Don Lucia has watched in-state rivals Bemidji State and Minnesota-Duluth open new arenas in 2010 in his tenure as Gophers menâÄôs hockey head coach.
Even St. Cloud State has plans to break ground in March for updates they approved four years ago to their 22-year-old National Hockey Center.
Now, Lucia said, itâÄôs the UniversityâÄôs turn. Mariucci Arena will host its 20th season next year, and Lucia said heâÄôd like to see some renovations.
âÄúLike any aging arena, [Mariucci] just needs a few tweaks,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúThe scoreboard is the big thing. If you go around college hockey or go to the Xcel Center, those are the expectations nowadays.âÄù
However, Lucia said the need for improvements is not new and is âÄúsomething weâÄôve talked about for years.âÄù Along with the scoreboard, the coach said he would like to see upgrades to the sound system, weight room and coachâÄôs offices as well as a playerâÄôs lounge and video room downstairs.
âÄúItâÄôll all help, but more than anything else you want to have a great fan experience,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúThe scoreboard would make a great experience for our ticket holders.âÄù
Upgraded facilities across the WCHA have left the Gophers missing a crucial piece in the recruiting puzzle as well, Lucia said on his weekly radio show Monday.
âÄúKids go on a recruiting visit and, you know what, facilities are extremely important,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúYou want to be able to have kids come in and look through your arena and have a little bit of that âÄòwowâÄô factor.âÄù
Mariucci was listed as one of the top 10 venues in college sports in 2007 by Sports Illustrated on Campus, but the facility hasnâÄôt had any major improvements since it opened in 1993, Lucia said.
âÄúIf something is done, then 20 years later you find out how to do it bigger and better,âÄù Lucia said.
However, the first change menâÄôs hockey ticket holders will see is the switch to preferred seating. About 6,000 season ticket-holders will be required to make a $100, $200 or $300 donation per seat on top of the $755 base price. The University hopes to bring in at least $500,000 from the change.
âÄúTo use an analogy: I like my house, but we built a nice screened-in porch so we could enjoy the summers and not worry about mosquitoes, so itâÄôs a nice addition,âÄù Lucia said. âÄúThatâÄôs the case with any upgrade in a facility âÄî thereâÄôs things you want to be able to do to make it better.âÄù
Fresh off of athletics director Joel MaturiâÄôs retirement announcement, both Lucia and coach Tubby Smith have taken the opportunity to voice their agendas in hopes of re-prioritizing the new athletic directorâÄôs to-do list.
Smith said a new athletic director âÄúwill be criticalâÄù to fundraising for the menâÄôs basketball practice facility that he has been lobbying for.
âÄúWeâÄôll keep pushing to get it done,âÄù Smith said last Thursday. âÄúWeâÄôve had people traveling with us to almost every game looking at [practice] facilities. But I think weâÄôre on the cusp on getting it done.âÄù