Kane County taxpayers will get a free upgrade to one of its public facilities thanks to a new deal with Aurora University.
The university uses the Fox Valley Ice Arena in Geneva as the host facility for its hockey teams. That arrangement began five years ago. But with the addition of a new women's hockey team, the second of its kind in Illinois, Athletic Director Jim Hamad said it's time to make the Kane County Forest Preserve District-owned building feel like home.
"Having locker rooms for your teams are pretty much standard," Hamad said. "We want to invest in the building to provide for our athletes, both for their own experience and for the good of our recruiting efforts. These days players want their own space, their locker, and they want to see what jersey they will be wearing."
The cooperative project with the district will bring new locker facilities, coaches offices, showers and video screens to the arena. The university's men's hockey teams currently share locker space with the Cyclones amateur team. The school's new women's team, which just began its inaugural season, has no locker space. The plan will involve temporarily closing the pro shop and repositioning it to an area accessible from the outside of the building. Forest preserve commissioners hailed the project as an enhancement to a property that already serves as a community asset.
"To upgrade our facility to something that's state of the art is a good thing," said John Hoscheit, forest preserve district commissioner. "When we first bought the ice arena, there were a lot of naysayers about how this relationship would work out. Over the years, we've seen what goes on below our office in the building has really been used by all different segments of the community. It's been very positive. And now to improve the building at no cost to us is really a win-win."
The district purchased the arena in 2008. It paid $6.3 million for a building that cost $15 million to build. The facility hosts several hockey teams, a pro shop, a restaurant, a gymnasium and the forest preserve district's main offices.
The addition of the Aurora University women's hockey team into the Northern Collegiate Hockey Association created a 10-team association this season. The team is now one of 59 women's hockey programs in Division III of the NCAA. Lake Forest College has the state's other Division III women's hockey team. The regular season runs October through March.