Kane County Cougars officials often joke that the Strikers Fox Valley soccer facility and Fox Valley Ice Arena lie just “a long home run” away from Elfstrom Stadium down Geneva’s stretch of Kirk Road.
Beginning this month, the Ice Arena’s newest tenants can deflect the proverbial ball back with a mammoth slap shot.
On Thursday, the Chicago Hitmen announced that its North American Hockey League and North American 3 Hockey League clubs would move to Fox Valley this fall after eight seasons at the West Meadows Ice Arena in Rolling Meadows.
“We are excited for the new chapter for our organization,” Hitmen owner Mark Hammersmith Sr. said in a statement. “We believe that this summer we added a top flight head coach in Brent Agrusa and now have a facility to match.”
Hammersmith could not be reached for comment Thursday, but since has established his office at the Geneva rink. The NAHL club plays Junior-A Tier II hockey, while the NA3HL Hitmen are part of Junior-A Tier III.
After doubling their operation in recent years, the Hitmen brass agreed a move to a bigger facility was worthwhile. The Hitmen, who had beginnings as the Chicago Force of the Central States Hockey League, played at West Meadows for eight seasons.
“We couldn’t have grown like we have without [West Meadows officials],” Hammersmith said.
There certainly are more player amenities in Geneva. Fox Valley allows for more locker room space and access to the building’s second-floor workout facility.
The front office is looking forward to more wiggle room, while the club’s nomadic fans figure to welcome an improved viewing experience. Fox Valley offers seating on three sides of the ice and skybox opportunities for corporate events or parties.
With the adjacent Chelios’ Pub and Grill on site, fans hungry for more than traditional concession fare can watch the action through restaurant windows.
The NAHL’s Chicago Freeze called Fox Valley home from 1997-2003. The Hitmen enter their second season in the NAHL, while the defending Hurster Cup champion NA3HL club is in its ninth year.
Players opened practice on Aug. 22-23. The NAHL Hitmen are set to debut at Fox Valley on Sept. 9-10, when Jamestown visits Geneva for separate 7:55 p.m. face-offs.
• Kevin Druley is a sportswriter for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.