Hockey Academy, planned cafe near Kensington Valley Ice House


BRIGHTON TWP. – Hockey coach Michael Wainwright says he is creating a new sports academy to raise the level of youth hockey and prepare student-athletes for a college education.

Wainwright and his business partner, Kip Miller, a former NHL player who also coaches youth hockey, plan to build a more than 7,500 square foot two-story sports academy near the Kensington Valley Ice House in the township. of Brighton and invest $3 million.

Wainwright said the Michigan Elite Sports Academy will be for girls and boys who are serious gamers.

Student-athletes will also have the opportunity to go to school there, have access to gym facilities and spend time on the nearby ice. They expect to have up to 40 students enrolled at a time.

He is particularly interested in elevating women’s hockey as head of the Kensington Valley Hockey Association’s women’s hockey program, the Ravens. He is also the founding director of the Michigan Girls Hockey League and was recently named director of women’s hockey for Lansing-based Biggby AAA. He previously coached hockey at Hartland.

“One way we want to be different (from other hockey academies) is we want to be 50-50 boys and girls,” he said.

The proposed academy, which has received preliminary approvals from Brighton Township planners, will include classrooms, weight training, yoga and nutrition education, among other features.

An architectural rendering shows what the proposed Michigan Elite Sports Academy would look like in Brighton Township.

Plans to redevelop the grounds south of the icehouse include the construction of a 3,100 square foot retail and food service building, which will look similar to the architecture of the academy.

Wainwright said Miller plans to move one of its Biggby Coffee franchise stores there.

The other half of the building is approved for restaurant or retail, and Wainwright said he’d like to see an authentic Italian restaurant move in.

A commercial property near the Kensington Valley Ice House, shown Tuesday, June 28, 2022, is set to be redeveloped into a sports academy focused on serious young hockey players, a Biggby Coffee and another restaurant or retail business to be determined.  An old salon building should be demolished.

He plans to invest at least $3 million to construct the two buildings and build a driveway between Grand River Avenue and the ice house.

A former living room of the property will be demolished. Another commercial building, occupied by skincare spa A BeYOUtiful Balance, will remain standing and the business in operation.

Development of the education component

Wainwright said he wants to partner with a public school district that offers a virtual learning program and has teachers on site.

He and Miller discussed options with Linden Community Schools Superintendent Russ Ciesielski. The Genesee County School District currently offers a hybrid option. Ciesielski said nothing has been made official with Linden.

“(Wainwright) wants to make sure that these kids have an education and also have an educational process, whether it’s in Linden or in another school district,” he said.

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Wainwright said he plans to have one teacher for every 15 to 20 students onsite to teach in blocks and also provide virtual learning.

“We really want to focus on education,” Wainwright said. “These kids need good grades to get into the college of their choice. We wanted to prepare kids for life, not just sports.”

He said tuition would cost about $14,000 per school year for the entire school year. The academy also plans to offer a limited sports and nutrition training option for around $9,500.

Coach Michael Wainwright speaks in the training room at the Kensington Valley Ice House on Thursday June 30, 2022, discussing plans to build a sports academy next door and more training equipment there.

A typical day

Wainwright envisions student-athletes who begin and end their day at school. In the middle of the day, they would have ice training alongside, healthy and nutritious lunches and nutrition education in the proposed facility, strength training and other fitness-related activities.

The property will offer physiotherapy services, sports massage, yoga, and locker rooms with steam rooms and ice baths.

It will also include a viewing room with a touchscreen TV for watching replays and NHL game footage.

Wainwright said some of the academy’s gym facilities will be used by members of the Kensington Valley Hockey Association, which includes around 800 athletes.

Although the academy focuses on hockey players, he said figure skaters could also benefit from its proximity to the cooler, and student-athletes from other sports could enroll in the academy for the school and sports training.

“We’re going to be ice-focused, but we won’t turn down a football player, for example,” Wainwright said.

He said they plan to build more training facilities near the cooler at some point in the future.

Elevate Women’s Hockey

Wainwright said he has enjoyed being part of the growth of women’s youth hockey in the state.

“We have this tough girl program, the Ravens,” he said. “We have a large base of girls in the area who want to play beyond youth hockey, who are looking to play college hockey.”

The Ravens have grown over the past decade to eight teams, including in-house and Tier 2 AA teams for various age groups.

“Ten years ago (KVHA) didn’t have a women’s hockey team, so myself and a few other motivated dads started the first KVHA team.”

Options for female hockey players remain limited compared to male hockey players, who can shoot for more robust junior AAA and professional league hockey programs.

North America currently has a professional women’s hockey league with six teams, the Premier Hockey Federation, formerly the National Women’s Hockey League. Canada had a professional league until 2019 when the Canadian Women’s Hockey League ceased operations. That year, female players from the United States and Canada formed the Professional Women’s Hockey Players Association, a nonprofit union to seek decent pay, health insurance, and other support for professional female hockey players.

In 2019, more than Announcing the top 200 female hockey players in the world the formation of the players’ association, the final shift in an effort to get the National Hockey League to support a women’s professional league that would provide adequate funding and support.

The decision to unionize came after the Canadian Women’s Hockey League announced it would shut down and players said they would boycott the National Women’s Hockey League.

Wainwright said the end goal for most young female hockey players is to play the sport at the college level.

He said he thinks women’s hockey will grow in the future.

“I think we’re at the tip of the iceberg.”

Contact Livingston Daily reporter Jennifer Eberbach at


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