LOWELL, Mass. — The UMass Lowell River Hawks are getting closer to having their very own practice rink. A $1.3 billion bond-authorization bill was sent to the governor’s desk by Statehouse leaders and it includes a $20 million loan to expand the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell, according to Robert Mills of the Lowell Sun.
The roughly 50,000 square-foot expansion would include a practice rink for University’s hockey program, practice space for their basketball program, who recently jumped up to Division I, and improved locker room space. In addition, when the space is not being used by the UMass Lowell athletic programs the space would double as a convention center for conventions, trade shows and other functions.
Expanding the Tsongas Center would take some pressure off the ice crew and staff at the arena. The current space is being used for hockey practice, hockey games, basketball games, concerts, functions and much more and has to be changed over to suit each need. A practice rink would reduce the need to change the surface as often and allow smaller functions to use a more suitable space, including a possible 800-seats opposed to 6,000-plus.
The arena expansion would be placed between the current structure and the Merrimack River, land already owned by the University. The original plans for the arena had a practice facility, but it was never constructed.
UMass Lowell head coach Norm Bazin has been hoping for new practice space for his team since he took over the job in 2011. Since he hiring the school has made three trips to the NCAA tournament, a Frozen Four appearance, the school’s first ever regular season title and back-to-back Hockey East Championship (including their first ever). With his credentials already established at UMass Lowell, it’s time to give him a practice rink.
Speaking to UMass Lowell assistant coach Cam Ellsworth at the annual season ticket holder BBQ on Wednesday night and he stated the current facilities at UMass Lowell have recently swayed possible recruits to committing to the University. This new addition could only help.
It is yet to be seen if Gov. Deval Patrick or his successor will actually borrow the money for this expansion. Now that the bill has passed for the ability to borrow the money, UMass Lowell will work hard to lobby Patrick to borrow the money and help the expansion of an ever-growing University in Lowell.
Mill City Sports will keep you up-to-date on this developing story.