Of the three architectural firms that had been vying for the rights to design Penn State’s new ice arena, Joe Battista asked only one thing: Listen.
The associate athletic director for ice arena operations had been part of architectural selection teams in the past, and each time, finalists would fall short in that area.
“No matter what we were telling the architects they would say, ‘That’s great, but here’s what we think,’ ” Battista said. “I like the idea that we’re the customer, and there are certain things we want to see in our project.”
In stepped David Murphy and Crawford Architects of Kansas City, Mo.
The firm worked with Penn State on the original feasibility study of the ice arena and following the announcement of the project, Crawford Architects received the Request for Proposal.
While Murphy said the size of the arena is Crawford’s expertise, he knew if he were to get the contract, he had to assemble the right personnel.
Murphy said Crawford always likes bringing in local architects to team with, and they found a perfect fit in Bohlin Cywinski Jackson of Wilkes-Barre. Not only had the firm worked with Penn State before, it had received the AIA gold medal in 1994, the highest recognition in the United States.
But Crawford didn’t stop there. After listening to Penn State, the firm knew it wanted championship ice. Murphy went on the search for the best refrigeration technician he could find, and found that person in Tim Moore.
After finishing its presentation last Thursday, the architectural team of Crawford Architects with Bohlin Cywinski Jackson and Moore was announced as the winner to the architectural rights the following day at the Penn State Board of Trustees meeting.
“It’s all about the team,” Battista said. “The way these guys all interacted, the roles they are all going to play, really made us feel very confident that this is going to be a great team to work with.”
When the Penn State Board of Trustees announced Crawford Architects as the winners of the rights to design Penn State’s new ice arena, a primary goal came to Murphy’s mind — designing a building that raises the bar.
Designing large-scale sports complexes is nothing new to the firm. Their list of successful accomplishments is lengthy, including projects at the Boston Red Sox’s Fenway Park, Qwest Field where the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks play and a conceptual design of a new home field for the Minnesota Vikings.
They also have experience in ice arena design.
Crawford designed renovations to the Joyce Center at the University of Notre Dame. The firm expanded the ice, along with bringing the total seating from 2,763 to 4,000, among other renovations.
While they may draw from these experiences, Murphy wanted Penn State to know they would design a building to call its own.
“We want a building that when it’s finished you look at it and go, ‘Well that can’t belong anywhere else but Penn State,’ ” Murphy said.
Battista has said the school wants the arena to be financially self-sufficient, and Murphy said he believes they’ll meet those standards.
As far as any features definitely in the plans for the arena, Murphy said the team of architects would start from scratch. It’s too early to make predictions of what the ice arena will look like beyond a conceptual sketch, but he said they will progress with the main goal in mind.
To create that championship ice, Murphy knew he would need help.
He put out a call to Moore, who Battista said is one of the foremost refrigeration technicians in the country.
Moore said he was delighted to take on the project.
“Large sports facilities are very near and dear to my heart,” Moore said. “I’ve been kind of hoping we could be affiliated with this project since it first became public.”
Moore is no stranger to Penn State, as Battista recruited his son, Brian, to play with the university’s club team, the Icers. While his son ended up playing at Division I Bowling Green, the ties to Penn State were made.
The refrigeration technician said his work began with ice arenas 25 years ago, and he and his partner Joel Anderson have worked on more than 200 ice sheets.
As for the championship ice, Moore said its creation is his passion.
“We’ve learned how to do it properly, and we’ve learned what’s important about it,” Moore said. “We know what effects the conditions of the ice and whether it’s fast or slow.”
Moore said the ice system will consist of more than 100 moving parts. He will work to create the most efficient refrigeration units possible that will also be functional year-round.
“We recognize that Penn State wants the best ice in the country,” Moore said. “We think we can bring that.”
With Moore on board, Crawford moved to complete the team.
His team contacted architect Allen Kachel from Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and invited him to join the pursuit of those rights.
Bohlin Cywinski Jackson has worked with Penn State numerous times in the past, including the designs of the new Biobehavioral Health Building on which construction just started.
Kachel said the firm has a high familiarity with the campus and the facility supervisors, and was excited to get involved.
“It’s a project that we honestly couldn’t have pursued without them,” Kachel said. “We were really thrilled that they invited us to be part of their team.”
He said the firm brings a unique design style, looking at each project individually.
“We really look hard at the nature of each project and the nature of each campus and try to design a project that relates to that circumstance which is something that I know Penn State is really interested in,” Kachel said.
Office of the Physical Plant Project Manager Marv Bevan Jr. said the university will now interview construction managers.
Once a decision is made, the architects, construction team and members from the university will have a kickoff meeting on Nov. 30. It will be the first time the three components come together and begin working on the design.
Bevan said expectations are high for the architects.
“Our vision is that they will design and construct the best collegiate ice arena in the country,” Bevan said.
With expectations so high, Moore said they will rely on the team they’ve created to get the job done successfully.
“The ability to create a building that looks stunning on the outside and equally stunning on the inside takes the whole team,” Moore said.
Kachel said in the end, the goal is simple.
“We want to give Penn State the best collegiate hockey building in the country, one that sits on Penn State’s site, is identifiable, and sustainable,” Kachel said. “A building of this magnitude will be a significant challenge, but I’m confident we can get the job done.”