The former longtime home of UConn’s ice hockey teams will be renovated over the next year to house the women’s volleyball program, which has been practicing and playing in Gampel Pavilion for the past 30 years.
UConn’s Board of Trustees recently approved the renovation plan for the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum, which became available for other potential uses after the opening of the nearby Toscano Family Ice Arena in January.
Work will begin soon to remove the ice-making system, dasher boards, and other hockey-specific features in the Freitas Forum. The project also includes renovating the locker room and associated spaces, replacing the arena’s audience seating, and related updates.
The UConn women’s volleyball program, which holds two Big East Championship titles, has played since 1993 in Gampel Arena, working around the schedules of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and other events that take place in that facility.
Renovations on the playing surface at Freitas, which was built in 1998, are expected to be far enough along so that the volleyball team will start the 2023 season there if all remains on schedule. The remaining work to the locker rooms will be done in early 2024, after the 2023 season concludes.
“We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to have our own home. To have the ability to train and compete at our discretion is a privilege that most volleyball programs do not have, let alone most sports at the college level,” UConn Women’s Head Volleyball Coach Ellen Herman-Kimball says.
“We are beyond appreciative of our Administration and to David Benedict for supporting this move and pouring into the growth of our sport and the program itself,” she adds. “We are eager to continue supporting the holistic student-athlete experience and the chase to win championships.”
The UConn women’s volleyball team played in the Guyer Gym of the Hugh Greer Field House until 1993, when it moved to Gampel.
UConn Director of Athletics David Benedict says that with the opening of the Toscano facility and move of the hockey programs, the Freitas Forum was left open for other potential uses. After much consideration about the strategic use of the space, he says, it was determined that relocating the women’s volleyball program was the best fit.
“This provides our volleyball student-athletes and coaches with a dedicated facility while also addressing the space and scheduling conflicts we currently experience in Gampel Pavilion,” Benedict says.
“This transition demonstrates our commitment to providing facilities that match the championship aspirations of each of our programs as well as to Title IX by providing equitable opportunities to our student-athletes,” he adds. “We look forward to the evolution of Freitas and to continuing to support our women’s volleyball team as they compete for conference and NCAA championships.”
The renovations will cost about $2.5 million in gift-funded money, which does not come from tuition, student fees, or state funding.