Getting ready for opening day

Winnipeg Ice pulling out all the stops for Wayne Fleming upgrades

Ice alternate captain Peyton Krebs celebrates with the bench during a game

A facelift for U of M’s Wayne Fleming Arena is on the way.

At a press conference May 9, Winnipeg Ice president and general manager Matt Cockell announced $1.2 million in capital for renovations to the aging rink. The work will bring Wayne Fleming Arena up to WHL standards ahead of the inaugural Winnipeg Ice season.

“The environment in Wayne Fleming arena — dubbed as the ‘Ice Cave’ — will be electric and a one of a kind experience where WHL fans will […] have all the amenities that they would in any other WHL venue,” Cockell said.

Enhancements to the arena will include a video scoreboard, expanded seating capacity from 1,400 to 1,600 seats, a premium lounge, concession upgrades and an upgraded visitor dressing room.

Artist renderings of the proposed renovations show a large balcony for media and team personnel where the press box currently sits.

Also shown are ice-level counters and seating at the corners of the rink, two covered tunnels for the home and visiting teams and additional standing room in the arena concourse.

Further upgrades to the ice surface itself will include new glass panels, safety netting at the ends of the rink and new flooring around the ice surface to protect player skate blades from damage.

U of M Bisons men’s hockey head coach Mike Sirant was on hand during the press conference and expressed his continued excitement for the arrival of the Winnipeg Ice and the improvements to the arena.

“It’s needed — Wayne Fleming Arena is a great facility but it’s time for an upgrade — and having this partnership with the Winnipeg Ice is very timely,” Sirant said.

“We’re very excited at the plans they’ve shown, it’s really good vision and forward thinking and it’s going to enhance not only the fan experience but also our player experience at Bisons games and Winnipeg Ice games.”

The past few years have been great for Bison Sports, with the opening of Investors Group Field as well as a new training facility in the Active Living Centre. Now with upgrades to the arena, Sirant is even more optimistic for the future of the program.

“Huge improvement in our off-ice training facilities with the new Active Living Centre — which is such an amazing state of the art facility and probably the best of all Canadian universities,” he said.

“So we’re very fortunate to have that facility and that has greatly improved our off-ice training. Now getting improvements to the rink it’s just a better and safer playing environment.”

“It’s all motivating for our guys that they feel they’re part of something special with the improvements in the facility,” Sirant said.

“We benefit in so many ways here. Of course the partnership with the Winnipeg Ice will lead to people being more familiar with Wayne Fleming arena […] and we hope they’ll take advantage and come out and watch the Bisons.”

Always in Sirant’s mind are the potential recruiting benefits having the Ice in Wayne Fleming will provide. The herd already boasts Ice alumnus Colton Veloso and Sirant hopes he is the first of many to join the club.

“The big advantage for us will be the future recruiting of the Winnipeg Ice graduating players,” he said.

“If they don’t go to the National Hockey League or American Hockey League, we hope that they’ll continue and just move down the hallway and play for the Bisons.”