For some, hockey is synonymous with winter in Wisconsin, but the city of Oshkosh, the state’s ninth-largest city, doesn’t have a single public rink.
Oshkosh has only one public rink, located in Roe Park, but rink rules state that no hockey is allowed. Those wishing to play hockey for fun should either go to the Oshkosh YMCA on 20th Avenue or play on Lake Winnebago. This would require students at UW Oshkosh to travel nearly two miles to a pick-up hockey game.
At the YMCA, visitors who want to play hockey must pay for ice time. Currently, it costs $5 for members and $7 for non-members to play ice hockey. The YMCA also requires full pads and helmets to play a friendly pickup game. According to newtohockey.com, a full set of new pads and a helmet cost between $500 and $1,000. That’s a ridiculous price for anyone who just wants to play the occasional hockey game.
I don’t know many people who play pick-up hockey and have all the “required” equipment. For the average outside hockey player, a stick, puck and skates are enough. The YMCA does not rent skates for users but rents skates at $1.50 for members and $3 for non-members.
The other option for hockey fans is to play on Lake Winnebago. This can be dangerous as the ice is unsupervised and can crack or shift at any time. Ice conditions also vary from day to day and it’s usually not until early winter that you find the smooth ice with no snow on top that allows good skating. Also, if there was a recent snowstorm, you’ll need to shovel first.
My recommendation for UWO is to install an outdoor hockey rink on campus. There would be a lot of interest in hockey since most of the students come from Wisconsin and Minnesota, known as the state of hockey. It would also provide an opportunity for people from outside the Midwest to learn more about the cultural significance of hockey to the people of that region.
The cost of operating a hockey rink is not as high as one might think. According to Pat Baye, recreation supervisor for the Green Bay Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, it costs $3,545.28 to operate a hockey rink during the winter season.
“We averaged 45 people a night at each hockey rink [this season]”, Baye said. “The length of the season varies greatly from year to year, depending on the overall temperature and the sun.
The cost may seem significant, but students would pay just over 23 cents each if the university split its cost equally among the 15,209 students enrolled at UWO for the fall semester. The university already requires students to pay for the Student Recreation and Wellness Center as well as the Rec Plex in their bill each semester. If UW Oshkosh can raise its tuition every few years, it can afford to add 23 cents to the bill.
UWO has an area that since I’ve been here hasn’t been used. East Hall Park contains a large flat open space that would be perfect for a hockey rink. This would finally allow the university to use a forgotten park. What’s the point of UWO owning land it doesn’t use?
UWO already has special facilities for basketball, soccer, tennis, and lacrosse that students can use. It’s time for the university to add a hockey rink to the mix.