SOUTH BEND — Notre Dame would have preferred hosting this weekend’s NCAA tourney with the Fighting Irish as one of the four teams. But the Irish hockey team fell short of a bid this season.
And now four teams, all from outside this area, will descend upon the Compton Family Ice Arena for the NCAA Men’s Ice Hockey Midwest Regional on Saturday and Sunday.
But not all is lost.
Those teams — Minnesota State-Mankato, Rochester Institute, University of Nebraska-Omaha and Harvard — and their fans will utilize 800 room nights and are expected to have an economic impact of $316,541 in St. Joseph County. Minnesota State-Mankato is the NCAA’s No. 1 seed in the entire tourney’s 16-team field.
“It’s exciting,” said Rob DeCleene, executive director for Visit South Bend Mishawaka. “It’s just another example of what the Compton Family Ice Arena has meant to Notre Dame and South Bend as far as our ability to host something like this.”
Before 2015 is over, it’s possible with this boost that the arena will top last year’s numbers. For 2014, youth hockey tournaments alone (which excludes Notre Dame hockey events) brought the area 10,322 room nights, DeCleene said. And according to the area’s main tourney organizer, Hockey Time Productions, its tournaments resulted in an economic impact of $3.4 million to St. Joseph County in 2014.
“It’s all new business,” DeCleene said. “It’s business that four years ago (when the Irish played in the Joyce Center), we did not have.”
Mike McNeill, programming and instruction manager at the Compton Family Ice Arena, says prior to Compton, only one or two youth tournaments per year were held in the area that resulted in visitors actually staying overnight. Now, Hockey Time alone has 10 such tournaments per year.
“It’s a great place, and it’s fair to say the families, the kids, they love to come here,” McNeill said of the Compton Family Ice Arena, which opened three seasons ago.
This weekend’s tournament is quite a boost for this time of year, DeCleene said. “The cool story about it is it’s back-to-back weekends hosting NCAA tournament events in South Bend,” he said. “The women (NCAA basketball) last weekend and this weekend hockey.”
Ticket prices for this weekend’s games start at $15 for general admission standing room. Reserved seats are $35. For those wanting to watch any of the teams practice, it is free and begins at 11:30 a.m. Friday.
The first of two games is at 4 p.m. Saturday at Compton and Sunday’s championship game is at 7:30 p.m. with the winner advancing to the Frozen Four in Boston.
NCAA Midwest Regional
Saturday: Minnesota State vs. Rochester Institute of Technology — 4 p.m.; University of Nebraska-Omaha vs. Harvard — 7:30 p.m.
Sunday: Winners face off at 7:30 p.m.