KINGSTON, R.I. -- May 7, 2001 -- With concrete seating risers being installed each week now, concrete being poured to construct the deck of the concourse level and structural steel shaping the facilitys spectator bowl, the University of Rhode Island Convocation Center is now starting to look like an arena and entertainment hall.
Observers can now envision where they might like to sit for events at the $54 million center, the largest building project in URI history.
Since the cold winter weather broke, the site has been abuzz with concrete trucks pumping concrete to the second-level concourse, welders, and ironworkers guiding pre-cast concrete seating risers into place.
The Convocation Center is beginning to take shape and dominate the skyline at the URI Athletic Complex. Observers can easily see how the seating will be laid out, and where the arena floor will be. On both the west and east sides of the building, ironworkers have assembled about two stories of the steel frame. The metal decking for the concourse, or second level, is finished, and building tradesmen have completed a seven-inch concrete layer over the decking.
More than 4,800 cubic yards of concrete, 1,900 tons of steel and 90,000 bricks will be incorporated into the structure by the time it opens in the fall of 2002.
"We have made excellent progress in the six months since the Convocation Center groundbreaking," said Robert Beagle, URI vice president for University Advancement. "The outer shell now actually mirrors the virtual reality drawings we featured in our Convocation Center video."
Workers started erecting the structural steel Feb. 12, and they are expected to be finished by early August. The final beam for the roof will be installed in August.
"We are ahead of schedule and on budget," said Larry Bacher, of Gilbane Building Co., the program manager of the Convocation Center project. "We are also getting a lot of interest in the luxury suites."
In two weeks, the masons will begin. The exterior of the event level (first level) of the building will feature a split face block skin that resembles the granite used in the buildings on the Kingston Campus quadrangle. The concourse and suite (second and third) levels will feature brickwork selected to match historic Keaney Gymnasium.
Work has also begun on the arenas three stair towers, which are designed to resemble lighthouses, in keeping with the states and the Universitys nautical heritage.
The Convocation Center will seat 8,000 for mens and womens basketball games and 9,000 for non-athletic events, including concerts, lectures, career fairs, and University events.
The 200,000 square-foot-building will stand 86 feet high. The structure is also designed with tall walls of glass windows. The event level will house the arena and event floor space; the main concourse will provide access to spectator facilities, including general seating, restrooms, and concessions; the suite level will provide a venue for prime viewing and food service. Two lobbies will be provided on the ground level at the major entrances to direct the flow of spectators up to the main concourse seating. See Floor Plans.
URI long ago outgrew its largest venue, Keaney Gymnasium, completed in 1953 for a student body of 2,183. The University now enrolls more than 14,000.
The new building will be readily accessible both to students and the broader Rhode Island community. The Convocation Center is a significant part of URIs overall effort to upgrade its facilities for the benefit of students and community members alike.
On the fund-raising side, the University is making strong progress toward its $15 million goal, Beagle said.
"So far, we have generated nearly $11 million in commitments," Beagle said. "We have another $2 million in the pipeline; major gifts that are being considered and worked on by a variety of individuals and corporations. Well over 300 people and businesses have contributed to the campaign. This is excellent, as we haven't even begun the broad, mass appeals. This fall we will go out to all of our alumni, as well as our faculty and staff, and ask them to participate."