A look into the details of the Club Hockey budget

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Members of the University of Northern Colorado Club Hockey team lines up prior to a game last season at the Ice Haus. Photo courtesy of UNC Bears Club Hockey.

When going to a college sports game, one has a lot of expectations. The stadium will be huge, the amenities will be vast and there will be tons of food to eat.

That may be true for NCAA programs, but what does it look like when it is a club sport?

The short answer: it all depends on the club sport since they do get funding, but not always enough to do the extra things.

Ice hockey stuck out as the most interesting to explore their budget since many teams have equipment that is very expensive, but Bears hockey is also the only team to use an off-campus venue for practice and play.

The Ice Haus is home for Bears hockey. It’s where they practice, play and have their own locker room. During day hours the Ice Haus is a city of Greeley recreation center open to the public, but on the weekends it hosts the UNC Bears and Northern Colorado Eagles hockey teams.

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How does it work with the Ice Haus? The University of Northern Colorado has a three-year contract that is re-visited and re-signed every three years.

There are a lot of things that must be coordinated for game day including rental time for three hours, athletic trainer on-site, club sports staff, game officials, gate fee and security. To put on just one regular season game averages $1,470 if it is not a theme night.

Theme nights get considerably more expensive with décor, renting the party room that overlooks the rink, ordering plaques for cancer or military honorees and having custom jerseys. It depends on how the funding is for that year, but theme night can cost upwards of $8,000 with the large part of the cost in custom jerseys. Jersey orders like that can be as expensive as $5,000.

So is it worth it to order the jerseys each time?

“Without the jerseys I don’t think people would take the theme as seriously,” team manager Erin Prueter said. “While it’s a lot of money I think it adds to the event and our guys feel special playing for the theme.”

Many of the Bears road games are local enough to hire a bus for the night, play the game and then take the bus back to the Ice Haus, but how much does it cost to go play at a tournament that is at an away venue and out of state?

The average of tournaments in Bismarck, N.D., and Ogden, Utah last year was $4,944 each. The players get travel, housing and equipment travel costs covered as part of the budget, but unless it is a team meal the players must pay for their food on road trips.

Another cost for the players equipment and team fees to play. For this year the cost to play on the team was $2,400.

Again, one of the downsides of not having the NCAA accreditation is not being able to cover as many costs as the team would like. Also, as a club sport the hockey team cannot offer scholarships.

At the final total, one year’s expenses for the whole season operation of the team for last year was $106,221.81. Not easy to accomplish, but the Bears overall budget was 110,275.31.

So how does the team make money?

The University of Northern Colorado Club Hockey team scores a goal against Denver University this season at the Greeley Ice Haus. Photo courtesy of Maddie Robbins, UNC Club Hockey.

The Club Sports Executive Council allocated $17,520 for 2018-2019 season.

Student Senate allocated $20,000 contingent on the continuing agreement that students are able to attend the games for free.

The team also gets sponsorship money from businesses who pay for their logo to be at the rink or on programs, but a current number is not definite since sponsorships can come during the season as well.

To play for the club hockey team this season players have to shell out about $2,400 for their equipment and apparel costs, which makes up for another $60,000 chunk of the budget.

The other ways the team makes money is through merchandise purchases through the team and ticket sale revenue.

Does the team make a lot of money during the conference tournament or regionals?

Unfortunately, the conference and league pay for those and also keep any profit, but the Bears team staff is responsible for each game production and needs.

The financial situation is strict and specific but considering how many hoops the Bears must jump through off the ice, it makes their on-ice success even more impressive.

Many do not know, but last year the Bears finished in the top 16 teams as they went to the ACHA Nationals tournament that was largely parent and player funded. The Bears are also two-time defending conference champions of the Big Mountain Hockey Conference.

Despite not having scholarships, the Bears continually pull top prospects to the program and even out of country prospects like Scott Robinson.

How far will the Bears make it this season? Head down to the Ice Haus on most Fridays at 8:30 p.m. to find out if they can continue their sterling success.

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