Architect: Kahler Slater
Owner: University of Wisconsin Department of Facilities Development
Contractor: J.H. Findorff & Sons
With one of the top men’s and women’s hockey teams in the nation, the University of Wisconsin-Madison set out to create a new home for their national champion teams. The design team helped conceptualize an arena that could blend seamlessly into the existing experiences of the Kohl Center that hosts men’s hockey events. The new arena needed to complement the Kohl Center – an iconic building for the campus and the City of Madison – while also defining a visual and physical identity for the hockey program. The design solution challenged original expectations from the Athletic Department and transformed the new Arena from a simple ice sheet addition, to a well-defined identity and the “Home for Hockey” at UW Madison.
The design team was challenged to provide creative site strategies to meet the University’s program and create a new identity for the hockey teams without sacrificing the campus experience for fans and student athletes. An ideal, though extremely tight, location was chosen and proved to be the most challenging aspect of the project. The hockey arena bowl itself occupied almost the entire footprint causing concerns that the building would become a deterrent for those attending campus events. Beyond the hockey space needs, the program required the new Arena to provide locker suites for both the swim and basketball teams located in the adjacent Kohl Center and Southeast Recreational Facility (SERF).
Creative planning resulted in a solution that takes advantage of site adjacencies and avoids competing overlap between the various sports teams and their respective fans. Hockey locker room facilities were constructed under the Kohl Center plaza in order to provide a central location for the teams between the Kohl Center and LaBahn Arena. These locker rooms act as an “underground bridge” between the two facilities, and preserve the exterior plaza for fans before and after events in both facilities. Innovative BubbleDeck structural technology was used above the hockey locker rooms to minimize concrete while providing much needed ceiling heights below. To gain space, the third floor is cantilevered over the ice surface. At this level, a bridge connects new swimming locker rooms in LaBahn to the practice pool in the SERF. The bridge doubles as a visual and physical gateway for fans coming to Kohl Center events from East Campus Mall.
While complementing the iconic Kohl Center, the LaBahn Arena defines a visual and physical identity for the hockey program with its design. Alternating glass and precast concrete panels reflect the vertical rhythm of the Kohl Center and provide visual intrigue along the north promenade. The south façade incorporates precast concrete and metal panels to blend seamlessly into the existing composition of the campus. The building’s design allows views into the main concourse and the arena from the exterior for snap-shot passerby views. Above, long horizontal metal panels alternate in thickness and color, mimicking the horizontal glass panels of the adjacent Center while still providing a unique, contemporary look for the LaBahn Arena.
Environmental branding and graphics immerse fans and student athletes in the UW hockey experience. The “Home for Hockey” identity resonates throughout the main concourse, celebrating the sport. Integrated into a red soffit that extends the entire length of the concourse, the story of hockey acts as a visual beacon from both inside and out of the facility. A panoramic view of the rink at the center of the concourse is provided with the End Ice Viewbox and allows spectators to experience the game from the goalies perspective. The Viewbox is contrasted by alternating wall graphics showcasing the vast history of Wisconsin hockey and is designed to create a truly unique experience for fans.
Completed in 2012, the LaBahn Arena was designed to provide the best experience for the student athletes, resulting in success both on and off the ice. The design successfully blends the complexity of program requirements with the Kohl Center, SERF, and active site context. The facility celebrates the strong tradition and success of both the men’s and women’s hockey program while enhancing the existing experiences of the area.
Photos: C+N Photography, Peter McCullough, David Stluka