Ice Age

December, 2009

PSU Arena Will Welcome Campus, Community

by Jennifer Philion

The harsh scrape of a skate blade on ice. The thunderous rattle of safety glass as bodies collide in the corner. The distinctive “ping” of a puck off the goalpost.

These are the sounds that send shivers down the spines of hockey players and fans—sounds that will soon be heard on Plymouth State University’s campus as the school looks forward to the completion of its new ice arena and welcome center, scheduled to open by fall 2010.

Architect's renderings courtesy of Sasaki Associates, Inc.

The University broke ground on the project in April 2009. The building’s high-profile location on Route 175-A in Holderness, between I-93 and PSU, has made it easy for onlookers to track its construction, which progressed quickly from pouring the foundation in July (a process that required about 150 truckloads of concrete), to building a skeleton of beams in September, to closing the exterior before winter weather sets in.

ALLWell Begins Well

The new facility is a natural fit for PSU, and the first phase of a larger vision for the University, according to President Sara Jayne Steen. The Active Living, Learning, and Wellness (ALLWell) Center, she says, “will vault Plymouth State University forward in all aspects of its mission.”

As PSU moves forward with the multi-year, multi-phase plan, the area of campus east of the Pemigewasset River will be transformed by the eventual construction of a new fieldhouse, aquatic center, gymnasium, playing fields, classrooms, and research labs.

“We attract students who love outdoor and recreational activities,” President Steen says. “The ALLWell Center will bring academics together with athletics and recreation in a unique way.” The ice arena was selected as the first phase, she adds, because “it allows us to do new things right away: new activities, classes, and majors. Also, we can now bring our hockey teams home.”

New Home for Hockey

Kent Dayton photo.

Although it’s still a season away, the PSU men’s and women’s hockey teams are already looking forward to the move, after years of playing “home” games 30 minutes north of campus at Waterville Valley.

“The players are very excited about the rink,” says PSU men’s hockey coach Brett Tryder. “They have all seen the blueprints and drawings, and it’s not difficult to imagine what this rink will do for our program.”

PSU hockey alumni also are aware of what the new arena will mean for the future of the teams. Michael Mansson ’04, a goaltender for four seasons, still follows the Panthers’ progress from his home in Charleston, SC. “Honestly, I see PSU’s name on national ranking lists in the future,” he says. “The quality of players the program will be able to recruit, both academically and talent-wise, will take the team to the next level.”

While Waterville Valley has been a welcoming host to the Panther hockey teams, the travel time and lack of spectator seating have made it difficult to attract a significant fan base and develop a home-ice advantage. The new ice arena will have seating for 850 spectators.

“It’s a great feeling to play a hockey game in front of fans,” Tryder says. “Hockey is a game that is filled with momentum swings. If the players are able to feed off of the fans, then we should be able to carry the momentum.”

Mansson says he’ll be making the long trip from South Carolina to New Hampshire. “I certainly will be there,” he says. “I can’t wait to make it up for a game.”

Tryder also anticipates that, with more exposure and opportunity, the hockey teams will build stronger relationships with the community.

“I am very excited about creating more awareness for our teams,” Tryder says. “I hope that the students, faculty, and community will enjoy watching us play, and that it will bring the school and community closer together. I look forward to involving the teams in outreach programs and having some camps for the community.”

Where Academics and Athletics Connect

For students in the Department of Health and Human Performance, the arena will enhance their academic experience as well.

The ice arena will be more to PSU than an athletics facility. For students in the Department of Health and Human Performance (HHP)—the third largest at the University—the arena will enhance their academic experience as well.

“As we plan all the phases of the ALLWell Center, we’re looking to create fully integrated academic, athletic, and recreational facilities,” says Provost Julie Bernier. “The gymnasium, the fields, the performance center, and the athletics program are living, learning laboratories for HHP students.”

According to HHP department chair Linda Levy, the ice arena will fit right into the curriculum. “This first phase will blend very nicely with the research that is being done with our physical education majors who have chosen a sport physiology option,” she says. “They conduct testing on our athletes to assess their fitness levels, and this facility will provide another space for that type of testing. Athletic training students will also be able to use the facility as one of their four clinical rotation sites.”

The department plans to offer skating classes as a physical education option for students, and Levy points out that the new facility will also provide internship opportunities for students who are interested in sports management. “It will be an excellent site to apply what they have learned in the classroom,” she says. Looking forward, there may be more of such students at PSU, as the University is working to create a new major in sports management that combines coursework from HHP and the College of Business Administration.

Provost Bernier also looks to the future to see the full potential for the ice arena and other phases of the ALLWell project. “What Boyd Science Center has done for science at PSU, and the Silver Center for the Arts has done for music, theatre, and dance, these new facilities will do for health and human performance,” Bernier says. “The ALLWell Center has the potential for great impact on the community and the North Country, encouraging healthy, active living.”

Recreation for Campus, Community

At a university where two-thirds of the students are engaged in varsity, intramural, or recreational sports, and in an area of the state known for its active residents, the ice arena will provide another venue for exercise and events such as open skating and skating lessons, hockey, broomball, and more.

Levy has also heard from faculty and staff members who are looking forward to getting on the ice. “They’ve expressed an interest in having open skating at lunchtimes and are excited that they may be able to lace up their skates once again to play hockey,” she says.

While many of the ice rinks in central and northern New Hampshire operate only during the winter, or late fall into early spring, PSU’s plans call for the new arena to have ice throughout most of the year, lengthening the skating season and giving people a better chance to find ice time, which is often a precious commodity across the state.

