COMMUNITY; GROWTH & DEVELOPMENT
By Gregory DL Morris
The UNC Ice Hockey Booster Club is in the final stages of buying four acres of land in the Carraway Village development on Eubanks Road, on the north side of Chapel Hill. Initial plans call for an arena with at least 2,000 seats, amenities, and retail. The UNC Tar Heels Men’s Ice Hockey Team currently plays at the Orange County SportsPlex in Hillsborough.
It is intended that the new facility will enable the sport’s expansion at all levels, especially a women’s team for UNC, as well as youth and adult recreational leagues. Once the real estate transaction has been completed, the club will release further details.
Greg Morey, president of the booster club, told TLR that he has the contract for the land in hand, adding that several alumni have stepped in to help with the funding. He noted that land deals are always complex, but expects the purchase to be closed before the end of the year.
“We found a spot next to the Chapel Hill Transit park-and-ride lot,” said Morey, “on the bus line from town and from campus. We hope the arena is a big economic development for the town and the whole area. Carraway is excited to build with us. This is not just about hockey or UNC, this is a Chapel Hill story.”
The initial hope was to find space on campus. The club looked at the existing arenas for retrofitting an ice surface, but the floor space was not big enough.
“The idea is a full fan experience,” said Morey. “We will have a few thousand seats, skyboxes, a bar and grill, all the amenities. And also the pep bands, the whole deal. We will have control of our own ice time, so there will be time and space for a women’s program. We also expect other tenant teams – other schools, youth leagues, rec leagues, tournaments. The SportsPlex is a great partner, but there is such high demand for their ice time.”
More broadly, Morey commented that “as hockey has developed in the region, it has become apparent that there are a few holes, including Division One programs and women’s programs. It’s not in our ability to do those things, but we can help prepare the ground for things like that as we grow our own program.”
UNC Hockey will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year, which may come as a surprise to the many in the area who only think of winter sports in terms of a hot gymnasium.
The regional rivalries are just as intense on the ice: UNC-Chapel Hill, NC State, Duke, Elon, Wake Forest, and UNC-Wilmington all play in the American Collegiate Hockey Association, Division Two. The SportsPlex is also home for Duke and Elon; NC State plays at the Carolina Hurricanes’ practice facility, the Wake Competition Center, in Morrisville.
Gregory DL Morris is a business journalist and historian who reports regularly for TLR.