When you walk into the meager hockey office in the current Ohio State University Athletic Department you at once realize, because of location, the significance of this program in relation to others. The office itself is located on the inside of the basketball arena, within the rotunda, with a minuscule ice rink adjoining it.
Anyone who has played there, or held a meeting in that office, would describe it as a crowded environment. Three coaches have to share a space which is no larger than the average dorm room on campus, and house not only their work-related materials, but team equipment as well. It does not meet modern CCHA standards, let alone Division III standards.
There has been a change in that dungeon-like office, though. Now on the wall directly opposite the doorway, behind Coach John Markell’s desk, is a huge framed picture of the new Schottenstein Center, an arena which does not exist yet, but will bring OSU, and this program, out of the dungeon, and place it on a pedestal before long. It is an artist’s rendition, and art it is!
This $84 million arena will house both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, as well as the ice hockey team. It is, as Coach Markell referred to it, “a state of the art facility.”
One important construction aspect to note is that the arena will have two practice courts adjacent to the main arena to be utilized for practice by the basketball teams. This will allow for the hockey program to use the facility for regular practices, as well as games. The Big Ten and the CCHA will make efforts to cooperate in scheduling so that date conflicts will not occur. These are important steps to ensure hockey gets its due in the new venue.
What Coach Jerry Welsh did not have for 17 seasons, and what Markell is just beginning to realize, is the benefit of image. Any recruit can come and visit the wonderful campus, and surroundings of Columbus, Ohio, but go home wondering why this kind of university has such a pathetic rink. The only answer was always that their was no support coming from athletics internally. Now that ground has broken, that image problem has vanished.
Ohio State, the largest school in the nation, is consistently ranked among the top public universities in the country, will now begin to compete with the likes of Boston University, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Colorado College. There are other schools out there, but they will hardly be able to offer the complete package to athletes that these programs can.
For starters, there is history at Ohio State. Also, a diverse environment which will attract certain athletes who are looking for a change. There is also this place called High Street, which in the off season can provide young men with more fun than any other campus anywhere.
Oh, and let’s not forget that this arena will be the best. We are talking about a 17,500 seat, Olympic-sized ice surface. Not to mention the special reception area, team meeting room, coaches rooms, workout facility, and other perks.
Sounds like Minnesota, but it’s not. It is in every respect a pro arena, with sight lines easy on all spectators’ eyes, and luxury accommodations for those who want them. Even if it takes a couple of years to fill the seats, the atmosphere will be a huge improvement on the old for Ohio State.
Andy Geiger, the relatively new athletic director, is helping things along. His support of the program is important, and his presence at games, home and away, is intentionally cultivating that new image he wants the program to have. New uniforms last season resemble professional jerseys, and this years’s recruits have a glimmer in their eyes. It is because they can see the ground moving right in front of them on the corner of Lane and Olentangy, right next to the Woody Hayes Facility, the supreme football practice headquarters.
When you look at this building, and the new baseball stadium in the works, and see the sight for the Nicklaus Golf center, all in one gorgeous sports park, it takes your breath away.
The concrete and the dust are welcome in Columbus. It has been too long a wait, but the Buckeyes are preparing for the new millennium, and they are going first class all the way.