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Student Government Funds On-Campus Broomball Rink

The new rink on the west end of campus—the first of its kind on a MIAC college campus—is a portable, modular system that will allow for other seasonal uses of the space.

While it’s plausible that a new Bethel student would be puzzled at the word “broomball,” you’d be hard-pressed to find a graduating one who hasn’t had some exposure to the quirky Midwestern sport. (A few Bethel alumni even made a documentary about it.) At Bethel, winter and broomball go hand in hand like August and Welcome Week.

But until this year, interim broomball has only happened on rented ice across town, with ice times scheduled late into the evening. Through a special, protected fund set aside from student activity fees, Bethel Student Government (BSG) recently funded a project to install a dedicated broomball rink on campus. The new rink will be installed on the west end of campus between the West Parking Lot and the Ona Orth Athletic Complex.

“Broomball has been an exciting part of the Bethel student experience for decades. I have lots of great memories of playing broomball when I was a Bethel student, and that was more than 30 years ago,” says Executive Vice President and Provost Deb Harless, who was instrumental in advancing this project. “This ice rink brings a favorite student experience onto campus. I hope that it makes it possible for more students to play broomball, and I anticipate this will add to the energy and activity on campus during the winter months.”

Student Body Vice President Taji Onesirosan ’17 notes that the project isn’t just fun—it’s also practical and will save the school money in the long run. Nearly 50 teams come out for club broomball during interim, with eight to 12 students per co-ed squad—that means about 20% of the student body plays broomball in any given year. “It’s by far the highest participation in an intramural sport,” he says. Using off-campus, rented rinks for the twice-weekly games has been expensive and often impractical, with late-night ice times and the added hassle of students finding transportation to and from the games. But despite the inconveniences, it remains a popular and growing student pastime.

“If you come to campus on an evening in winter, students are everywhere with their sticks,” says Molly Holmes, director of facilities administrative operations.

The project was a few years in the making, with a few proposals meeting resistance and sputtering out in recent years. “Even though it didn’t happen as quickly as some hoped it would, this is still a desire of students,” says Miranda Powers, associate dean for campus engagement. “We knew we had to find a way to move it forward. It’s really cool to see something our students dreamed up finally coming to fruition.”

Ryan Auer ’17, a social studies education major, was part of Student Senate when the rink was first proposed. “I had the privilege of working with a number of other students, Facilities Management, and the planning committee on trying to see if we could turn the idea into a reality,” says Auer. “I was really excited about the project…broomball and winter activities are such a huge part of the student culture at Bethel.”

The Senate developed a bill outlining the estimated costs and specific location of the rink and also began laying the groundwork with key campus representatives. “When our Bethel Student Government leaders approached us with a proposal and funds for an on-campus rink, it was compelling to see the thought they'd given to the project,” says Harless. “We wanted to see if we could help to make it happen.”

The rink—the first of its kind on a MIAC college campus—is a portable system from Sports Resource Group. It has a modular design and removable, hollow, stackable segments that can be filled with sand, so it’s sturdy but also somewhat temporary. “It’s hard plastic and modular—just like a Lego,” explains Director of Facilities Technical Operations Glenn Hofer. “Lots of high schools and professional leagues use it.” At 184 feet long by 84 feet wide, it’s similar in size to the rinks Bethel currently rents—and just under what’s typically considered regulation for broomball. There will be netting behind goal areas with metal reinforcements.

The space will be shared with the track and field team’s throwing practice area. The plan is for one side of the rink—the nearest wall to the track team’s practice area—to be taken down seasonally to allow for other uses. The rink will be flooded in winter, with the ice melting into the ground by spring before the wall is taken down and throwing season begins.

Bethel’s rink will be operational in time for 2017 interim broomball games. The location will continue to be shared with the track team—with both groups benefitting from grading and lighting upgrades—and future additions to the area could include additional amenities like bleachers, an ice resurfacing machine, a warming house, or a permanent water source. Mixed uses of the rink—for open skating, hockey, etc.—are possible, but not planned at this time. Find out more about club sports at Bethel—including broomball.

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