As a PSU student, Mansson was awarded a student success grant, and spent the summer of 2003 researching and writing a business plan for the creation of an ice arena/multipurpose facility on campus. “I traveled around the region to talk with schools and communities that had those facilities, and I learned there are so many benefits—not just from a hockey perspective or even a university perspective, but to the community as a whole,” he says.

Michele Aguiar, a Plymouth resident and board member for White Mountain Youth Hockey, says the children in that program are “most definitely” excited about having a new ice arena in the area.

“The kids would love the opportunity to use a first-class rink,” she says. “The University has always been good at working with community groups and non-profit organizations, so we’re hoping there will be openings for the kids to get to play.”

According to Steve Barba, executive director of university relations at PSU, there will be plenty of time for the kids, and many others. Though the University owns the facility, it is designed to become an auxiliary, self-sustaining operation, and initial plans call for PSU to use the arena only about 40 percent of the time. “The ice arena is an enhancement for the whole community, and the University wants the whole community to make good use of it,” Barba says.

“We envision local school systems creating programs here, local recreation departments providing community skating times, and local hockey and broomball leagues playing games. The arena will be equipped with a sound system and lighting that will make it a great place for events.”

Warm Welcome

Aguiar, who is on the board of directors of the Plymouth Chamber of Commerce, also looks forward to seeing what the new ice arena will bring to the local business community.“As a member of the chamber—and as a hockey mom myself—I think about how much money is spent by families who travel for games or tournaments. And I anticipate the arena being used by other groups, for figure skating and other events. This will help draw people into the community, and they’ll spend money here.”Those people, along with visitors to PSU, and even travelers who just happen to be passing by, will be able to take advantage of the facility’s welcome center, located on the north end of the building overlooking Route 175-A.The center will greet visitors to PSU, Plymouth, Holderness, and the region with information on area attractions, and provide meeting and event space for local groups as well as for University needs.According to Barba, it was an obvious choice to widen the scope of the welcome center beyond PSU. “Because the ice arena is intended for use by the whole community, it makes sense to include a welcome center that is not exclusive to the University,” he says.The welcome center will not be a traditional visitors center, Barba says. “We’re not competing with area chambers of commerce, but we are interested in doing all we can to promote local businesses.”The welcome center will be staffed by a host who is knowledgeable about the area and can inform visitors on what the community has to offer.“And in the spirit of being green, we will have a lot of information available electronically instead of on flyers or brochures,” Barba says. “We invite people to come off the road and get connected with what they need—accommodations, restaurants, or events in the area.“We want visitors to feel welcome, to stay a while, and realize how special this area is. And we hope the ice arena and welcome center will be part of that, and become another point of pride for the community and the region—a place where people will come together with family and friends and feel that it is their own.”Skating on “Green Ice”

How does a university uphold its commitment to environmental sustainability while building a new ice arena? It’s not necessarily easy, but it can be done. With innovative design and a focus on energy efficiency, PSU’s ice arena and welcome center will not only serve as a gateway to the campus and community; the building also will be a showcase for energy efficiency and green-building technology.

The facility is being built with a sophisticated geothermal heating and cooling system: basically, a large radiator with pipes going through the ground, using the temperature of the earth to pre-heat or pre-cool water.

“To maximize the sustainability of this facility, PSU is installing the large geothermal field and using other energy-saving devices that will reduce energy consumption by at least 28 percent over a traditional arena,” says Bill Crangle, PSU’s director of environmental sustainability.

The geothermal system, combined with the capture of waste heat generated by ice-making equipment, will provide the heat for the facility, removing reliance on a traditional fuel-based heating system.

Because of its design and operating systems, the facility will consume less energy than PSU’s traditional academic and residential buildings of the same size, and is anticipated to be one of the most energy-efficient ice arenas in the nation.

Former Panthers goaltender Michael Mansson ’04 is now a development manager with a real estate development company in Charleston, SC. His knowledge of ice arenas and his professional expertise give him insight into the difficulty of this project. “Ice arenas are known for their energy needs,” he says. “I commend the university for its efforts to develop this facility in a sustainable manner, taking another step in its commitment to being green.”

Highlights of the energy efficient design and construction of PSU’s ice arena:

  • The building is being constructed to meet the equivalent of LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) silver standards.
  • The integrated ice-making/heating/cooling system is the most energy-efficient system available.
  • The geothermal system saves energy; provides heating, cooling, and hot water for the building; and removes the reliance on a traditional fuel-based heating system.
  • The ice refrigeration system is integrated with the geothermal system and uses non-toxic glycol instead of toxic ammonia.
  • Low-energy interior and exterior lighting saves energy and preserves the night sky.
  • Bioswales in the parking area control and filter storm water, improving the overall quality of water returning to the aquifer.
  • Efficient plumbing fixtures reduce water use.
  • Shuttle service, bike storage, and changing rooms at the facility encourage the use of alternative transportation.
  • Construction of the ice arena is following sustainable methods such as recycling construction waste, use of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified wood products, and use of local materials and contractors.

By signing the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, PSU has made a commitment to achieve carbon neutrality. The PSU Office of Sustainability works in partnership with the PSU President’s Commission on Environmental Sustainability and the University Environmental Committee to advance the University’s goals on sustainability.

In addition, PSU will make the ice arena available to area science classes to provide the opportunity to learn about the various “green” technologies at work in the facility. –Jennifer Philion and Bruce Lyndes

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