Sasaki, Hopkins Architects Complete Athletics Center

Colby College's Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center

Waterville, ME – Sasaki, in partnership with Hopkins Architects, has recently completed the Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center (HAARC) for Colby College in Waterville.

Hopkins Architects and Sasaki were appointed in 2015 to lead a team that included Arup, MVVA, and Consigli to deliver the 350,000sf, aspired LEED Gold facility, the largest building project in Maine at the time of construction.

The building, which opened in late 2020, includes a multi-use field house with a 200-meter track and tennis courts, ice arena, an Olympic-sized pool, a competition gymnasium for basketball and volleyball, squash courts, a strength and fitness center, and multi-purpose studios, supported by locker rooms, sports medicine facilities, and offices.

The unusual scale of the HAARC provided the opportunity to create something bold, fresh and contemporary. In contrast to sprawling and accretive campus development, the HAARC offered the benefit of a single holistic architectural vision for the five individual venues, with carefully managed relationships between the building elements and the existing campus and landscape.

The lobby opens up into a covered central courtyard. Envisioned as the heart of the project, the courtyard unifies the entire building around a single external space to establish a strong point of common identity and establish clear wayfinding with visual connections between and across all levels and venues. The design maximizes natural daylight and sunlight to create a series of spaces for general use and which encourage people to sit, work, reflect or socialize, as well as train and compete.

The athletics venues have been designed with a high level of transparency to maximize views in and out for spectators, athletes, recreational participants, and casual observers. Care has been taken to create intimately sized venues which deliver the required capacity while prioritizing the performative nature of sport to create an intense spectator experience with dramatic sightlines and seating in close proximity to the action.

Customizing the shape of the long span trusses to optimize the desired sport clearances, while minimizing their weight, saved cost and resources in steel and concrete foundations while providing an elegant and logical expression of long-span structure. Working closely with building envelope contractors, the team invented a bespoke fitting which allowed for individual metal panels to span twice their usual width thus reducing by 50% the required back-up steel support, as well as increasing thermal performance.

As a carbon-neutral institution, environmental sustainability was key to the college. The concept of an integrated sports facility allows for the sharing of resources which itself reduces overall building footprint and extends to the building systems, where air handling units are shared between venues and heat energy is saved, moved from ice chilling to pool heating equipment.

The bold design of the HAARC complements the existing traditional campus architecture of this New England institution, while signaling a new chapter for Colby College athletics and recreation. The project is rooted in Colby’s guiding ethos and values, designed to support growth and physical and mental health for the entire Colby community, and encourage teamwork and community on campus through sport and competition.

“This project is crisp and welcoming in its design, light-filled and open in its presentation, and carefully considered in every detail to make for an exceptional experience for each and every member of the Colby community,” said Colby president, David A. Greene. “Its striking, contemporary exterior, marked by outstanding choices of materials and an innovative, sustainable landscape, creates a rich dialogue with its adjacent Neo-Georgian campus.”