By DAVID GRILK
SLU is planning to upgrade Appleton Arena, while maintaining the historic charm of the building . In order to do so, SLU will direct funds from a variety of sources including donations, alumni funding, SLU’s operational budgets and loans. Any plans will have to be approved by the senior administration of the University’s, as well as the board of trustees.
Changes are scheduled to begin this summer. “We are looking to make some improvements to the men’s varsity locker room, some cosmetic and equipment upgrades to the weight room and a complete renovation of the video room” Jeremy Freeman said, the assistant athletic director of SLU, and operations manager of Appleton.
Looking into the future, Freeman sees some bigger changes happening in Appleton’s ten year plan. “The long-term renovations to the building include a new and larger weight room, new coaches’ offices, a new video room where the entire team can congregate and potentially new larger locker rooms,” Freeman said.
Appleton, which opened in 1951, has seen several changes during its 61-year history. The first major renovation took place in 1990 when the west-facing side of the building, which houses both the men’s and women’s teams, saw extensive upgrades. In 1997 the front entryway to the building, which houses the ticket office, was constructed as was a new room for the compressors and new locker rooms for visiting teams. In the summer of 2009 a new concrete floor and boards were put into place.
While making these changes, Appleton has always maintained its wooden bleachers and intimate seating capacity of just over 3,000. “We love the look of the old wood,” says Mike Hurlbut, the Associate Head Coach of the men’s hockey team, who played for the Saints from 1985 to 1989. “It sells itself to many recruits because it brings them back to when they were kids. Alumni enjoy it because they get to see the same Appleton as when they were going to school here.”
Hurlbut sees only minor changes as being necessary to improve the arena, and the team has been active in raising funds for the facility improvements. “Earlier this year we held a fundraiser with the alumni that we thought was successful,” Hurlbut said, “some new equipment will go a long way towards creating a greater sense of pride.”
Other former players remember the atmosphere within Appleton and have fond memories of what the building meant to them. Former Saint hockey captain and current member of the Springfield Falcons, Aaron Bogosian ’11 remembers Appleton for its electric atmosphere and old-time look. “When you walk into Appleton, it has a different feel than any other rink,” Bogosian said, “the old wood is pretty unique, and it is so loud with the low ceiling.”
Any changes made to the building will be aimed at maintaining the tradition that Appleton holds, while modernizing the facilities for the players. “I see the wooden structure enduring through the decades,” Freedman said. “This way the men’s and women’s team will have the benefit of the newest technology but still get to play and practice in a space that has meant so much for so many generations.”
When asked if he would want a new arena built, Bogosian believes that would take away from the legacy already in place. “There is too much tradition there,” says the Massena, New York resident. “I wouldn’t want to change any of that.”