ATHENS, Ga. – Since The Classic Center partnered with UGA Hockey to bring ice hockey to Athens only two seasons ago, both the UGA Ice Dogs and The Classic Center have seen successful results from their endeavors.
For the first time in 28 years, the UGA Hockey team won the SECHC Championship this season in Nashville, beating Auburn, Vanderbilt and Florida for the title. The coaching staff also came home with a victory, winning the SEC Coaches of the Year award by unanimous vote. Goalie Andrew Bray, was named the Tournament MVP too. The team will now compete at semi-finals for the National Championship in Orlando, Florida, February 19 and 20.
The Classic Center is proud of the winning season the team has had playing at the Akins Arena this year, as well as the successful partnership with Akins Ford in Winder, who became the naming rights sponsor of the arena this year. Sponsorships overall for the arena have increased as each year and season progress.
Danny Bryant, the Arena & Pavilion Services Manager for The Classic Center, and his team have been able to take this club sport to a whole new level.
“We knew we had to combine all the elements needed for a prosperous year (i.e. the venue, team, Hockey Foundation and the support of the community, fans and sponsors), which we did and the results were astounding,” says Bryant.
Executive Director of The Classic Center, Paul Cramer, couldn’t be more thrilled with the outcome that both hockey and the new arena has had on the community.
“Hockey was a new concept in Athens, so we needed to emphasize the ‘second experience’,” Cramer says. “We knew if we got people here, fans would fall in love with the team. So we put a huge focus on the ‘second experience’ for that first game back in April 2014 – we had a drumline, music and cheerleaders. It was about more than just hockey. Now, I truly believe we have created a new generation of Ice Dog fans.”
“We have previously been offered the opportunity to host the SECHC Championship, but due to scheduling, this has not been an option,” Cramer added. “I am happy to say that this is now an opportunity that we are actively pursuing. We are currently looking at possible dates for the 2020 championship.”
Team Captain, Alex Carey, is not just proud of his team, he’s proud of the increasing support that the team has received from its fans and from the Athens community.
“Our team could not and would not be where we are today without the outpouring of support and encouragement our fans have given us,” Carey said. “To hear the cheers and applause we get from the crowd, especially at Akins Arena, is what really motivates us to win.”
In addition to hockey, the Akins Arena itself has brought success to Athens by allowing The Classic Center to host more tournaments, a full arena-sized rink for public ice skating and added an additional concert venue for the facility, which hosted 6,000 attendees for Lecrae’s 2015 performance and will house the upcoming Alabama Shakes show on April 27. These additional events not only help fill hotel rooms and generate revenue for Athens, but also create a new source of entertainment for the community.
For more information about the Ice Dogs, visit UGAHockey.com.
Advertising & PR Coordinator | The Classic Center
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