I have an idea.
Yes, some may think this is dumb. And yes, it may not be practical and may not ever happen and you may laugh at this column, but hear me out.
UCF needs an ice rink. Let me explain.
On Friday night, I ventured about 35 minutes away from campus in pursuit of checking out the UCF ice-hockey team. We had featured them in our last issue and, honestly, I just wanted to see if they were legit. Also, they were playing USF and I could only assume that I would see a couple of good fights.
When I arrived at the RDV Sportsplex in Maitland, where the team plays and practices, I was shocked to see quite a crowd. Are these people really here to see a club team play? They were. The crowd made its way onto the bleachers, where hardly a seat was vacant. As the teams made their way onto the ice, the crowd roared. I couldn't believe how many people were there to support a hockey team — in Florida — 35 minutes away from campus.
As the game started, I was astonished to see how good these players really were. They were dead serious about winning, and it showed. In hockey, when teams really, really want to win, they usually aren't willing to waste a penalty on a fight. There was only one tiny scuffle during the entire game. Not to mention, among the club sport's accolades is attendance at Nationals for eight consecutive seasons, including a fifth-place finish overall last year. Not too shabby.
So back to UCF getting an ice rink.
While I'd love to say that the hockey team alone deserves a place to play closer to campus, that's just not logical. Money talks, and there's no way that would balance out on a spreadsheet.
So here's my idea.
We have this great building called The Venue, which used to be our old arena. Yes, volleyball plays there along with some other sports, but let's move them to the CFE Arena. (Or, ice volleyball, anyone? That could be fun.) In the The Venue, let's add a rink, host public skates, make some money and support our UCF hockey team and potentially other ice-related sports. I vote we add curling. Added benefit? Cut costs for Light Up UCF. No need for an outside skating rink in the Florida heat when you've got one year-round right on campus.
Think about it. We're surrounded by family-centric communities such as Oviedo and Avalon Park. We'd not only have the student crowd on campus, but we'd have local families visiting and paying on the regular. Not to mention, the university could potentially bring ice shows to campus that ordinarily have to take place at the Amway Center. I don't know about you guys, but I've got the Mr. Krabs money signs in my eyes right now.
"A general rule of thumb is that a single-surface ice skating facility requires a population of 100,000 people within a five-mile radius, 250,000 people within a 10-mile radius and no existing competition within these radii to be economically feasible," the Ice Skating Institute states on its website.
The Orlando Metro area has a population of more than 2 million. Of course, we wouldn't capture that entire market, but if we could get a good chunk — say the populations in East Orlando and East Seminole County — we'd have the consumer base. UCF will likely need to make the rink accessible and parking surely would be an issue. Use the parking you would ordinarily use for event parking and call it a day. Only host public skates on weekday nights and on weekends (minus game days) and the flow of traffic, I assume, wouldn't be disastrous.
Of course, this doesn't include costs of maintaining and creating a structure of such grand proportions. That, friends, that puts a tiny hole in my argument. But let's still look at what we're dealing with before we rule it out. According to the Ice Skating Institute, the estimated cost for a single-surface ice-skating arena can be anywhere in the ballpark of $2 million to $4 million. Now, will there be a return on investment? According to the Institute, if you have restaurants, the population, a lack of competition (RDV Sportsplex is quite a drive away) and ways to maximize energy efficiency, you have a shot at making some dough. Boom. Good to go. And what's a couple mill to a university that has a budget of more than a billion bucks, right?
Well, I certainly won't be holding my breath waiting for this to happen, but a girl can dream.
While we wait for the administration to say "Hey, Jessica. You're a genius. Let's do everything you say," I recommend just checking out a UCF ice-hockey game and maybe pondering the idea of ice volleyball, because we may be waiting for awhile. Nevertheless, I smell victory and it smells like a ridiculously high insurance premium.