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Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Union hockey teams secure new home as Mohawk Harbor Arena agreement is concluded


SCHENECTADY — The Union College men’s and women’s hockey teams are eagerly anticipating their new home ground.

The teams are set to kick off their games at the Mohawk Harbor Event Center in the 2025-26 season. The finalized agreement was officially announced on Monday.

This implies that the upcoming season will be the last one for the Garnet Chargers at their current home, the Messa Rink at Achilles Center.

“The anticipation is palpable,” said Union College athletic director Jim McLaughlin on Monday. “This is a significant milestone for our teams, the community, and the city to have such a state-of-the-art event center.”

Union has entered into a 25-year lease agreement with developer Maxon Alco Holdings, LLC, a subsidiary of the Galesi Group, and will be the main tenant. As per the press release, Union will contribute $20 million over the 25 years to host its hockey games at the new arena.

The arena has been a topic of discussion for years and was even part of Schenectady’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative, a $10 million state grant awarded in 2019 to stimulate economic growth in the downtown area. However, funding for the arena was eventually redirected to other projects.

The project regained momentum in 2022, when state Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, announced that he had secured $10 million in state funding for an arena at Mohawk Harbor.

“I’m thrilled to see the successful outcome of our collective efforts in making this project a reality,” Santabarbara said Monday in a press release. “From securing $10 million in the state budget to committing an additional $1 million from my office, this endeavor highlights my commitment to improving the quality of life and promoting growth in Schenectady as a tourist destination. I believe this groundbreaking project will herald a new era for Schenectady, providing not only a new home for Union College hockey, but also a state-of-the-art multi-purpose arena at Mohawk Harbor that represents a significant investment in our community’s future. It has the potential to attract exciting new events to Schenectady, including NCAA tournaments, big names in entertainment, and new economic development opportunities. The overwhelming support at every level of government has been inspiring. I commend all stakeholders for their collaborative efforts in making this transformative project a reality.”

Additional funding was provided by the Schenectady County Legislature ($5 million), the Schenectady City Council ($2.5 million), and Union trustee Neil Golub ($1 million).

The groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled for the spring, with the exact date yet to be determined.

“It’s been a long journey,” Union College President David Harris said Monday. “We had to navigate through many challenges, but it’s exhilarating to see it finally becoming a reality.”

Union considered several options, from constructing a new on-campus facility to repairing or renovating Messa. Ultimately, it was decided that the best course of action was to play in a new off-campus facility.

“In a world of limited resources, this is a tremendous opportunity because we end up with a $50 million facility that we’re using and sharing with others,” Harris said. “So it’s $20 million over 25 years, instead of having to find $50 million on campus, or $20 [million-] plus to renovate Messa, which would still have a bunch of challenges.

Messa Rink, originally known as Achilles Rink, was built for $1.8 million and opened in 1975. The first hockey game was played on Dec. 5, 1975, against the University of Ottawa. Union was an NCAA Division II/Division III program when it first started, and then moved to Division I in 1991. The women’s team began play at the Division III level in 1999, and was elevated to Division I four years later. The facility also hosts high school and youth hockey games, as well as the Union men’s club hockey team, which will move its games to the new facility.

When the Union hockey teams move to the new arena, McLaughlin said the college will continue to use Achilles Center for athletic purposes. The facility, at that point, will no longer include an ice rink.

“This will free up some existing locker room spaces that we can utilize for other teams,” McLaughlin said. “It’s going to allow us to expand the strength and conditioning area and sports medicine area, and it’s going to enable us to have an indoor turf practice facility that will be beneficial for baseball, lacrosse, soccer, and all of our teams.”

Playing in a new rink, along with the introduction of athletic scholarships, will aid the Union coaching staff in recruiting student-athletes to the hockey teams.

“This new arena will help us attract top-tier talent both now and in the future, as well as give us the ability to develop our current players and help them achieve their athletic and academic goals,” men’s hockey head coach Josh Hauge said in a press release. “We are also excited to welcome our incredible fans from the college and the community to this new rink and watch them continue to showcase their passion for Union hockey.”

“With scholarship opportunities, a distinguished degree, a beautiful campus, and now a brand-new facility, our student-athletes have a real recipe for personal growth and success,” women’s head coach Josh Sciba said in a press release. “This new facility will allow our staff to provide the type of Division I experience that our student-athletes seek, and it will elevate our recruiting efforts for years to come.”

The facility will have 2,200 seats for hockey, with capacity expanding to 3,600 for other sporting events, trade shows, and conventions.

Emily Stanton
Emily Stanton
Emily Stanton, a skillful journalist previously based in Boston, is adept at covering a diverse array of stories. Her thorough and engaging reporting style, honed with a Master's in Journalism from Boston University, focuses on community-relevant stories.
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