Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 22/3/2019 (301 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
While Kootenay Ice general manager Matt Cockell and his staff were packing up their offices Friday in Cranbrook, B.C., and preparing for a move to Winnipeg, the wheels were in motion to transform the University of Manitoba’s aging Wayne Fleming Arena into a venue suitable for a Western Hockey League game.
Cockell, who owns the Ice with partner Greg Fettes, announced in January the team would be relocating to the Manitoba capital for the 2019-20 season. The club’s temporary home, with a new 4,500-seat facility on Winnipeg’s southwestern edge still in the planning stages, needs more than a fresh coat of paint.
"We think it’s a great partnership between the Ice and the men’s and women’s programs," U of M men’s head coach Mike Sirant said, noting the Max Bell Fieldhouse across the hallway has been transformed after a recent makeover. "We’re going to benefit in so many ways from having the Ice play on campus. The obvious ones would be the renovations at the Wayne Fleming Arena, but also the relationship with a Western Hockey League team in town here for future recruiting for the Bisons men’s program."
The installation of a new video scoreboard and rink glass will be the first order of business in June, with a major overhaul to the arena’s media box, visiting dressing rooms, concessions and seating areas to follow.
Cockell expects the changes to be completed before the start of the WHL’s regular season.
"Those we can share in more detail when we have everything 100 per cent confirmed," he said. "But I would call the enhancements we’re making in the time frame we have, in addition to the video scoreboard that’s being installed, are very significant and I think a great enhancement for our team and our fans, but also for the university."
The club is waiting for approval on the proposed architectural and engineering modifications to the building, which opened in 1981. The renos are expected to raise the current seating capacity above the current limit of 1,400 and WHL fans will have access to two parking lots close to the arena.
Cockell said the U of M has been very accommodating, allowing access to dressing rooms; the Ice will use either the Bisons men’s or women’s facility depending on which team is on the road. It is important to remember the Ice will only play games on campus. All the club’s practices and off-ice activities will be headquartered at The Rink’s new facility.
"I think it requires a little bit of give and take on everybody’s part, but we’ve got a really good system we’ve put in place," Cockell said. "I think from a scheduling perspective it’s going to work real well. There will be the odd time where one of the university teams might play at two o’clock on a Saturday and we’re playing at 7:30. I also think that’ll be a lot of fun and maybe an opportunity to expose more people to U Sports."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.