Merrimack College has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Middlesex Islanders LLC and New England Junior Huskies Hockey Club to explore the expansion of the Volpe Athletic Center to include new facilities in the areas of health sciences and athletics.
The first phase of the project involves the creation of a 10,000 square foot health science and sports medicine facility and 5,000 square foot new varsity weight room. The project will include enhanced sports medicine labs and a new training room that will expand clinical educational experiences for undergraduate athletic training and health sciences students. In addition, the facility will offer access to premiere care, rehabilitation and health services to Merrimack’s 350 student athletes.
“The expansion of the Volpe Athletic Center is the latest example of Merrimack’s commitment to making strategic investments that serve students’ needs and support our goals for advancing the College,” said Dr. Christopher E. Hopey, president, Merrimack College. “What’s more, this project gives us a unique opportunity to partner with and have a beneficial impact on our local community.”
The second phase of the project would result in an additional full-sized ice hockey rink, a mini-rink for shooting practice, an off-ice shooting area, new locker rooms and new team rooms. It may also include space for a pro shop, expanded concessions and additional conference and meeting rooms.
“The Athletics Department is excited to be part of the invigorating development the College is experiencing,” said Glenn Hofmann, director of athletics. “The addition of the second rink will help us in our continuing efforts to be a hockey destination for area youth and the community.”
“This project represents the achievement of an important milestone for the Middlesex Islanders,” said Richard Gallant, program director, Middlesex Islanders and New England Junior Huskies Hockey Club. “The establishment of a home rink on the campus of Merrimack College will allow us to develop a comprehensive on- and off-ice student athlete program for all our participants, which will further identify us as one of the premier hockey organizations in New England.”
As part of the new partnership, the agreement would give the Middlesex Islanders and its youth hockey leagues more ice time and availability at Merrimack College.
The possible expansion to the Volpe Complex builds on the momentum that Merrimack has made to its facilities and intercollegiate programs over the last two years.
Last summer and over winter break, Merrimack renovated Lawler Arena, installing chair-back seats throughout the arena. A new student section behind the goal was added, as was a tunnel from the visiting locker room to the visiting bench. Additional renovations included a graphics board, a new press box, a new ice bed and compressor, a new entranceway to Volpe, a new speaker system and significant imaging additions.
This year, the hockey team had its best season since joining Hockey East. Behind a 14-2-1 home record, 10 sellout crowds and its first-ever national ranking, Merrimack won a school record 25 games, advanced to the Hockey East Championship for the first time ever and was selected to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988. Head Coach Mark Dennehy earned All-New England and College Hockey News Coach of the Year honors, while Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) was the first hockey All-American since 1998 before debuting in the NHL with Ottawa after signing a two-year contact.
Additionally, Merrimack hosted the Division I MIAA Super-8 Tournament in March, attracting sellout crowds to watch the top high school hockey teams in the state.
Merrimack Athletics, overall, has grown, increasing the number of intercollegiate sports over a two-year period from 16 to 22, as men’s and women’s indoor and outdoor track were added in the summer of 2010, while women’s crew and golf will begin competition for the 2011-12 academic year. As a result, Merrimack will increase its student-athlete enrollment by nearly 100 in just two years.