BY: ALI JENKINS
Over a year and a half ago, construction broke ground for LaBahn Arena, the new $34 million home of the University of Wisconsin’s hockey team. To much anticipation, the doors finally opened Oct. 1, officially ushering in a new era in Badger sports.
The arena directly affects six University athletic programs, namely hockey. Boasting the new Lance Johnson Memorial Rink, a 2,273-seat facility, and state-of-the-art locker rooms, the recently displaced men and women’s hockey programs now have a place to call home.
In addition to the revamped dressing rooms, a new student-athlete dining area for team’s post-practice and pregame meals opened where the men’s basketball locker room once stood. Now both teams at the Kohl Center, hockey’s old home, and LaBahn Arena will get to reap the benefits of the new facility and the luxuries found within.
Other amenities include contemporary offices for women’s hockey, new dressing rooms for the swimming and basketball teams, video theaters and an expanded sports medicine area.
While the upgrade may seem a bit excessive, its main purpose is ensuring the safety of Badger student-athletes. In recent years, the men’s hockey team was forced to travel three miles off campus to the Bob Johnson Hockey Facility for practice, because the Kohl Center was decorated for basketball. The journey usually meant maneuvering through busy roads, like Park Street and John Nolen Drive, sometimes on scooters with heavy equipment bags in the dead of winter.
If that facility was unavailable, the team had to relocate to the on-campus Camp Randall Memorial Sports Center. Despite the Shell’s close proximity, team skates there required players to dress at the Kohl Center before traveling down busy Dayton Street.
The men’s hockey team wasn’t the only program displaced on occasion. The women’s hockey team, although based at the Shell, had to travel in similar circumstances when ice time became available at the Kohl Center.
The new arena will cut down on potential travel accidents and allow both programs a place to practice year-round.
The men and women’s swimming programs also benefit from the new arena. A bridge connecting LaBahn to the Southeast Recreational Facility will give swimmers easy access to their new locker rooms, coach and student-athlete lounges and athletic training facilities.
You can check out photos of the construction from start to finish here.