As appeared in the South Bend Tribune, on Sunday, December 14
By Gene Stowe
A synergy between Compton Family Ice Arena at Notre Dame and the Ice Box in South Bend has scored millions of dollars in visitor spending in large hockey tournaments and other events that fill a once-vacant wintertime tourist season.
“It’s been a game-changer for us,” says Rob DeCleene, Executive Director of Visit South Bend Mishawaka. “I think it singlehandedly has moved the dial relative to the occupancy rates in St. Joseph County. They host these events in months like December, January, February. They’re bringing business to town in months we didn’t have the business before.”
Just one organization, Hockey Time Productions, brought eight tournaments in the 2013-2014 season, generating $3.6 million in direct sales and more than $6 million in total economic impact, Hockey Time has 10 tournaments scheduled at Compton for 2014-2015.
“That’s just one host and one sport,” DeCleene says. “There are others as well. Compton has the ability to host huge hockey tournaments, ice skating events, curling events, you name it.”
Peg Dalton, owner of Le Peep Restaurant in downtown South Bend, says her business has enjoyed significant benefits from Compton events.
“When decisions are made at the high level at Notre Dame, they impact even a little business person like me,” she says. “I so appreciate the collaborative effort that Notre Dame has made to make sure their guests are spending their money and their time in Downtown South Bend.”
St. Joseph County, located in the heart of youth hockey country and well-supplied with hotel rooms, is especially attractive for large hockey tournaments because four sheets of ice – two at Compton, two at the Ice Box – are close to each other. Some tournaments even utilize two sheets at Culver.
“It’s really just a perfect combination,” DeCleene says. “It’s the vision of what Compton was put in place for coming to life. Compton was purposely built on the edge of campus. It was purposely built with a second sheet of ice for more than Notre Dame hockey games.”
DeCleene once took visiting hockey tournament officials to Compton and then to the Ice Box.
“They said ‘you have a really great combination here,’” he recalls. “‘You’ve got the upscale, new Compton, but then you’ve got the grassroots community hockey facility with the Ice Box and they’re in close proximity.’ It really works.”
Photo by Matt Cashore / University of Notre Dame