Photo: New 3.5 million dollar Miami Redhawk Locker Room
While DU fans are rightfully proud of Magness Arena, the reality is that some of DU's facilities haven fallen behind peers. Many of the locker rooms at Ritchie Center were redone with insurance monies as a result of flooding over the summer. Others, such as men's lacrosse, were expanded to accommodate the basic needs of a growing program that weren't being met with the older facilities.
In the NCHC, the Ralph Engelstad Arena in Grand Forks, North Dakota is NHL-quality all around. From the locker rooms to the stadium itself, "The Ralph" is second to none in NCAA hockey. Omaha just built a new multi-sport stadium in Baxter Arena which opened this season, Miami (OH) recently spent 3.5 million dollars on a hockey locker room upgrade. St. Cloud recently spent 30 million on facilities, including a new locker room. UMD just moved into a new rink two years ago with new facilities. CC & Western Michigan, NCHC basement-dwellers, have the oldest and least appealing facilities.
While, we're not advocating the construction of a brand new arena, Magness is now 16 years old, which is extremely old in the modern athletics era. The hockey locker room has endured years of wear and tear without major modifications or upgrades in those 16 years. Overall, the footprint and locker room foundation is good but it needs to be expanded. Many recruits and current players see the locker room as a face of a hockey program. Recruits also look for practical benefits of a modern facility - shower facilities, space, dressing areas, lighting, branding and meeting space. Players spend a great deal of time in this area getting ready for games and practices and unwinding after games and practices. This team space is important to both current players and potential recruits.
In a recent letter, Coach Montgomery appealed to alumni and season ticket holders, citing a critical need to upgrade the locker room to maintain DU's position as a national hockey power. Internally, there has been ongoing conversation about funding a remodeled locker room facility even since the George Gwozdecky era.
The fundraising target for the project is $2.0 million dollars and DU is hoping to break ground in the spring. While this project will require significant funding, a premier program must have premier facilities to compete. Historically, DU has avoided undertaking capital improvements without cash-in-hand so this is going to require participation and wide giving, of both large and small amounts, over a short period of time to get this done.
LetsGoDU strongly endorses this project and will keep readers up-to-date on progress and provide more details as they become available.
Editor's Note: As a smaller school by Division I standards, DU has been fairly insulated in recent years from the proliferation of these top-tier athletics facilities. That is simply not the case anymore. DU must keep up with the Division I "arms race" to continue as a national power in more than just lacrosse and skiing.
The University of Colorado-Boulder, a school that is much more seriously affected by the arms race, resisted joining this movement as long as they possibly could. They suffered as a result as their football program has not been relevant in over a decade. It is becoming increasingly clear that the length of irrelevance is a direct result of poor facilities. Finally, this year, the Buffaloes finished their $142 million "Champions Center" and the future seems to be looking better for that program.
The University of Denver has no intention of letting something like that happen to the hockey program. DU Hockey is to college hockey as Duke basketball is to college basketball. A good DU hockey program is good for the sport. With more advanced facilities in Magness Arena, DU will have the tools to compete at a high level for the foreseeable future. We encourage all members of the DU community to strongly consider donating to this project. It will benefit all stakeholders involved with the athletics program. That's a guarantee.