Three weeks ago, the University of Alaska Fairbanks announced its 2019-20 hockey schedule. It included the Nanooks visiting the University of Alaska Anchorage Seawolves for an Alaska Airlines Governor’s Cup and Western Collegiate Hockey Association series Oct. 25 and 26 at Sullivan Arena in Anchorage.
On Wednesday, the Nanooks and college hockey fans in the 49th State learned that series will instead be played at the Wells Fargo Sports Complex on the UAA campus. Ditto for the Seawolves’ other home games in the upcoming season.
UAA announced in a news release Wednesday that its home hockey games are moving back on campus after being played for a few decades at Sullivan Arena.
The decision, according to the release, occurred as increasing financial restraints, due to state-budget cuts, require UAA to evaluate its venue needs.
“We believe the future of Seawolf hockey is bright,” Greg Myford, UAA athletics director, said in the release. “We are working hand in hand with the Municipality of Anchorage and Sullivan Arena management to create a smooth transition.
“Our intent is to play in our on-campus sports complex starting in the fall, while we finalize plans to expand that facility over the next few years.”
Myford added, “The Sullivan is home to many wonderful memories for hundreds of our former players and thousands of Seawolf hockey fans who attended games there over the years. We remain grateful to the Municipality of Anchorage for more than 30 years of home ice partnership.”
UAA’s decision also comes four weeks after UAF’s administration announced plans to have the Nanooks move within two years from the Carlson Center to the on-campus UAF Patty Ice Arena.
UAF, in a letter from Chancellor Daniel White, cited the advanced age of the Carlson Center’s ice plant, or cooling system, underneath the arena’s floor as a reason for the planned move to the Patty Ice Arena.
UAF renewed a contract with the Carlson Center to play its home games there this season. However, White stated in the letter that the Patty Ice Arena will be used as a backup option for the Nanooks hockey team “if the Carlson Center ice plant cannot meet our needs at any time during the 2019-20 season.”
UAF is scheduled this summer to undertake the planning needed to bring hockey on campus permanently within two years.
Sullivan Arena and the Carlson Center each have Olympic-size ice (200-by-100 feet). Each also is managed by SMG, a worldwide venue management company based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
For hockey, Sullivan Arena seats 6,251 and the Carlson Center seats 4,545.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough owns the Carlson Center and the municipality of Anchorage owns Sullivan Arena, which opened in 1983. The Carlson Center opened in 1990.
The Wells Fargo Sports Complex, which features a regulation ice surface (200-by-85 feet), has a seating capacity of 800. It had been used by the Seawolves for practices after UAA began playing home games at Sullivan Arena.
The UAF Patty Ice Arena, also with a regulation ice sheet, seats 1,047. The Nanooks have played at the Carlson Center since it opened in 1990 and are the arena’s main tenant.
UAF leases the Carlson Center for about $250,000 per year.
The WCHA requires an arena to have a minimum seating capacity of 2,500.
In a WCHA news release Wednesday, Bill Robertson, WCHA president and men’s hockey commissioner, announced the conference’s support of UAA’s move.
He offered similar support for UAF in March.
At that time, there was a potential arena dilemma for UAF hockey after Gov. Mike Dunleavy had proposed cutting $134 million in state spending from the University of Alaska System.
White, also at the time, proposed moving the Nanooks hockey team from the Carlson Center to the Patty Ice Arena.
During the WCHA regular season, Robertson met in Fairbanks with White, Keith Champagne and Sterling Steward Jr. about the situation. Champagne is UAF’s vice chancellor for student affairs and Steward Jr. is the university’s athletics director.
UAF’s situation was a rarity for the WCHA.
“I think these are all unique cases and we will work with the University of Alaska Fairbanks if it (budget cuts) comes true,” Robertson said to the News-Miner. “I know they (UAF) want to have a backup plan for sure. We’ll be in consistent contact with Fairbanks on this topic. We hope this gets resolved prior to next (2019-20) season.”
Contact News-Miner sports editor Danny Martin at 459-7586. Follow him on Twitter:@newsminersports.