Geneseo nominated for best hockey community in nation

The Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena is one of the most loved aspects of both the Geneseo campus and the community. The rink has been nominated for the chance to win $150,000 for rink renovations in the Kraft-Heinz Hockeyville USA 2017 contest. (Jake Wade/Lamron Archives)

The Ira S. Wilson Ice Arena—home to the Geneseo Ice Knights and Livingston County youth hockey—advanced to the semifinal round of Kraft Hockeyville USA 2017. 

The contest’s top four finalists were voted on from Tuesday April 18-Wednesday April 19, and the two finalists will be announced on Saturday April 22.  

Geneseo was voted one of four finalists for the distinction of being named the best hockey community in the nation in the first round of voting that ran from April 11-13. The grand prize for the contest includes $150,000 in arena renovations and a chance to host an NHL preseason game televised live on NBC Sports Network in the fall.

The contest is sponsored by a partnership consisting of Kraft-Heinz, the National Hockey League, the NHL Player’s Association, NBC Sports Group and USA Hockey. Of almost 1300 arenas that were nominated across the country, “The Ira” was announced as a top 10 finalist for the contest on April 8.

As a semifinalist, Geneseo is guaranteed at least $25,000 in prize money for arena upgrades. Should they move on to the final round, they will be in contention for either the grand prize or $75,000 as the runner-up.

The community around Geneseo has certainly proved its appreciation for hockey. In each of the past four years, the Ice Knights have been able to draw an average attendance that ranked in the top five nationally for NCAA Division III men’s ice hockey. The team is appreciative of the support they get from the community and they emphasize that this contest and the awards won from it are for the fans more so than for the team or the college itself.

“The community and the hockey team go hand and hand,” head coach Chris Schultz said. “We rely on the community, and it’s really important to me to have the community benefit from a contest like this because they deserve it.”

The Ira received several nominations to be entered in the contest, according to Schultz. The one that was ultimately accepted was from a member of the community who had grown up through the youth hockey programs that also calls the facility home. 

“The youth hockey organization here is so involved with us and such big supporters of us,” senior goaltender Bradley Hawayek said. “They’re the ones who started it all. The support that we’ve gotten from all of them so far has been huge in getting us to this point.”

Potential upgrades to the arena may involve the bleachers and lighting, but many other things can be addressed in a building that has seen a lot of use over the years. 

“This building sees more foot traffic from the community than any other building on campus,” Schultz said. “Over the course of 50 years, there’s a lot of wear and tear, so we can put that money to good use.”

Schultz expects to see many people involved in the decision-making to be sure everyone impacted has a voice. 

“It’s my hope that we put together a committee that represents everyone that needs to be represented, and I would hope that the community would be involved in that as well,” he said.

Students and fans have been voting both online at and by texting “IraNY” to 35350. Up to 50 votes can be submitted per day through both methods, as well as once per day on twitter using the hashtag #IraNY. The top two finalists will be announced on Saturday April 22 for a final round of voting that will run from Monday April 24 at 12 a.m. to Tuesday April 25 at 11:59 p.m.