May 3, 2021
St. Louis-Area School Targets Fall 2022 to Upgrade to NCAA Varsity Status
through Adam Wodon/ Chief editor (@BuienRadarNL)
Lindenwood University is on track to become the next NCAA Division I men’s ice hockey team in the fall of 2022-23. That’s 17 months away.
If you had a penny for every time there were rumors that a school was “looking to” start a men’s DI ice hockey program, you’d be pretty rich. Usually it is the wish of the fans or the club team on campus. Other times, schools themselves – most recently Tennessee State – are doing “feasibility studies,” which are often exercises to find out what everyone already knows – you need a lot of money. In fact, you’d be pretty good off just collecting pennies from the Lindenwood rumors of the past 15 years.
This time it is different.
“Our intention is to move forward, but we need to be able to raise some money to support it,” said Lindenwood athletic director Brad Wachler, who has been in his position since 2016. “I think we’ll get there. If we try to get hold of some lead gifts, we’ll make a public announcement. We hope we’ll be able to announce that with a public statement by the summer. ”
The school has a very successful club-level team coached by former NHL defender Rick Zombo, who played on the 1982 North Dakota national championship team. Now it is trying to make the transition to a varsity program and has momentum on its side.
The school has also received pledges from players under the assumption that it will be a DI program by 2022. So while no official announcement has been made yet, the school isn’t really keeping it a secret either.
“The challenge is that you have to do things one after the other,” said Wachler. “We have to plan like we add it because if we don’t, we’re behind the eight ball from a recruiting and logistics standpoint. We’re trying to connect the dots and it’s a bit of a challenge. booked at recruiting. “
There was certainly interest there during those 15 years – it’s in a great location, St. Charles, Missouri, in the suburbs of St. Louis, with a thriving local hockey culture. And when the school switched from the NAIA to the NCAA and then added a women’s program, it seemed like adding a men’s program was really possible. The 2019 St. Louis Blues’ Stanley Cup Championship only added to that zeal.
But in reality it was not yet possible. The heart of the government was not quite there, and the idea of raising more than $ 40 million for an arena was nothing more than a dream.
But two years ago, this idea got a huge boost. The Blues funded a four-arena complex for their practice facility, including a 3,000-seat arena that is a perfect fit for Lindenwood. Combine that with a change of school president a few years ago, and Lindenwood is ready to go.
“It’s a great arena, great community support,” said Wachler. “We’re way ahead of the game in terms of where some of the others are.”
The Centene Ice Center, located in nearby Maryland Heights, Mo. is also where the Blues practice. Next year the ACHA club championships will be held here. And in 2024, an NCAA Regional is planned to be held, leading to the 2025 Frozen Four in St. Louis.
A change in school presidents two years ago was another boost.
“We still needed to have a business case to back it up, of course, but he believes in it,” said Wachler. He appreciates what we’re trying to do. … In general, the number of registrations is decreasing. He is trying to devise a strategy to help us grow and move forward.
“We had a vision for the future. Hockey was part of it … (But) at that point we had to manage 47 programs within the department and prioritize what we have. It was about the right time. facility a few years ago and started to get more support. “
The final hurdle to starting the program is raising the remaining funds. The goal is to raise enough money for five years in business expenses and scholarships, and from there take care of your own maintenance. That comes to about $ 15 million. Much easier than $ 70 million.
The good news is, Wachler said the pandemic didn’t negatively impact Lindenwood’s plans.
“It’s been on the roll for years,” said Wachler. “We had to get a facility squared first. Once the facility was square, we were in a good position to move forward. Many universities are looking at cutbacks (during the pandemic). I see it as a great opportunity to get us out of the way. each other and make a difference.
Wachler said the plans will continue with or without affiliation to the conference.
“We could go in and be independent for a few years,” Wachler said. “I wouldn’t say it’s the end or we make the decision. That said, I’d rather have a conference if we had a choice. So we’re working from different angles. There are some opportunities out there. have had talks with the CCHA. They don’t plan to expand right now. But we did have talks about strategic partnerships where we can get games. And there are a few other options that could work. “
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