The Lindenwood Lions will have a new ice rink for their men’s and women’s hockey teams to use this fall.
Lindenwood University and the city of Wentzville recently announced the sale of the Lindenwood Ice Arena by the university to the city. The purchase was approved by the Wentzville Board of Aldermen in June. The sale price of $2 million will be paid in annual increments of $100,000 over the next 20 years.
The 70,000-square-foot arena has been home to Lindenwood’s men’s and women’s ice hockey teams since 2004. It has two regulation ice rinks, which serve for practices and competitions. The facility has also offered public skating sessions and instructional youth hockey programs.
Beginning this fall, Lindenwood’s hockey programs will join the St. Louis Blues and St. Louis Lady Cyclones as primary tenants of the 277,000-square-foot Centene Community Ice Center, now under construction in front of Hollywood Casino in Maryland Heights.
“I think it’s fantastic,” said Rick Zombo, Lindenwood men’s hockey coach and a former player for the St. Louis Blues. “We have new digs. This will take our hockey program to great heights.”
Zombo is doing an impressive job with building the Lions. He was named Coach of the Year for the Central States Collegiate Hockey League’s 2018-19 season when Lindenwood finished conference play with a perfect 13-0-0 record to clinch the regular season title. In post-season play, Minot State handed Lindenwood a 1-0 loss in the semifinals of the American Collegiate Hockey Association Men’s Division I National Championship.
“It was a dream season,” Zombo said. “We graduated only one senior from that team. We lost in the semifinals and that makes two years on a row we had the No. 1 seeded team in the tournament and didn’t win it.
“Lindenwood needs to win it. The stars have to align. Losing in a national tournament does not mean failure. From classroom to performance on the ice, I can’t say enough about it – I’m so proud of the players we have.”
In the 2017-18 season the Lions went 27-10. So the winning attitude is there.
“My program is fantastic,” Zombo said. But he wants it to be even better. “We hope to get to Division 1 in hockey. The women’s program already is Division I. The NCAA put us on a two-year hiatus to make sure we get everything inline for the men’s program so it can go D-I.
“Our program was built to go D-I. We need the financing for 18 full-ride scholarships like the women’s program has. I’d like to have it tomorrow.”
The area has not had Division I men’s hockey since Saint Louis University had a program. The university sponsored the team in 1970 and the program ended after the 1978-79 season. The team then returned to club status.
“The white elephant is we have to put together an endowment to fit in those full rides and maintain the building, said Zombo, who also coached at Marquette High in West St. Louis County. “We have feasibility studies that give a 100 percent thorough exam of Lindenwood and the St. Louis region.”
Zombo said there are good players in the area that can help the team be successful.
“With any college program, you build it through your own town. Increasingly players from St. Louis are doing well,” he said. “Who wouldn’t want to play Division I hockey in his hometown?”
Finding those players, Zombo said, is a combination of three great things.
“Hockey is a great game. Lindenwood is a very great school. The new hockey facility is accessible for everyone with its location and the amenities are around to make it great,” he said. He added that the best marketing is winning, something Lindenwood is becoming more widely known for with its hockey program.
“Our recruiting is all done for fall 2019,” Zombo said. “My summer is putting together a marketing plan. My fingers are crossed that we can open in the new building when school starts.
“We still have ice in Wentzville if we need it. The advantage there was we owned the rink. We came and did what we wanted. We had first dibs. Everything revolved around our hockey program. Now we’re a tenant.”
Lindenwood’s men’s and women’s hockey teams will practice and compete at the new facility, which is managed by the St. Louis Legacy Ice Foundation and boasts a 2,500-seat arena.