Wow, we were really at a disadvantage with the RAC not having air conditioning.
Kinda like Iowa's Carver-Haweye Arena. Yeah, it doesn't have AC. Circle gets the square, point to Rutgers.
I raise the point because there are things that are being done elsewhere that are boosting other school's athletic opportunities that Rutgers may want to think about as it develops plans for the future. We looked at a few new ideas for how RU should develop its athletic campuses. One of those projects was a hockey arena, or perhaps more accurately an ice center.
And how doe this tie in with air conditioning the RAC? Try this:
IEDA committee approves $12M for new Coralville arena, sports center and museum.— Kevin Hardy (@kevinmhardy) June 17, 2016
Background on the project here: https://t.co/q2Vxsb2G0B
The issue of Iowa's principal athletic arena not having AC might be alleviated with a new arena/convention center being planned for Coralville, just 2.1 miles away, a short six minute drive up Rt 6 to First Avenue. It's an area that just happens to be home to Iowa's Health Sciences programs. The Des Moines Register's story states:
Plans call for a 6,216-seat ice arena, proposed to be the home of the University of Iowa club hockey team, the Iowa Ice Hawks and local youth leagues. The project also includes the two-story Iowa Fitness and Sports Performance Institute, which would include a field house and a sports sciences area for a "human performance lab."
An ice arena for a D2 club team. That's interesting.
The plan also calls for two hotels, one over 100 rooms, to be in the same vicinity. Hold on to that thought for a minute.
Now, the Iowa club team seems to be a middle of the pack ACHA team, one that went 10-16 last season and that had not one player from Iowa on the squad. In fact, of the 26 players, 21 are from that hockey hotbed, Illinois. And this is a team that may get to play in a brandy-brand new air conditioned arena.
And this relates to Rutgers facilities, how? Glad you asked. What seems to be happening in Iowa is a significant public-private partnership to develop what they're calling the Iowa River Landing project. It's a mixed-use site with housing, retail space, and an arena/convention center. The state of Iowa kicked in $12 million in economic development money and Johnson County another $200,000. The state money is part of an Iowa program that "allows cities to create geographic zones, and redirect hotel and sales tax money created in those districts to finance large projects." Hold on to that thought for a minute, too.
You spend money to make money
That's the old business axiom. Around Rutgers, we spent no money and hoped for whatever we could get. That can and should change. And in deciding what to build, cost is certainly a factor, but so should be the ability to monetize the facility. The new Fred Hill Training Center should be a boon for both baseball and softball in terms of practice. But having a dedicated indoor facility also allows Joe Litterio and Jay Nelson to run camps regardless of the weather and also at night. Not to mention the possibility of renting the facility to outside groups. That means the facility serves athletes and the bottom line.
That also brings up the idea, one I sort of bypassed in my last diatribe, of putting lights on both the baseball and softball fields. Besides attracting more people to games, the lights can also be turned on for camps and games throughout the summer. And you never know whencould become a summer sport. And wouldn't you want to be playing night ball in July?
Building out the Master Plan
The University Master Plan had lots of neat drawings and maps. And we know they're all getting changed and tweaked as we move forward. Pat Hobbs has taken our advice (okay, he likely had the idea on his own) and is working on a strategic plan. In an interview with nj.com's Keith Sargeant, Hobbs said, "It doesn't have to be 100 pages; it could be as short as 20 pages, but it's basically going to give us a map for where we want to go, a plan that establishes the priorities for the department, and also identifies the order in which we're going to address those priorities." Horse, then cart. Sounds good to me.
Back to the Master Plan. Did you know that in the original design, there is a hotel on the grounds by the RAC? I reference you back to the Iowa River Landing project and its two hotels by the arena.
Source: Rutgers University Master Plan
And would that be viable? Say you're a visiting team, and you have a hotel right next to the building you're playing in. You're visitors to the University, or visiting fans, or parents. It's right there. Doing some quick research, the University could lease the land to an hotel developer for, say, 50 years. That could generate upwards of $150,000/year or more on lease rights alone, with escalator clauses for inflation. It could also include a percentage of gross room revenues. It could make money for Rutgers.
And that becomes part of the public-private partnership we mentioned above. Along with an idea that is being used in that Iowa development: redirecting hotel and sales tax money. In the early 2000's, New Jersey legislated both a state occupancy tax and municipal taxes on hotel rooms. What if, as a means to motivate and encourage construction, the same was done here: an abeyance or redirecting of those taxes to a) encourage development and/or b) assist in the development of the hotel property? And if the lease provided a steady revenue stream for Rutgers - and specifically athletics - we start to see a significant positive change in the economic structure at RU.
This might require some political acumen and some legislative arm-twisting. But we do have some friends in Trenton. And Pat Hobbs has been involved with the political machinations of the state before. So the right words from the right people to the right people could do wonders.
Can we monetize even more?
We previously talked about an hockey or ice facility. Besides being a home to a D1 program (dream big, baby!), it could also be used (for a fee) for general public skating, recreation, and outside rentals. You spend money to make money.
We had put a design together that saw the ice center attached to a different multisport facility by the RAC. But someone offered a comment that the area behind the new Livingston apartments would be a good location instead.
While your placement of the hockey arena isn't bad, I always thought a good spot would be in the huge empty space left behind the new dorms. I know that was supposed to be saved for potentially building apartments of some kind, but I think it's a perfect location for the arena where you could actually have enough space to have a practice rink attached and to create more parking space if needed. If Rutgers needs to build other dorms or apartments on Livingston they still have plenty of space - they could maybe even tear down the Quads or Towers and build something newer and bigger.
It's a good point; the area is completely undeveloped and could easily accommodate an arena. It also separates a fairly crowded area where the current track is from what could be a very busy - and profitable - building.
It's all ideas. We haven't raised the money we need for the current projects, so why do this? Why go through this seemingly meaningless exercise? Because we need to dream. We need to be creative. We need to think like a D1 / Big Ten / P5 school. Because we need to inspire others.
And because I have a lot of free time.
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