FAIRBANKS — When Bruce McLeod attended an Alaska Nanooks coaches luncheon on Nov. 30 at the Carlson Center, the Western Collegiate Hockey Association commissioner immediately asked Nanooks head coach Dallas Ferguson about the Carlson Center Renovation Project Phase II.
“The first thing he said was ‘So where is this project at?’ I proudly told him that’s it happening and it will be awarded in a couple of weeks,” Ferguson said during an interview Thursday afternoon in his office in the Patty Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
The winning bid for the $4.2-million project is scheduled to be announced Thursday by the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The project has been seven years in the making and it is scheduled to be completed before the start of 2013-14 season for the Nanooks.
The renovation of the 24-year-old arena is set to impact the Nanooks’ NCAA Division I hockey program, the primary tenant of the Carlson Center, and the community itself.
“This wasn’t something that happened overnight. You’ve had three head (hockey) coaches involved in the design of this from Tavis (MacMillan, 2004-07) to (Doc) DelCastillo (2007-08) to Dallas,” said Steve Shuttleworth, a former building official for the City of Fairbanks and a member of the Face-Off Club, the booster organization for the Nanooks hockey team, said Thursday in Ferguson’s office.
“You’ve had two borough mayors involved, you’ve had three chancellors and you’ve had three public works directors (involved),” Shuttleworth added. “So over the course of seven years, you’ve had a lot of people touch, impact and comment on this. The local support we’ve had for the project has been phenomenal.”
The improvements include an upgrade that will turn the visitors lockerroom into a multi-use domain while maintaining its original purpose and the addition of a media room that also can be used as a space for small meetings and gatherings. Among other improvements are construction of four small lockerrooms for public use, and additions of storage space, an equipment room, a training room and a clinic-like setting to treat players who are injured during Nanooks hockey games and other athletic events at the Carlson Center.
The project is one of the reasons that the Nanooks are becoming a member of the WCHA in 2013-14 after their current conference, the 11-team Central Collegiate Hockey Association, disbands after this season because of a realignment in Division I hockey.
“That was a huge factor for us being able to transfer into the WCHA,” Ferguson said. “When they came up this summer, Bruce McLeod and Tom Serratore (Bemidji State head coach), the first thing they wanted to see was our facility.”
“Knowing that this (project) was in the bank was crucial for our being able to move into that league,’’ he added.
The project could impact the Nanooks’ recruiting, too.
“When you bring perspective student-athletes on campus and then bring them to your facility, all of a sudden there’ a very high sense of pride of what you’ve got to show them,’’ Ferguson said. “It’s going to put us in the ball game with more student-athletes based on how competitive recruiting is,’’ he added.
Perhaps the most significant part of the project is the Northern Lights Room, which currently is the visitors lockerroom.
The lockerroom will still be a place for visiting teams to change into uniforms, store equipment and develop strategies. When its athletic purpose is not required, the lockerroom will morph into a 1,100-square foot entity for conventions and meetings. The 28 locker stalls will be portable and can quickly be stored when another use of the room is needed.
Shuttleworth sees the Northern Lights Room being used during such events as the Alaska Federation of Natives
convention, which is set to return to Fairbanks in 2013 after last taking place here in 2010. The room can also offer extra exhibition space for home, outdoor and winter shows at the Carlson Center.
If 1,100 square feet is too much, the Alaska Media Room will offer smaller space that can seat 30-35 people.
“If you want to have a seminar, you don’t have to rent a very large space,’’ Shuttleworth said. “You can this space that is quiet, first class and very conducive to an educational atmosphere.”
The Alaska Media Room also will host postgame media conferences and serve as a production area for the broadcasting of an event.
Minor, non-invasive work is set to begin on the project soon after the bid is awarded. More extensive work will start after the Nanooks have played their last game in the Carlson Center for the 2012-13 season.
Design Alaska is the architect of the final project and Martha Hanlon Associates were the architects for the conceptual project in 2006. Both firms are local.
Contact staff writer Danny Martin at 459-7586.