Syracuse, Noel said. The department is also looking into asking Colgate University, the Red’s ECACHL travel partner, to allow Cornell to use its rink as home ice.

Noel also raised the possibility of trying to adjust next year’s schedule to put home games off for later in the year. But with Colgate and Cornell currently leading the ECACHL standings, Noel said he wouldn’t expect other teams to like the idea of the travel partners bumping a significant number of their home games to the all-important end of the season.

One option that is not being considered is to simply play home games without the Lynah Faithful there to cheer the team on.

“That would be terrible for the team, that would be terrible for the students, and that would be terrible for the department,” Noel said.

It would also hurt the bank account. Men’s varsity hockey, which is the only sport at Cornell that costs money to attend, is a significant source of cash for the athletics department.

“It’s part of our financial model, so we can’t walk away from the revenue of X number of games,” Noel said.

The department also won’t be considering postponing construction for a year. Doing so would add almost $500,000 to the project’s cost, according to Noel, due to inflation and rising costs of construction.

Noel said that the scope of the renovations and the inevitable glitches that come with any construction project make it impossible to be sure that the project would be done in time for next season.

“It’s just too much work to do in a short amount of time,” he said. “It would not be prudent to assume every break weather-wise, every break in terms of unforeseen circumstances.”

The construction portion of the project is estimated to cost about $7.3 million, Noel said. That sum has already been secured, and the department is now working on a further $2.7 million campaign to establish an endowment for the program.

When the renovations are done, Lynah will have new locker rooms for the men’s and women’s teams, visitor locker rooms, training rooms and new offices for the coaching staff. The project will also add 450 more seats to the rink, about 150 of which will be “premium” seating sold in 10 units of 15 seats.

Noel explained that these seats will not include amenities such as refrigerators or televisions but would be separated from the rest of the seats. Each 15-seat unit, or box, will be sold as a whole, and Noel said the department is interested in selling them on a long-term basis – per season, or even for several years.

Those seats’ prices haven’t been determined yet, but Noel said they would cost “significantly more” than regular seating, which will also go up in price.

The room for the new seats will come from extending the seating on the north side of the rink all the way to what is currently the rink’s wall. A concourse area is to be built around that section, the bill for which – a hefty $1.5 million – is to be paid for over several years from the revenue generated by the new seating.

In all, the project entails about 19,500 square feet of new construction. Another 9,850 square feet will be “very moderately” renovated, Noel said, with uplifts such as new carpeting and paint.

He added that construction will start the day after the season’s last home game, which is in March.

Archived article by Yuval Shavit
Sun City Editor