It was an important day for the Sacred Heart men’s and women’s hockey programs yesterday as work crews began putting in ice on the brand new Martire Family Arena, which is set to open up in two months.
The new 4000-seat on-campus arena will be a major upgrade for both Pioneers programs. The men currently play at Total Mortgage Arena, one of the doddering cavernous tombs that the NCAA keeps selecting for NCAA regionals, eight miles off campus, while the women have been playing 10 miles off campus at Sports Center of Connecticut.
The lead donor on the $75M project was Sacred Heart alum Frank Martire and his wife Marisa. Martire also owns an equity interest in the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.
The most unique feature of the new arena is the floor-to-ceiling smart glass that wraps around three sides of the arena, allowing natural light into the arena without affecting ice conditions. Other unique amenities for fans include a giant pizza oven on the main concourse concession stand as well as craft beer options on the club level from the school’s Brewing Science Certification Program.
But the most important changes will come for the programs themselves. The new arena will have all the modern amenities college programs need to compete in the modern day facilities arms race: new locker rooms, weight rooms, meeting rooms for recruiting visits, and suites to woo potential donors.
The Pioneers have been perpetual also-rans at the Division I level of hockey. Neither the men nor the women have ever made an NCAA Tournament, and the men have just one winning season in the past decade. But with a new facility as nice as nearly any arena in college hockey, it shows a serious commitment on their part to become a more competitive program.