Student-led campaign seeks to bring hockey rink to Tuscaloosa

Will Miller, Staff Reporter

The University of Alabama’s Division I and Division II Frozen Tide hockey teams travel a long way to practices and games. 

UA hockey players practice and play games at the Pelham Civic Complex, which is located roughly an hour’s drive from campus. This means a large time commitment for those affiliated with the teams, as well as difficulty for students and other fans in attending games and showing their support.  

The University of Alabama Build-A-Rink campaign, founded by students, hopes to provide the solution and grow the game by raising money to build a rink on campus. Donations for the project are being collected on GoFundMe, where the description says the funds will be used for “research on building a rink, growing the movement, and funds to put towards the construction of an on-campus rink.” 

Co-founder Savannah Prefontaine, a sophomore majoring in communications, started working with the DII squad this year and said that the experience made her want to make a difference. She explained that it would ease logistical difficulties for the teams and that there is potential for hockey to grow at the University.  

“I realized [the] time commitment these guys make to the organization due to the fact that the rink is an hour away, and it’s hard to juggle that with school and even some of them having jobs,” Prefontaine said. “Over time, we’re just trying to get the word to spread and get more people to realize how big this sport can be at this school and how much a rink could bring.”  

Fellow co-founder Natalie Pizza, a sophomore majoring in public relations, said the rink project is important to all who love the game of hockey and hope to see it grow in the area, and that many more individuals would have the opportunity to participate in the game if there were a rink in Tuscaloosa.  

“This university doesn’t just pull from the South. A lot of students are from northern states which are also very big in hockey,” Pizza said. “If the Alabama community [rallied behind] hockey, not only would our club have more men trying out and participating, but [there would] be the opportunity for women’s hockey leagues, figure skating teams [and] intramural teams.”  

Ian Hebert, a Montreal native who formerly played for the East Coast Hockey League Birmingham Bulls and former assistant coach with Alabama hockey, said there is no ceiling on Alabama hockey if the rink project is done right.  

“A rink in Tuscaloosa would grow the sport of hockey at the university exponentially,” Hebert said. “I think it would have an impact on kids wanting to grow up to wear the crimson and play in Tuscaloosa.” 

Emphasis was also placed on the possibility of having citywide, school and other community events at the rink, which would benefit the community at large and provide revenue and additional opportunities to help the game grow in the area.  

“The revenue the rink would generate from student attendance, Greek life events, food and drink sales and other events would be tremendous, not to mention the profits that [would] be raised by hotels and other local businesses if the rink hosted tournaments and had teams staying overnight,” said co-founder Maddie Radtke, a freshman double majoring in finance and sports management. “The possibilities are endless when it comes to the events that can be held at the rink and how it can be utilized.” 

Hebert echoed that players are not the only potential beneficiaries of this project.  

“Local skating, figure skating and other events become possible,” he said. “The changing nature of the students shows that they are coming from places with hockey — [they] would support hockey and will create more social events like fraternity and sorority skating nights.”  

Radtke described the early support the campaign has received as exciting.  

“Although we are just at the start of a long journey, the amount of support and outreach we have received from students, alumni and local citizens is overwhelming,” she said. “Everyone is more than eager to help in any way they can and bring a rink to Tuscaloosa and the University.”  

There are social media updates being given on the project’s status through the campaign’s presence on Instagram and Facebook