Rochester Institute of Technology today announced a major fundraising program titled “Tiger Power Play — The Campaign for RIT Hockey,” with a goal of $15 million targeted for the construction of a new arena for its men’s and women’s hockey programs.
The first donors to the effort with a pledge of $1 million are alumni Stephen L. Schultz, ’88 and ’89, chief technology officer and co-founder of Pictometry International Corp., and his wife Vicki D. Schultz, ’92, ’94 and ’99.
Introducing the donors, RIT president Dr. Bill Destler said, “I for one could not be more grateful.”
While plans for the new arena are far from finalized, Destler said that seating for between 4,000 and 6,000 fans will included in the $25 to $30 million facility. Three or four locations are under consideration on RIT’s 1,300-acre campus, according to Destler.
RIT’s current facility, the 42-year-old Frank Ritter Memorial Arena, holds 2,100, with approximately 500 of that total standing only and regularly sells out. RIT sold out the 10,556-seat Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester against Massachusetts-Lowell in October.
Stephen Schultz was a co-founder in 1982 of RIT’s student section, the “Corner Crew,” which made itself known on a national stage during RIT’s NCAA run last spring. “There really was an attitude problem on campus,” explained Schultz about the reason for starting the group. “The exception were those who got involved.”
While acknowledging the importance of academics, Schultz made note that improving the experience for students is key for growing the university’s endowment. “The more connected your students are, the more connected your alumni are,” Schultz said.
RIT vice-president for student affairs, Dr. Mary Beth Cooper, said that RIT officials have been touring both college and professional arenas to gather ideas. “At the heart of the design is the fan experience. This arena, as intimate as it is, cannot meet the demand.” Cooper said that club seating, dining areas, expanded concessions and enhanced audio-visual equipment will be part of a new arena.
“The partnership has really been between the team and the fans,” said RIT men’s hockey coach Wayne Wilson. “Very much a part of this is the fan support we’ve had at this arena.
“It’s an exciting place to play,” said Wilson, “but it is really, truly time to move on to a new facility.”
Wilson believes that the new arena will be a plus in recruiting. “When we bring recruits in, they’re going to say, ‘Wow, they’re really committed to their program.'”
RIT plans to move its women’s hockey program to the Division I level as soon as the NCAA lifts a moratorium on such moves. Destler has advocated a move of the whole athletic department to D-I at a future date.
While a specific timetable has not been set, Destler said that he expects that fundraising will take two to three years. RIT will supplement the $15 million in contributions with income based on a business plan for the new facility.
Ritter Arena will retain its ice surface and will be used for practices and for college and community events.