UConn Breaks Ground for New Ice Hockey Arena

Saturday, May 22, 2021, will mark the beginning of a new era for the UConn men’s and women’s hockey programs with the official groundbreaking for the brand-new UConn Ice Hockey Arena on Jim Calhoun Way.

Joining current and former hockey student-athletes were Director of Athletics David Benedict and head coaches Mike Cavanaugh and Chris MacKenzie as well as new UConn Interim President Dr. Andre Agwunobi, UConn Board of Trustee Chairman Dan Toscano ’87, and fellow Board of Trustee members Thomas Ritter, Esq., ’77 and Marilda Gandara, Esq. ’78 as well as Hockey East Association Commissioner Steve Metcalf.

Photo: UConn Athletics

“Once all the earth has been moved and all the construction has been completed, this space will be occupied by one of the finest ice hockey facilities in the country.  I want to thank the University leadership for their continued support of our student-athletes,” UConn Director of Athletics David Benedict said in an issued press release. “Led by chairman Toscano, the Board of Trustees’ continued commitment to the division of athletics has been the driving force behind the transformation of Jim Calhoun Way and our Olympic village.”

In addition to the groundbreaking was the announcement of two major gifts that will assist with the project.  Frank and Pat Longobardi, who were unable to be there on Saturday, but Frank is a former UConn hockey student-athlete who graduated a year before Pat, in 1977.  Frank recently retired as CEO of CohnReznick and committed $1,000,000 to the new hockey arena this spring.  He joins a group of generous former student-athletes, which includes Tony Rizza and Doug Elliot, who have chosen to give back over $1,000,000 to their alma mater.

In addition, Peter Werth, the CEO of ChemWerth, Inc. once again stepped up in support of our student-athletes.  He has been incredibly generous over the last several years and recently made a $7.5M gift to athletics, $2.5M of which will go towards the new hockey arena.  With this gift, Peter has given over $15M to UConn Athletics and over $37M to UConn overall.

Saturday’s ceremony kicks off the start of the building project for the new 2,600-seat arena, which will be located adjacent to the current Freitas Ice Arena in the Athletics District on Jim Calhoun Way.  In the bowl, the seating will consist of 80% with seatbacks and 20% on benches. The team facilities will include full Division I training and support for the women’s and men’s teams; team lounges; dry locker area and locker rooms with video displays; locker rooms for the visiting teams; training space with a hydrotherapy area; strength and conditioning room; and other areas such as coaches’ offices, a press box, dining area, ice plant and spaces for support services.

The new facility will also have a large center-hung display scoreboard with perimeter ribbon boards and will be designed to create an outstanding experience for fans with state-of-the-art sound and lighting features.

Photo: UConn Athletics

Fans will also be able to access an ice-level lounge behind the home goaltender with café table seating and food and beverage service. A student-only standing room deck will also be situated behind the opposing goaltender.  The final design will also include aspects to make the facility as efficient as possible in energy and water use, in keeping with the University’s commitment to making its capital projects as environmentally friendly as possible.

“The Rizza Performance Center, Morrone Stadium, Elliot Ballpark, Burrill Family Field are wonderful homes to scores of our student-athletes and also make UConn a more attractive option for top-flight prospects,” Benedict said. “The facility that will stand in this space will be another transformational project and anyone who walks or drives on Jim Calhoun Way will be reminded of our institutional strength and the bright future that lies ahead.”

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The new 97,300 square-foot facility will also meet all NCAA Division I ice hockey requirements and all Hockey East regulations, which the Freitas Ice Forum does not. With that in mind, Hockey East gave UConn some leeway when it allowed the University to join the conference for men’s hockey despite needing time to provide an appropriate facility.