by Rick Jones
As an NCAA Division I hockey team, the UMass Minutemen have built a powerhouse program that has made them a perennial contender in the Hockey East Conference and winners of the Frozen Four national tournament in 2021. Their new locker room is designed to unite and inspire the team, and its top recruits.
More than simply a space to lace skates, dress for the ice and store equipment, the new UMass locker room offers an immersive experience in an environment that houses all the amenities players need to succeed as student athletes in the 21st century. Beyond the usual showers, lockers and exercise room, this renovated space includes a nutrition area, recuperation space and player’s lounge.
The team from Jones Architecture traveled with the university’s team leaders to visit other top-tier hockey facilities in the New England region, and reviewed other precedents across the U.S. and Canada. The athletic director and coaches envisioned a space that would attract high-caliber recruits while promoting team bonding, unity and the well-being of the players who use the space as a home away from home throughout the year. Incorporating the Minutemen identity was also important: the look, feel and function of the space needed to be persuasive and compelling to talented athletes making decisions about where to play.
An oval-shaped locker room, not unlike the shape of an ice rink, establishes a sense of motion and reflects the team’s commitment to the team culture of accountability. UMass’s athletic leaders wanted all of the players in the locker room to be able to look each other in the eye as they prepared for the ice. There are no divisions between lockers; the continuous bench emphasizes the team over the individual, players sitting together, pulling as one.
The space is built to last: custom stainless steel lockers, individually ventilated, hardwood benches and UMass maroon phenolic wall panels are designed to take a beating without losing their luster. Metal mesh ceiling panels connect with a sleek, curved soffit that mirrors the continuous bench and incorporates stainless signage.
This ambiance of dynamic toughness permeates the rest of the space, including the lounge, where players can relax while watching ESPN, the game feed or playing video games on a 98 inch flat screen. An integrated sound system gives them a chance to pump up the volume, along with the adrenaline, and is further enhanced with customizable lighting to set the tone and shape the mood.
The combination of high-end materials, branding, lighting and audio make for a theatrical experience on game day, and helps recruits feel the excitement of life as a Minuteman. As the team builds on the momentum of their 2021 national title, their new locker room reinforces their leadership status as they seek to create a collegiate hockey dynasty.
Rick Jones is director and founder of Jones Architecture.