As the cold winds start to blow down from Canada, pushing winter's frigid hands over the South, the vacancy of an ice rink in Starkville becomes increasingly noticeable.
For many, October is the middle of football season, the beginning of fall and Spooktober, but it is also the start of hockey season. A place to skate, shoot the puck and cool off in the summer would be a perfect addition to Mississippi's college town, setting Mississippi State University and Starkville apart from other schools in the state.
According to the International Ice Hockey Federation, ice rinks can be multipurpose. Not only can the rink be used for public skating and hockey, but it can also be used to put on figure skating shows for the community's entertainment. Sports are an important part of the economy in Starkville, and the economic impact of hosting hockey tournaments and providing an activity for visiting families like to skate would be huge.
If you want a unique date idea, or if Greek life wanted to throw a fundraising event, an ice rink would be a great option. In Starkville, there is not much to do besides eat, shop and drink. There is not even a miniature golf course, which we also desperately need.
The biggest challenge to bringing an ice rink to Starkville is always going to be about cost. A small town called Leavenworth in Washington did a study on the feasibility of an ice rink in the city in which they found the construction requires tremendous community support to build a rink and keep it open, as every rink in their study operated at a loss. However, the impact it could have on Starkville in tax revenue and on the quality of life would outweigh the cons.
Funding for an ice rink could come from the federal level, former distinguished alumni or even the Nashville Predators or the St. Louis Blues, who are the closest NHL teams to Starkville. Fundraising is certainly another way to get the money needed.
There is also an issue of location, and construction would be a majority of the cost, but what if we repurposed an old building that used to be an arena into an ice rink? McCarthy Gym is the former home of MSU basketball before they moved to Humphrey Coliseum in 1975. The gym already has 3,000 seats and the surface needed for an ice rink, so the foundation is already laid.
All that is missing is just the ice rink itself. With an old building on campus just lying around, why not reuse it in a new way? Tennis no longer needs the gym with their new indoor tennis facility, so why not provide something that would make MSU unique in the SEC?
Currently the MSU club hockey team has to travel to Tupelo to play its games at the BancorpSouth Arena and practice in Pelham and Olive Branch. Oftentimes for practice, the team has to travel to Alabama, which lowers the amount of students who can join the club and who can be exposed to the game.
However, an ice rink in Starkville would benefit the players on the Ice Dawgs, and it would give the students of MSU and those in the community another sport to watch.
Another positive impact that an ice rink could bring to Starkville is the academic research opportunities it would offer. According to an article published by the Institute of Physics, the research of Brigham Young University and Ithaca College lead to the creation of a new skate blade, research that can only be facilitated by the presence of an ice rink.
In hockey, the biggest player safety issue is concussions. MSU could change that by taking their anti-concussion helmet research and applying it to a hockey helmet, or MSU could find more sustainable ways to run an ice rink and help communities across the nation cut down on operating costs. How cool would it be if engineering students created a new and better zamboni that was the pride and joy of MSU?
When I was a freshman, Mark Keenum spoke at orientation and challenged each student to work hard, and to create a better future for our community and world. With an ice rink, MSU could do that, providing a much needed service to the community in both recreation and research.