FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTUU) - The Fairbanks hockey community gathered into the Wood Center at UAF Wednesday to hear the latest on the planned move for the Alaska Nanooks back onto campus.
The University of Alaska Fairbanks Patty Center (KTVF)
Chancellor Dan White opened the event by explaining why the team is planning to move from the Carlson Center, an arena which they've called home for 30 years, to the Patty Center on campus.
According to White, he was informed by Borough Mayor Bryce Ward that the ice plant in the Carlson Center was in danger of shutting down, and that the cost of repairs would be too high.
In response, the university has set up two plans for its future venue. The first plan is short-term and will focus on getting the Patty Center ready to host home games in case the Carlson Center ice plant shuts down. The second plan is long term and will be focusing on renovating the arena to move the hockey team there permanently in two years. The school has apparently made tentative plans to move the team in the past, and will be using those previous blueprints in its new design.
The main reason for the move, according to White, is the ice plant problem. "The Borough does not know, as reported to me, when that ice plant is going to fail, but it is going to fail at some point. It is beyond its useful life," White told the crowd." When it fails at some point and we can't repair it, we have to have a backup plan."
The upgrades to the Patty Center would cost around $20 million and would transform it into an arena with more than 2,000 seats and would include upgrades to parking, concessions, bathrooms, locker rooms, and ADA services. Jason Goatee is the chair of the committee focused on financing the long term-move. The project currently has no state funding, so fundraising and corporate partnerships will be the key to getting the renovations done.
The floor was then opened for those in the community to voice their concerns. Among the speakers was former Borough Mayor Karl Kassel, who advocated for staying in the Carlson Center.
Kassel, who was one of the leaders in the multi-million dollar locker room makeover for the Nanooks in the Carlson Center, said that "it's overall the cheapest way to do it. It builds a stronger community that builds a better hockey program that gets us back to filling the Carlson Center and not half a crowd. I really would advocate trying to work with the community more and not separate us."
There are many questions still unanswered about the move on campus for the Nanooks, but public forums such as this could help the athletic department and their supporters work side-by-side to secure Nanook Athletics for the future. New Athletic Director Keith Champagne hopes that all sides will be able to work toward the new hockey arena.
"Let's be honest, we've got a program these last 10 years that is broken," said Champagne in an interview after the meeting. "This is our stress test to find out 'How do we all come together and make it work?' And I fundamentally believe we have to make it come together, bring people together, and we have to make it work."
The Nanooks will be staying in the Carlson Center for at least the next two seasons, but the renovations to the Patty Center Ice Arena will begin within the next year.
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