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Hurricanes announce new practice facility in Morrisville

The Carolina Hurricanes officially announced the Wake Competition Center as their new practice facility Friday morning.

An exterior rendering of the new Wake Competition Center, to open in mid-2020.

MORRISVILLE — The Carolina Hurricanes will have a new home for practices beginning at the start of next season, as the team officially announced the Wake Competition Center as its new practice facility in Morrisville Friday morning.

Hurricanes general manager Don Waddell, owner Tom Dundon and Wake Competition Center developer Jeff Ammons were on hand for the news conference in front of media and guests, which included Morrisville mayor T.J. Cawley.

The new facility will replace Raleigh Center Ice, which is also owned by Ammons, as the Canes’ official practice facility, and should be ready by the time the Hurricanes’ 2020 training camp begins, according to Ammons. The 115,000 square-foot hockey facility, which features a 12,000 square-foot suite exclusively for the Canes, is part of a much larger sports complex that includes soccer fields, a gymnastics complex and more.

“This has been a long time coming, so we’re proud to have a day like today to stop and celebrate,” Ammons said. “It’s been a long time that we’ve been talking with the Hurricanes. I know that they’ve been looking to build a better practice facility, and I can say that because I own the other one. I’m not proud of that one, but we do the best we can with it … Having the Hurricanes be here is just the icing on top of the cake. It’s what separates us from other youth type facilities.”

For the Hurricanes, the need for a new practice facility has been something that has persisted for a long time. Players, management and now ownership haven’t been happy with Raleigh Center Ice, which in a previous life was a nightclub before being retrofitted into an ice rink, and the opportunity to move into an upgraded facility that meets the needs of a professional hockey team has been a long time coming.

“I came here in 2014 and I was asking our players what we could do for them, and they kept telling me that we needed a new practice facility,” Waddell said. “This project has been on our plate a long time. We owe a lot to Tom Dundon here, because when Tom came in he said ‘let’s make this happen.’ That brings us to today. We’re excited about it. It’s going to be a state-of-the-art training facility.”

The ice facility at Wake Competition Center will feature two rinks and nearly 2,000 seats, but what will really push it over the edge for the Canes is their private area. The Hurricanes will have countless amenities at the new facility that Raleigh Center Ice just doesn’t offer.

“We’re going to do every practice other than game days here, for the most part,” Waddell said. “The facility is 12,000 square (feet). We’re going to have a huge weight room. We’re going to have an indoor track inside our area, along with lounges, a full kitchen, locker rooms, coaches offices and all that. It will be state of the art.”

Another big reason for this upgraded practice facility for the Canes will be the ability to use it to recruit free agents. While Waddell acknowledged that money is what ultimately matters in bringing free agents to Raleigh, he said that having a facility like Wake Competition Center could be the thing that may push someone over the edge.

“It’s going to be a recruiting tool for us also, as we bring players into town. Right now, we take them to PNC Arena and we tell that we don’t really have a practice rink,” Waddell said. “What will become really important for us is visiting teams. That’s where players get to see what you’re all about. Minnesota is in here today. They’re practicing over at RCI. Players will leave there with the impression of ‘ok, this is where they practice.’ Now next year when we come here, the visiting teams will say ‘wow, this is a nice facility.”

The entire complex cost about $30 million, with $3 million of that coming from a grant and the rest through private funds, according to Ammons. The Canes will lease out the facility, paying some to fit up the facility initially and then also paying rent. The Hurricanes will extensively brand the facility, according to Waddell.

Ammons also expressed the desire for the facility to host national tournaments in both hockey and figure skating, as well as be a hub for college hockey in the region. Ammons said that the facility should be open in the early summer of 2020, in time for the Hurricanes to move in before they start training camp.

The Hurricanes will finally be getting the move to an upgraded facility that they’ve wanted for so long, one that is conveniently located down the road from the airport and not too far from PNC Arena. For Dundon, Waddell and the Canes, the opportunity was right with Wake Competition Center.

“There wasn’t the right opportunity before,” Waddell said. “You’ve been to RCI. It wasn’t going to do any good to spend much money over there. We had what we needed. We got by. But, when Jeff approached us about this facility four years ago, we started talking about it and we got excited about it.”