New facilities in Lincoln, Neb., to elevate hockey programs



By Doug Johnson
Let’s Play Hockey

Two new ice sheets are in the build and design phase in Lincoln, Neb., the home of the University of Nebraska Cornhuskers. Yes, this is the same school that recently joined the Big Ten.

Under construction and with a completion date for the fall of 2013, the 16,000-seat Pinnacle Bank Arena will house the men’s and women’s Cornhuskers basketball teams. The building will also be equipped with piping for making ice, although the mechanicals will come at a later date.

The other ice sheet has been years in the making. Currently in the excavation and permit stage, the Breslow Ice Center is hoping for a fall of 2014 opening. Official groundbreaking may come in June of 2013. The 750-seat arena will have one sheet with the expansion capabilities for a second sheet to be added with seats in the 5,000 to 6,000 range.

The men’s club hockey team for the Huskers will be a major tenant as will the school’s intramural programs and youth hockey teams from the Lincoln area. Currently, the club team plays in Fremont, Neb., some 40 miles away from campus. The club team has a rich and storied tradition dating back to the early 1970’s.

Former Nebraska resident John Breslow has donated millions to make the arena a possibility. His dream was for one day to have a player from the Lincoln area play in the National Hockey League. Breslow is a former minority owner of the Phoenix Coyotes of the NHL and has been rumored to be interested in a stake in the Coyotes moving forward. The NHL currently owns the team.

With the new facilities becoming closer to reality, could the Huskers be the next entrant into the Big Ten hockey conference? On Jan. 1, 2013, a new athletic director will officially take over at the University. Shawn Eichorst, a Wisconsin native who worked in the athletic department at the University of Wisconsin for six years, may be the perfect person to move the hockey program to varsity status. During his time with the Badgers, Eichorst oversaw the construction of the new hockey facility in Madison for men’s and women’s hockey, LaBahn Arena.

Lincoln is also home to a United States Hockey League franchise. The Lincoln Stars play in the Ice Box which is located on the old Nebraska State fairgrounds and seats 5,000.
With college hockey in need of expansion, Nebraska, along with Illinois and Indiana, could be the next logical steps in growing the game.