BGSU announces ice arena feasibility study

Feasibility study is a step toward a campaign to secure arena and program. Initial recommendations from working groups set in motion

BOWLING GREEN, O.—Bowling Green State University will take the next step in the review of its Ice Arena and hockey program with a feasibility study to gauge interest and capacity for a fund-raising campaign.

BGSU President Carol Cartwright announced that the University has engaged Bentz Whaley Flessner, a national fund-raising consulting firm, to assess the potential for funding that could be raised by a campaign.

The decision is based on the preliminary work of the two groups that were formed in March to study Intercollegiate Athletics and the BGSU Ice Arena, respectively.

“These are two important processes, and I appreciate the time and efforts of all involved,” said Cartwright. “We believe the information generated will help create solutions that can help shape the future of BGSU and the community.

“A long-term renovation of the Ice Arena will require broad support. Similarly, sustaining varsity hockey means creating a strong foundation for the program to have the opportunity to succeed,” Cartwright said. “The goal is ambitious, but in order to fix the arena and adequately fund hockey, we are proceeding with the next step to professionally evaluate the interest in a fund-raising campaign for the building and a potential scholarship endowment.”

Bentz Whaley Flessner began work this week, conducting interviews with key alumni, community members and former players. The interviews are expected to help BGSU target a realistic goal for potential fund-raising.

“Preliminary discussions from the two working groups helped to direct this next step,” added Cartwright. “Now we need to measure the levels of support. If the feasibility study demonstrates support for a renovation and endowment campaign, we will move forward.”

The study will take place in the coming weeks, while the work from the Ice Arena and Intercollegiate Athletics groups is finalized. The University expects to announce outcomes and ultimate direction in August.

While the fund-raising feasibility study is conducted, some of the initial recommendations from the Ice Arena and Intercollegiate Athletics working groups will be implemented.

The Ice Arena working group was overseen by Vice President for Student Affairs Ed Whipple, and chaired by industry veteran and former BGSU hockey coach Jack Vivian.

Recommendations from the Ice Arena working group that will be acted on immediately include:

• Operational changes to tighten turnaround times and improve ice usage.

• Rate structures that more adequately reflect current markets.

• An evaluation of programming, with a focus on intramural, educational and recreational ice activities.


Another recommendation from the committee includes planning for a renovation, with the existing footprint of the building remaining the same. Top priorities are infrastructure repairs, locker room improvements, fan amenities and changing the curling ice to multipurpose ice. Action on this recommendation will follow the feasibility study.

“The Ice Arena is an important part of our campus and community,” said Whipple. “The business model must be further developed and focused. The recommendations from the working group are important first steps.”

According to Whipple, the renovation of the arena is critical for its long-term sustainability; he noted that some work is already under way. “We have invested more than $275,000 this summer to address an immediate issue with compressors,” Whipple said. “As we look toward a fund-raising campaign, there are roles for everyone—from the University, the community and alumni.”

The Intercollegiate Athletics working group, led by Director of Athletics Greg Christopher, studied benchmark and industry information provided by NACDA Consulting, along with the directional options that had been presented to the University’s leadership in early March.

As a starting point for the two working groups, Dr. Cartwright provided a list of “non-negotiables” tied to the future of Intercollegiate Athletics. Those included:

•      An institutional commitment to remaining within the NCAA’s Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly known as Division 1-A), and the requirements that come with it.

•      BGSU will remain in the Mid-American Conference.

•      A commitment to student-athlete success in the classroom.

An expectation of competitiveness from intercollegiate athletics teams.

“Intercollegiate Athletics plays an important role at Bowling Green State University on many levels—some that aren’t easily defined, such as institutional pride and positioning, and others that are more measurable, like exposure and engagement,” Cartwright said. “While athletics adds a great deal to our campus, there are some inherent realities with our funding model and enrollment.”

Cartwright also expressed support for the group’s recommendation that the University athletics director become a part of the president’s Cabinet.

“This is essentially how we’ve operated since I’ve been here,” Cartwright said. “We will formalize that relationship for the University. Greg Christopher will continue to work closely with Ed Whipple—particularly on day-to-day operations.”

Cartwright added that the NCAA’s Knight Commission—of which she is a member—speaks to presidential accountability for Intercollegiate Athletics. “The new Cabinet post illustrates a clear commitment to the visibility and important role that athletics plays for BGSU,” she said.

In addition to the focus on ice hockey, BGSU Athletics will finalize its work with NACDA Consulting in the coming weeks. Recommendations about operating budgets, funding model options and benchmark comparisons are expected.

Addressing a potential hockey endowment plan, Christopher said there is precedent for a successful endowment campaign.

“Look no farther than Miami University,” he said. “Through a similar plan, their former players, alumni and supporters stepped forward and endowed the team’s scholarships. It’s a vital step that frees resources to help make the operating budget more competitive.”

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(Posted June 19, 2009 )