Six weeks from now, Boston University will usher in the Agganis Arena. During a media tour Tuesday, BU officials gave updates on the progress of this facility, remarkable for its intimacy as well as its state-of-the-art technology.
“The building is about 93 percent complete at this stage of construction, so we’re very comfortable,” Boston University Assistant Vice President Peter Smokowski said. “We still have about six weeks until the opening of the building, so we feel like we’re in very good shape.”
At this stage, the full seating bowl is virtually done, complete with comfortable red chairs all around the rink. The video scoreboard — featuring a 8×14-foot high resolution video screen — is in place and operational. The rest rooms appear to be stunning in their capacity. Down below the stands, the locker room — including a Jacuzzi that looks almost deep enough to dive into — is taking shape nicely, and the video screening room has 27 seats installed in three tiered rows. The locker room even has a separate room for storing the players’ street clothes.
The most major elements still underway are the 5,600 square foot Club Room and the expandable seating area at the northern end of the rink. Otherwise, many of the nuances are the focus now: the concession stands are being wrapped up, and there is much that needs to be done with railings, furnishings, and various interior design elements. With January’s game against Minnesota looming, 14-hour days are not unusual for many on the construction team.
“They’re always long days unless you’re having fun, and we’re having a lot of fun,” Smokowski said. “It’s been great planning for the building; it’s nice to see a lot of the hard work come to fruition, and we have a great team in place.”
The most pleasant surprise for all involved has been how the seating bowl has taken shape. It has exceeded expectations across the board. Smokowski acknowledged that its his favorite aspect of the facility.
“Apart from the technology of the building-which is really impressive, and you’re getting a glimpse of that today — it still remains the seating bowl for me,” Smokowski said. “We have a very intimate facility for a facility that seats over 6,000. As a player, you’re going to feel like the fans are right on top of the action, and as a fan, you feel on top of the action as well. So the seating bowl and sightlines still stand out in terms of the architectural elements of the building.”
Parker believes that the facility will translate into better hockey for spectators.
“First of all, it’ll be a bigger crowd, and the crowd will be right on top of you,” Parker said. “The angle of the seats is such that it’s pretty steep, and I think the 200×90 ice surface is going to make for a better game for us, too.
The Terrier coaching legend has continued his quest to get everything just right from a coach’s perspective.
“There were a couple of mistakes that they had to fix,” Parker said. “They had individual showers in the men’s room because they were going to make it like the women’s room. The boards weren’t in correctly as far as the way the doors were opening up out of the benches. The seats for the visiting team benches were too low. Just little minor things.
“But in general, I think the thing that surprised me is it’s even better than I thought as far as the way they finished it. The quality of the finish work is really something.”
Parker has been parading potential recruits through the fledgling facility on a regular basis.
“Many, many,” Parker said with a chuckle. “I remember bringing [BU freshman forward] Chris Bourque around — and it was long before it was finished, but just the layout was there — and his father said, ‘I hope you’re appreciative of this: I never played in a building this nice.’ And he played 22 years in the NHL. That’s the typical reaction of most parents: ‘Wow, look at this place!'”
The first sheet of ice was created in the last week, so the Terrier coach had a chance to sample it.
“I was on it for a skate the other day, the first time they put it down, but they’ll put it down for real in a couple of weeks,” Parker said. “I wanted to see how the puck went around the boards — make sure the dasher was correctly in — but it was hard to tell because the lines weren’t down. You don’t really get a feel for how big the ice surface is.”
Two days after the tour, Boston University’s student newspaper, The Daily Free Press, reported learning that the arena will have a more stringent policy regarding alcohol sales in comparison to Walter Brown Arena. Alchohol buyers will need to have a valid Massachusetts drivers license, liquor license, passport, or military ID proving that they are at least 21 years of age. Fans with out-of-state IDs apparently will not be allowed unless the individual is 25 or older. Even those from out of state who are 25 to 30 may require a second form of identification.
Although the article makes clear that the alcohol policy announcement created an uproar among BU students, it also notes that the policy is consistent with practices often employed at other large venues in the area, including the FleetCenter and Fenway Park.