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NAU ice hockey artist rendering

This artist's rendering depicts the proposed ice skating rink, with modifications for ice hockey games, at the Field House on the Northern Arizona University campus in Flagstaff.

The Ice Jacks finally caught the break they've been looking for.

Due to a broken pipe, the floor at the Fieldhouse on the campus of Northern Arizona University has been torn up, leaving the school the opportunity to install an ice skating rink that could become the home of the college's club hockey program.

In order to make the rink ready for ice hockey games, the team is responsible for contributing $250,000 to the overall costs, which according to a letter obtained by the Arizona Daily Sun are projected to reach $2 million. The funds raised by the team would go toward a scoreboard, boards and glass, locker room conversions and a Zamboni. The team is not connected with the school’s Athletics Department.

“This is a huge opportunity for NAU hockey so we can grow as big as we can possibly grow," said Ice Jacks director of hockey operations AJ Fairchild. He added that he hopes the team can raise the funds by October despite the lack of a deadline for fundraising.

Fairchild’s letter implied that the ice rink's construction is not dependent on the team raising the funds and will move forward no matter how long it takes the team to come up with the money. The university's insurance has got the construction work started. He said both parties are aiming for the rink to be fully ready for ice hockey games by January of 2018.

"As a non-varsity sport at NAU, the school is not building a rink expressly for NAU Hockey," the letter reads. "The rink is seen by the President of the University and the other top officers of the school as a means of recreation for all NAU students."

Fairchild also expressed excitement about the project's ability to bring in more fans and more recreational activities for students.

“Lots of opportunity for ice use there," Fairchild said.

The Ice Jacks have been playing and practicing at the city of Flagstaff’s Jay Lively ice rink, where the team has also spent time interacting with the Flagstaff public.

As one of the new rink's major tenants, the Ice Jacks staff will work toward a symbiotic relationship with the school and directly help with the construction process, working with TC Eberly, executive director of campus services and activities at NAU.

Fairchild said the Ice Jacks will pay for the ice time in order to hold practice, camp, tryouts and games, with a tentative fee of about $200 per hour. That is higher than the fee at Jay Lively for practice, but less than the fee for games.

Fairchild said the NAU rink will come with seating for 1,500 fans, with room to grow. The team is currently averaging 300 fans per game at Jay Lively.

“The ticket sales will make a tremendous difference to the team,” he said.

Eberly has not yet responded to requests by the Daily Sun for further details on the project. The news of the Ice Jacks new home was first reported by azrubberhockey.com on April 25, but the university did not confirm the report at the time.

Fairchild said that for more than 10 years, the Ice Jacks have been in talks with the college about the possibility of getting an ice rink on campus. He said the timing was perfect, especially now that the tennis, basketball and track and field teams, which were using the Fieldhouse as a practice facility over the years, have their own places.

The insurance settlement from the broken pipe and subsequent construction bids also helped to reduce the amount NAU asked the team to contribute from $500,000 to $250,000.

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Mike Hartman can be reached at 556-2255 or at mhartman@azdailysun.com.

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