Merrimack will open its renovated rink in October, 2003, according to athletic director Bob DeGregorio. DeGregorio made the announcement at the Hockey East school’s annual awards banquet.
The 2001-02 season will be Merrimack’s final one in the 29-year old Volpe Center as it currently exists. Construction inside the rink on campus will begin in June, 2002, and run through the entire 2002-03 season, DeGregorio said. During construction, the Warriors will play a majority of their games on the road, with 10-12 “home” games to be played at off campus local sites to be determined.
The renovation will include tearing out the bleachers and pouring a solid concrete foundation in an oval shape surrounding the ice surface. Three thousand individually-backed seats will then be installed on top of the foundation. The current configuration has bleachers on both sides of the ice with no seating behind either net, and a walkway between the bleachers and ice surface.
A new lobby will also be built, enabling fans to enter the facility directly from the parking lot and walk down through the arena to their seats.
The major part of the work will follow the completion of a new two story addition, currently under construction and slated to open in August, 2001, according to DeGregorio. The first floor of the addition provides the team with a new locker room, lounge and training room, and the team will enter the ice in the fall of 2001 from the new addition underneath the stands.
The second floor of the addition will include a team club room and four new luxury boxes, all of which will be available for use in 2001-02. Several more luxury boxes will be added during the major renovation for a total of 6-8 boxes.
Many have considered Merrimack’s Volpe Center to rank at the bottom of Hockey East facilities since the school joined the league in 1989. The renovation is intended to bring the arena closer in line to those other facilities.
The school originally announced the renovation plans in August, 1999, with a completion date of December, 2001, but was forced to reschedule several
phases of construction due to the harsh New England winter this past year and plans for other projects also under way on campus.