On-campus arena could transform UAH hockey

Charger hockey games on campus? Could this actually happen?

What has been a pipe dream for many UAH supporters may become a reality if the university’s master plan, presented to the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees on April 12, is approved in June.

UAH wants to develop 58 acres it bought in 2017. The land sits on the western side of Sparkman Drive across from the Bevill Center.

The development is student-focused, offering housing, grocery stores, restaurants, and other commercial amenities designed to give UAH a “college town vibe” similar to The Strip at the University of Alabama or Toomer’s Corner at Auburn.

At the heart, however, is a new multi-purpose facility that would be the new home for UAH hockey, basketball, and volleyball. The facility would also host events and contain a performing arts theater.

For UAH hockey, such a move would be a game-changer for a program that just seven years ago was on the verge of shutting down. It would be the surest sign of the university’s long-term commitment to the program.

With the new facility being in walking and biking distance (via a proposed pedestrian bridge across Sparkman Drive), more students could attend to give UAH hockey games more of that college atmosphere.

An on-campus home for hockey has been mentioned in five-year plans before, but this is the most detailed plan to date. Along with an actual artist’s rendering, this feels serious.

Still, it won’t seem real until there are shovels in the ground, and we’re a ways from that event. First, the plan must be approved by the UA System Board of Trustees, which is expected to vote on the plan during t its next meeting on June 6-7 in Tuscaloosa.

UAH chief of staff Ray Garner said on Friday that the project would take five to seven years to complete.

The multi-use facility could be funded by a private-public partnership, according to UAH president Dr. Robert Altenkirch.

The project has drawn rave reviews from Dr. Darren Dawson, who was unanimously approved by the UA Board to succeed the retiring Altenkirch. Dawson will take over as UAH’s ninth president sometime this summer.

UAH athletics director Dr. E.J. Brophy said the plans are in preliminary stages and it’s too soon to reveal further details and speculate its potential impact on Charger hockey and UAH athletics in general, but he said they are very excited.

The arena likely will be smaller than the Von Braun Center’s to better fit UAH’s needs. Other on-campus facilities in the WCHA average around 4,000 seats.