Boston College’s Connell Recreation Center will be a Beacon

The new Connell Recreation Center of Boston College, designated to open summer of 2019, is to be a beacon.

Reaching four stories with windows galore, the Connell Center will be an inspiring addition to the campus. Caitriona Taylor, the director of campus recreation at Boston College, said the energy happening indoors will be visible from outside. “Our vision is strengthening the Boston College community by advancing their health and well-being, and I think when people see this building, they’re going to feel invited to take part in something that’s going to help them achieve this,” said Taylor.

The 244,000-square-foot building broke ground March 2017 after a three-year planning process. It will consist of individual and group training areas, an aquatics center, a gymnasium, an indoor jogging track, a mind-body studio, multipurpose rooms, and fitness neighborhoods throughout. Colleen McKenna, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP of CannonDesign, the architects of the project, said the new center sits on a prominent site considered a signature piece of the lower campus. Plus, it aligns with the campus’ long-term goals for student life, as well as the campus rec department’s objectives for the project.

Boston College“Boston College is a highly residential campus. We have about 91 percent of the undergrads use the facility at least once a year now. So we have a very highly active, engaged, undergraduate population, along with staff, faculty and grad students utilizing the facility,” said Taylor. “Our overarching goal was to be welcoming and inclusive of all these individuals.”

Another goal was to have a low intimidation factor, said Mary Nardone, the associate vice president of capital projects management at Boston College. By making the insides of the center visible from without, it seems to have been accomplished.

“The architects helped us with that. Some of it was proportions, because it is a building that will have large volumes, and we need to be able to accommodate those, so I think they put a lot of study into what the proportions of circulation areas should be,” said Nardone. “They did a good job of how program stacks in the building that achieve our goals of transparency and welcoming.”

McKenna echoed Nardone in feeling like the goals of campus rec were met. “I do feel as though we were able to achieve their core goals,” she said. “While the size or the shape of certain rooms and spaces were tweaked and shuffled around, I ultimately feel as though meeting their programmatic goals was really one of the most important outcomes of the project.”

What was also kept true was the particular collegiate gothic style of Boston College. Nardone said various pieces inside and outside of the building honor that style.

However, one of her favorite areas of the new center is the elevated track. Suspended in the basketball court, two lanes peel off and run through their tennis pavilion. A hill was added, fitting for the campus that sits near Heartbreak Hill on Mile 21 of the Boston Marathon.

In fact, the fourth-floor track is a huge asset for a campus that has a strong affinity for the Boston Marathon and a vibrant running community, even in the winter. “To have this space where people can come even when it’s snowing, and again see the energy from the outside, I think it will make it very unique and very Boston College,” said Taylor.

The group exercise studio views, the amount of programming to be offered, and the turf ramp that connects the third and fourth floor are all elements also to be added. Plus, Nardone said the opportunity for social spaces are plenty.

What has been a collaborative process from the get-go — with visits to other institutions and even implementing departmental changes prior to breaking ground — has left Nardone with the belief that no two campus rec centers are alike. Meaning, Boston College’s upcoming rec center will truly be one of a kind.

But more than that, the new Boston College rec center will be the place that produces happy people. “It’s the one place on campus where I think people can relate to each other, everyone is a human being and everyone has a shared goal of advancing their health and wellbeing,” said Taylor. “We are elevating campus happiness.”


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