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Contentious ice arena a welcome addition

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In the fall of 2016, St. Olaf announced a $200 million comprehensive fundraising campaign. The campaign focuses on four funding priorities: advancing high-impact learning, strengthening community, enhancing affordability and sustaining St. Olaf’s mission. The construction of the St. Olaf ice arena was one element of the push for strengthening community. Primarily funded by donations, construction was completed this past winter and the rink officially opened in late January 2019.

Since the announcement of its construction two years ago, the St. Olaf Ice Arena has been a point of contention. As a school known for its music program, rather than its athletics, an ice rink seemed an odd choice compared to a performance hall that could fit our many ensembles (although I think Christmas Fest on Ice would draw quite the crowd). Furthermore, installation of the rink caused a dramatic loss in space for a variety of athletic activities. The rink was built in the former Skoglund field house, a practice space for varsity, intramural and club sports teams, as well as a meeting area for many ESAC courses. Various organizations now face heavy competition for precious practice times.

Seeing as the hockey season ended with no home wins on the new ice, many wonder if the “Bring Ice Home” campaign was necessary. Despite the controversy, however, the ice rink is a great addition to campus. Unlike other sporting spaces, an ice rink can facilitate activities beyond just one sport. Sports such as curling, broomball and figure skating now have an area to practice. The rink also provides potential for  new ESAC courses, offering students more options to complete the SPM general education requirement. Furthermore, the college can make money through community free skate, advertisements and renting the space to outside teams and organizations. Finally, the rink allows for community building within the college itself. Currently, free skate hours are offered three times a week in addition to potential events put on by various student organizations.

While “bringing ice home” has done little to bring more hockey victories, it has added to life at St. Olaf in many other ways. Although some may find the rink unnecessary, it is here to stay – we might as well enjoy it.

Hannah Martens ’20 (marten1@stolaf.edu) is from Milton, Mass. She majors in English.