Seeing Amsoil Arena through the architect's eyesThe Budgeteer gets a tour of the unfinished Amsoil Arena from principal architect Brian Morse. We also took lots and lots of pictures, so make sure you check out all the photo galleries and other images attached to this article.
SJA Architects’ Brian Morse is the only person from the design team involved in the day-to-day activities at the new DECC arena from beginning to end. He is the single thread that runs through it all: from the preliminary activities in 2005 — helping the DECC define the project scope and budget — then continuing while Duluth pursued funding (three different times) from the state legislature. He’s been on site (or at meetings) practically every day since construction began a year ago and he will remain the go-to guy through the project completion and beyond.
But Morse is the first person to tell you how building the new arena has been a team project, in every sense of the word.
“I am the principal architect for the architect of record — Duluth firm SJA Architects — which means I sign the drawings,” he said. “But I am part of a team that includes a design architect, landscape architect, civil engineer, structural engineer, mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers, consultants for life-safety codes, food services and acoustics … it’s a long list.
“It’s my job to coordinate all those guys, keep them on track, coordinated and headed in the right direction.”
Morse speaks very highly of the M.A. Mortenson company, the construction manager for the project, noting that the arena is slightly ahead of schedule and within its budget.
Those who have been watching the progress know the huge arena is formed now, and the outside is mostly done. Inside the bones and muscles of the structure are there — it will be wired for 4G when it’s done — but the process of taking the structure from concrete, wire and steel to a finely finished arena with seating for 6,600 hockey fans and 15 private suites is only just beginning.
On Wednesday, Morse came to the massive building from a meeting about furnishings.
For a man whose been working on the same project for five years, he’s tremendously excited. You hear it in his voice as he talks about things like the polished taconite bar that will go in the lounge for season ticket holders, and when he explains how the arena’s open bowl design will allow fans to see the ice from 75 percent of the concourse (there will be TV screens on the concourse as well, so fans in search of refreshments need not miss a moment of play).
It’s unfortunate that he is unable to project images from his hardhat, because it would be wonderful to see the stunning terrazzo design that will cover the floor of “The Ice Cube,” (the name of the main lobby with its massive wall of windows showing off downtown Duluth, an image is linked to this story.)
Still, Morse is just as proud of things a visitor to the arena might never know. He talks about the little design touches that build on the central theme of fire and ice, moving from the rough and stunning ice on the greatest of the Great Lakes inside to the polished and refined ice of the arena floor. Or the fact that Amsoil Arena will be LEED gold-certified (LEED stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), which means it’s nearly top of the line (only platinum is better) in terms of limiting its impact on the environment by being energy efficient, recycling everything from heat to resources and other green building practices.
And then there is the question of toilets.
At the new Amsoil Arena, there will be five family toilet rooms plus 65 fixtures for men and 85 for women.
In comparison, the existing DECC Arena has 15 fixtures for women, and fewer for guys.
“This arena is going to be spectacular,” Morse said. “It’s all about the game-day experience for the fans.”