Merrimack College to Significantly Expand Volpe Athletic Center

NORTH ANDOVER, Mass. – Merrimack College has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Middlesex Islanders LLC and New England Junior Huskies Hockey Club to expand the Volpe Athletic Center to include new facilities for health science programs and athletics. 

The first phase of the project involves the creation of a 10,000 square foot health science and sports medicine facility and a new weight room. The project will include enhanced sports medicine labs and a new training room that will expand clinical educational experiences for undergraduate athletic training and health sciences students. In addition, the facility will offer access to premiere care, rehabilitation and health services to Merrimack's 350 student athletes. 

"The expansion of the Volpe Athletic Center is the latest example of Merrimack's commitment to making strategic investments that serve students' needs and support our goals for advancing the College," said Dr. Christopher E. Hopey, president, Merrimack College. "What's more, this project gives us a unique opportunity to partner with and have a beneficial impact on our local community." 

Merrimack offers programs in health science, sports medicine and athletic training. These are among the fastest growing programs at the College and prepare students for a wide variety of careers including nurse practitioners, physician assistants, physical therapists and athletic trainers. Students combine classroom work with internships and practicum courses to gain clinical experience. 

"The new sports medicine and health science facility will significantly enhance our current academic offerings and allow us to better train and treat our student athletes," said Dr. Josephine Modica-Napolitano, dean, School of Science and Engineering. "The larger and improved facility will also provide opportunities to expand our academic and athletic programs as we prepare for future growth at Merrimack College." 

Building a Hockey Destination

The second phase of the project includes the addition of a second full-sized ice hockey rink, a mini-rink for shooting practice, an off-ice shooting area and new locker rooms. It may also include space for a pro shop, expanded concessions and additional conference and meeting rooms. 

This year, the Merrimack hockey team had its best season since joining Hockey East. With a 14-2-1 home record, 10 sellout crowds and its first-ever national ranking, Merrimack won a school- record 25 games, advanced to the Hockey East Championship for the first time ever and was selected to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988. Head Coach Mark Dennehy earned All-New England and College Hockey News Coach of the Year honors, while Stephane Da Costa (Paris, France) was Merrimack's first hockey All-American since 1988 before debuting in the NHL with Ottawa after signing a two-year contact. 

The partnership agreement gives the Middlesex Islanders and its youth hockey leagues access to more ice time at Merrimack College. Area families and youth will also have opportunities to use the facilities during hockey games and to attend many of the functions that will take place there. 

"This project represents the achievement of an important milestone for the Middlesex Islanders," said Richard Gallant, program director, Middlesex Islanders and New England Junior Huskies Hockey Club. "The establishment of a home rink on the campus of Merrimack College will allow us to develop a comprehensive on- and off-ice student athlete program for all our participants, which will further identify us as one of the premier hockey organizations in New England." 

The expansion of the Volpe Athletic Center continues the momentum Merrimack has created over the last two years with a range of improvements to its facilities and intercollegiate programs. The College renovated Lawler Arena, installing chair-back seats throughout the arena. A new student section behind the goal was added, as was a tunnel from the visiting locker room to the visiting bench. Additional renovations included a graphics board, a new press box, a new ice bed and compressor, a new entrance way to Volpe, a new speaker system and significant imaging additions.