Hockey dreams of arena

BY CORY PORTER | MAY 07, 2015 5:00 AM

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The city of Coralville is one step closer to building the Iowa River Landing Arena, a 7,000-seat sports arena in the Iowa River Landing.

While city officials are excited about the project, the University of Iowa student hockey organization sees the construction of the arena as their potential ticket to the big show.

“It’d be a massive step,” UI Hockey President and junior Robert Acri said. “We’re lucky to get probably a hundred people at our games, and most of them are just walking through the [Coral Ridge] Mall and will just stop by for five minutes or so and watch us.”

UI Hockey currently plays its home games at the Coral Ridge Mall Ice Rink, where attendance has been sparse due to limited seating and limited promotion.

Coralville leaders have had plans, in one form or another, for a multi-use arena for over a decade, Kelly Hayworth, Coralville city administrator, said.

“We’ve had a small seat arena on our master plan for the Iowa River Landing since the 1990s and that was identified as a project that could be good for the Iowa River Landing, as well as good for our area,” he said. “It’s something we don’t have that could be successful.”

The plans for the arena suffered setbacks, Hayworth said, such as a feasibility spending study the city of Coralville conducted in 2008 which determined the timing was not right to proceed with construction, followed by the floods of the same year.

Now, Hayworth said, the timing for the project is right.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority called for municipalities to submit development plans for their Iowa Reinvestment District Program, where a board scores the projects based on factors such as uniqueness, economic impact, and project feasibility.

The authority will then select projects to award money from $100 million in funding for projects this year, according to the Iowa Economic Development Authority’s website.

Coralville’s Iowa River Landing Arena, for which officials are seeking $12 million from the program, secured a high enough score to make the cut for the next round. Hayworth said this is because the arena is a natural fit for the program.

Hayworth said the arena could be used in a variety of ways, from amateur sports to concerts.

Acri and junior Nathan Podroza, vice president of UI Hockey, said they’ve met with representatives from the Iowa River Landing and have been following the project closely.

“If we got this rink, we could do promotions, do marketing, do advertisements, sell apparel, all that stuff that we just cannot really do out of a mall because the numbers just aren’t there,” Acri said.

Podroza said the UI Hockey is made up of people who know the game and love it, but if they could get the chance to play in a bigger arena, then there could be a possibility someday of becoming a part of the NCAA, which they currently aren’t.

“I think that’s always a possibility, as is working with the University of Iowa [hockey] club team as well … I think those could be a natural to be housed here as well,” he said.

In an email to The Daily Iowan, UI Director of Athletics Communications Steve Roe said there haven’t been any discussions so far regarding how the Iowa River Landing Arena might affect athletics at the university or if they would consider adding another sport, such as hockey.

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