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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

LSSU announces $5 million expansion to Norris Center complex

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – Lake Superior State University has announced a $5 million project that will renovate and/or expand 36,000 square feet to serve the James Norris Center's Taffy Abel Arena, Bud Cooper Gymnasium and Robert Arbuckle Student Activity Center.

The privately funded project will add services and areas that will enhance the environment for athletes, fans, and students who use the Norris Center for classroom or recreation daily, while adding critical support to the LSSU Athletics Dept. Construction is projected for completion in fall 2012.

"We're very happy to announce this project," said LSSU President Tony McLain. "With all of the bad news and challenging times around the state and nation, it's great to have some good news happening right here. This expanded facility will serve our students for many decades. The best part is that it's being made possible through private donation. This illustrates the strong support we have in the Laker community and it allows the university to continue to focus its resources on academics."

Built in 1976, with a renovation of the Taffy Abel Arena in 1995, the James Norris Center has served generations of LSSU students and student athletes. The latest expansion will provide an expansion to LSSU Athletics Dept. offices that are currently spread around the complex, as well as several other features, including an athletic/academic center, new locker rooms in the Student Activity Center, a dining/meeting area called The Laker Club and expanded facilities for Laker hockey, including a lounge and strength and conditioning area.

"It has been a great privilege for our Foundation to be able to work with this donor group throughout the entire development process of this exciting project," said Tom Coates, executive director of the LSSU Foundation. "Their commitment to advance LSSU this way is truly appreciated and we look forward to collaborating through completion of this project and beyond."

Renovated and expanded to 3,400 sq. ft., the new office space portion of the project will house all Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) coaches and Athletics Dept. staff, and will provide a reception area for recruits and families to meet coaches and other staff members.

On the second floor, an athletic/academic center will feature 800 sq. ft. of quiet study space with team study tables for tutoring and individual studies, along with two group study rooms. Adjacent to the center, the new "Laker Club," a 1,200 sq. ft. dining/meeting facility, will seat 75 for a BlueLiner luncheon or provide space for BlueLiner, Laker Club and Laker hockey functions on game nights. It will feature a full kitchen facility operated by LSSU Food Service, flat screen televisions and a fireplace, all overlooking the wooded area on the southwest side of the facility.

Also on the west side of the Norris complex, the Student Activity Center will see a 4,000 sq. ft. expansion that will provide locker rooms and facilities to create a new home for the LSSU track, cross country, tennis and softball teams.

A new atrium – a new front door for Laker athletics -- will welcome students, visitors and fans. The atrium will wrap in two new entrances to Taffy Abel Arena, a new ticket/fan shop, and a redesigned Cooper Gym lobby, all of which will provide improved comfort and flow for Laker fans.

A second-floor "bridge" will offer expanded concessions on game nights and a comfortable space for students to take a break during the week, with seating for 50-60 and relocated vending services connected to the Norris Center classrooms. The exterior of the atrium will feature a great visual entrance to all athletic venues.

"This is an exciting endeavor for our athletics department," said LSSU Director of Athletics Kris Dunbar. "The Norris Center has served our student-athletes well for the past 34 years, but many areas need major renovations and upgrades. It is so exciting to be a part of a project that will enhance the competitive and academic experiences for our Division II athletes and keep our hockey facility on par with big Division 1 programs. And we're filling a desperate need for more locker room space for our track, tennis and softball teams. This building brings in hundreds, sometimes thousands of people every day. It will be more inviting than ever before."

The Hockey Center will include 12,000 sq. ft. of renovated or newly constructed space on the west side of Taffy Abel Arena to provide the hockey team with facilities and services equal to the best the CCHA has to offer. While maintaining the tradition of the locker room, the project totally renovates the surrounding space to provide for expanded coaches offices and facilities, a training room featuring more space, equipment, and offices for athletic training, as well as a modern equipment room.

The area will also contain a 2,800 sq. ft. strength and conditioning area, the team lounge and supporting facilities, for a total of 4,000 sq. ft. The area will include a hockey treadmill, goalie training area, and expanded plyometric and speed-training areas, as well as a great variety of aerobic and weight-training equipment. The facilities, as well as plans for improved strength and conditioning coaching, will provide the Lakers with one of the elite training facilities in college hockey.

"Private donors are doing something pretty awesome for us," said LSSU Hockey Coach Jim Roque. "It's something we never could have done on our own. It's enabling us to keep pace, show progress – not just for hockey, but for all of the Laker teams. This will energize our players, staff, fans and alumni."

The project is completely privately financed, however LSSU will conduct a personalized "Brick Campaign" for the plaza area, and there will be several naming opportunities in specific areas to further support LSSU through the LSSU Foundation. The Norris Center will remain in use throughout the project, which will be constructed/renovated in two phases. The Hockey Center, Laker Club and academic center are scheduled for completion in 2012 and the SAC addition/atrium/Athletics Dept. offices are scheduled to be wrapped up in 2013.

Larry Westby, member of the LSSU Foundation's board of directors and chair of its Norris Center Project Committee said he is looking forward to moving the project along.

"The addition of these facilities and programming will not only create an elite hockey setting equal to the best in college hockey, but it will also benefit the entire campus. The Norris Center will again be a jewel on the LSSU campus with this design, which improves the facility for everyone – students, LSSU employees and fans."

Take a look at what the finished product will look like and follow new developments at

-- privately financed
-- renovate and/or expand 36,000 sq. ft.
-- a new dining/meeting area: The Laker Club
-- expanded lounge and strength and conditioning area for Laker Hockey
-- 3,400 sq. ft. office space for coaches and Athletics Dept. staff
-- 4,000 sq. ft. locker rooms and facilities in Arbuckle Student Activities Center for the LSSU track, cross-country, tennis and softball teams
-- main entrance atrium with ticket/fan shop, and a redesigned Cooper Gym lobby; second-floor "bridge" with expanded concessions on game nights and a comfortable space for students, with seating for 50-60 and relocated vending services connected to the Norris Center classrooms
-- 12,000 sq. ft. of renovated or newly constructed space on the west side of Taffy Abel Arena

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