Plaza project eyes year-round uses for ice rink

by Kalani Simpson, UNMC public relations | September 04, 2019

Image with caption: The ice rink at the Ruth and Bill Scott Student Plaza is currently used for intramural pickleball. University leaders are exploring other warm weather uses for the rink as part of an improvement project to the plaza.

The ice rink at the Ruth and Bill Scott Student Plaza is currently used for intramural pickleball. University leaders are exploring other warm weather uses for the rink as part of an improvement project to the plaza.

Work has begun on an improvement project to the Ruth and Bill Scott Student Plaza on UNMC's main Omaha campus, as detailed in this previous UNMC Today story.

Mic Tierney, facilities project manager, said the first phase of the project will be general repair -- repairing or replacing concrete walkways and patios, fixing water damage, improving drainage and maintaining Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

Workers also will improve seating around the ice rink, to repair and replace limestone to turn it into more of a bench-like area. Railings will be repaired and painted. Wrap-up for initial repairs is tentatively set for Sept. 23.

But the second, ongoing phase of the project aims to turn the Scott Student Plaza into a comfortable, user-friendly area with a feel of what Tierney calls "connective architecture."

The goal, Tierney said, is to create an element that unifies the Scott Student Plaza with the surrounding buildings and makes a connective spine for the campus.

It was part of an idea brainstormed by Rick Boldt, who saw how much fun the ice rink was on those few days when it was full, and wondered, why couldn't we capture that spirit all year-round?

Boldt, whose myriad responsibilities include serving as senior manager of special projects for the chancellor's office, said he envisions an outdoor-events center. A group has already begun meeting to develop a yearlong schedule of events for the location (see sidebar).

Currently, for much of the year, that concrete slab bakes in the sun.

But what if it could become a place to host small concerts? Where teachers could conduct outdoor classes? A great outdoor space that could serve as another amenity for the Truhlsen Events Center? A healthy wellness environment for students and staff?

The current skate shack will be razed and replaced with an edifice that matches the buildings around it. You could get a cup of coffee in the winter or buy food and merchandise at special events.

New LED lights will go up, all around the rink.

But the key to everything is shade.

The final project will include a canopy, fabric membrane. This will keep people cool and create an inviting atmosphere. And, the resulting look will be another iconic structure unique to the UNMC-Nebraska Medicine campus.

"It's a fun project to work on," Tierney said.

"I'm thrilled it's going to be something everyone will use," Boldt said.

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Jonathan L. Vennerstrom
September 06, 2019 at 12:58 PM

Rick/Mic - I love your vision - keep up the good work!