Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - They haven’t had a lot to celebrate, but this year there’s a real buzz around the Syracuse Crunch as they prepare for a new season.
There’s an energy surrounding the team for what’s expected on the ice , which is tied to improvements to the building they call home.
The end of last season signaled an end to a disappointing affiliation with the Anaheim Ducks – the third organization in the Crunch’s 19-year history in the Salt City.
Their new affiliate, Tampa Bay, brings to Syracuse an AHL team off a record-setting championship season in Norfolk.
“We had a vision of what we wanted it to look like and feel like and the people in Syracuse, the county, the War Memorial, the Crunch delivered exactly what we had in mind,” said Syracuse Crunch General Manager Julien BriseBois.
And that meant major renovations – according to Tampa Bay’s specifications – to the War Memorial, a facility that had been neglected in the level below the ice. A new weight room was constructed for the players and new coaches’ offices were built. In addition, the county agreed to add a training area to the facility.
“The Syracuse Crunch and the county have done an unbelievable job of taking this and making it a first-class situation for the guys,” said Crunch head coach Jon Cooper.
“These upgrades and improvements are something we feel as the organization we need to do to remain competitive in the sports field,” said Crunch Chief Operating Officer Jim Sarosy.
Along with the new developments beneath the ice, fans will notice brand-new LED lights all around the War Memorial that will light up the ice surface and allow them to do some more exciting pre-game festivities, now that the lights go on instantly.
"This is a nicer environment than our returning players are used to anyway, this is an upgrade for us,” BriseBois said.
The upgrades have arrived at a key time because the Crunch says the level of competition in the AHL is at an all-time high.
"More quality players available to us because some players that would have made the team at the NHL level are going to be playing here so from an AHL standpoint its really exciting, it's the focus of the hockey world in North America right now," BriseBois said.
They believe the team and the county have partnered to make sure Syracuse is at the highest level on and off the ice.
Onondaga County has used $320,000 toward the fitness area expansion.
The new lights and a cooling tower will cost $565,000. Officials say the lights will be financed by grants.