The Free Press, Mankato, MN

Sports

August 31, 2013

Changes taking shape at Verizon Center hockey rink

Plans in place to move teams downtown permanently

MANKATO — The new ice system is in place, the concrete is curing and the new purple — yes, purple — seats are being installed.

By the time the Minnesota State men’s hockey season begins in early October, the Verizon Wireless Center rink and arena will have a very different look.

"It will look like home," Mavericks coach Mike Hastings said.

New, state-of-the-art dasher boards and glass will surround the ice sheet, which will be narrower than the one the Mavericks have skated on since 1995. The old, 100-foot-wide Olympic-sized rink will be replaced with one that's 90 feet wide, 5 feet wider than a standard National Hockey League size. But the seats will be the most-noticeable change with MSU-purple seats replacing the original red and blue ones.

"This is how it should have been from the beginning," said Burt Lyman, the building's executive director. "It's going to give you that Maverick feel."

Officials say that the arena's north wall also will get a much-needed freshening up.

"People should be pleasantly surprised with how it looks," Mankato City Manager Pat Hentges said.

If things go as planned, this year's remodeling project will be just the first phase of hockey improvements in the downtown building.

Plans are in the works to move both the men’s and women’s teams downtown permanently. The two teams currently practice at All Seasons Arena, which is also where the women play their games.

Hentges said he hopes the move could happen in time for the 2015-16 season, if not earlier. But the $30 million project, which also includes expansion of the civic center's event and convention space — is contingent on the availability of state bonding money, Hentges said. Several previous attempts to secure that funding for Mankato arena projects have failed, but officials remain optimistic.

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