Something for Everyone
Harold Alfond Forum at the University of New England in Biddeford, Maine
By Jim Ladesich
The Harold Alfond Forum entered service this academic year at the University of New England (UNE) in Biddeford, Maine. The $20 million athletics and student life complex was made possible by a $7 million lead gift from the Harold Alfond Foundation announced in 2010.
The 106,500-square-foot complex ranks as UNE's largest building project and gathering place thus far on its two campuses, and provides needed facilities for intercollegiate competitions, recreational activities and related academics. The new facilities anchor a developing area on the south side of Biddeford's 540-acre main campus and near a recently completed lacrosse and field hockey field, surfaced with rare blue turf, and a 300-bed suite-style student housing building. With three more residence halls, additional sports fields and other infrastructure planned on the property, UNE has clearly embarked on a significant physical expansion program.
Sasaki Associates, of Watertown, Mass., designed the multi-use complex, whose physically dominant ice rink and dual-purpose basketball/performance wings are separated by a multi-level connector. The connector has support areas for the sports teams, a fitness and weight training center, cyber-cafeteria, study space, offices, conference rooms and classroom/lab areas. Sasaki's Director of Design William Massey, AIA, LEED AP, would proudly present the complex as an example of the firm's work on this scale to future prospects.
"UNE gained a huge amount of program space for their investment," Massey said. "It's a great project with a very efficient design."
"Our Campus Center was almost immediately too small," said Alan Thibeault, assistant vice president for UNE's Planning Department. "We've grown a lot in the last 10 to 15 years to where the Center was being used almost exclusively for intercollegiate sports and offered few opportunities for recreational and intramurals except early morning or late evening."
If the same holds true at UNE as often occurs at other institutions, the state-of-the-art sports and recreation facility will likely boost athlete recruitment and potentially future enrollment. Sports at the Division III School include basketball, cross country, golf, ice hockey, lacrosse, soccer, volleyball, softball, swimming and diving teams.
The facility will also bring the recently established UNE "Nor'easter" hockey teams onto campus. The men's hockey team had previously used the multipurpose Biddeford Ice Arena located off campus and some distance away. The addition of a new women's ice hockey team would have further challenged logistics and the need for space.
Sasaki had designed an earlier building when selected to design the Alfond Forum. Wright-Ryan Construction was chosen by UNE to serve as the construction manager-at-risk. The project originated as a modified design/build program with the university, architects and prime subcontractors participating in the early planning and budget development. A principal goal was to have basic schematics, materials and operating systems specifications to establish a budget to present to the foundation for the grant, the Sasaki design principal noted. The approach proved to be a wise strategy for earning the grant and bringing the project to fruition, Massey said.
The primary materials solutions evaluated included a custom- fabricated conventional steel structure with a non-metal roof versus a Butler Manufacturing metal building solution. The Sheridan Corp., a Butler Builder that serves all of Maine, presented the Butler building system alternative, which included an integrated package of structural framing, heavily-insulated MR-24 standing seam metal roof system and a metal wall panel system with a blue-finish. The roof was later changed to the Butler CMR-24 with an energy-saving white finish. This composite roof has five inches of rigid-board insulation between the weather barrier and protective interior liner panel that Sheridan recommended as more appropriate for the special event and performance usage area.
"The evaluation concluded that the Butler Building solution offered a seven-figure savings," the architect said. "That significant savings led to quick acceptance of the alternative because we were presented with an extremely tight budget and we were able to design within it."
"We worked with Sheridan Corporation to tailor the systems to meet budget and schedule targets," Massey added.