November 29, 2005

Lynah Expansion Moves Forward

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The rebirth of Lynah Rink took a step forward a week ago, as Cornell’s plans for renovations of the ice hockey facility were granted preliminary approval by the City of Ithaca Planning and Development Board at a Nov. 22 meeting.

“Everything’s on track,” said Cornell associate athletic director Stephen Erber. “This meeting was specifically for preliminary site plan approval. – At some time in December there’s another meeting [for final approval].”

The current agenda for the Lynah Rink expansion calls for roughly 19,500 square feet of new construction to be added to the facility, as well as renovations to 9,850 square feet of the existing building, all beginning in the spring of 2006 and wrapping up in the winter of 2006. The new additions will consist of locker rooms for the men’s and women’s teams, as well as visitor locker rooms, training rooms, coaches’ offices, and about 464 new seats for spectators.

The preliminary approval came on Cornell’s second visit before the board. Bob Blakeney, an architect for Cornell Planning, Development, and Construction, gave a site plan review and sketch plan presentation at the Oct. 24 meeting.

The central part of the proposal before the board was an addition on the south side of the rink at the concourse level, which would replace a parking lot currently used for handicapped parking, visitor parking, and Cornell Outdoor Education vehicles. This would consist mostly of new offices for coaching staff, as well as study and training rooms for players. Furthermore, Cornell is planning new construction under the west end of the south addition at rink level.

Despite the unanimous vote for preliminary approval and the absence of any public opposition at the meeting, the board did have several concerns it felt needed to be addressed before the final approval could be given. A letter to the board from Ithaca Fire Commissioner Tom Parsons raised the issue of accessibility and safety for the fire department in the event of an emergency.

In his letter, Parsons asked that the board withhold final approval until the Ithaca Fire Department and Cornell could address several procedural issues. Due to the fact that the IFD and Cornell had only been in contact for the first time four days before the board meeting, Parsons felt that more time to consider all the information and plans available was necessary.

“The objection is nothing significant, it’s a basic procedural issue,” Parsons said. “The project is still progressing, I don’t anticipate anything holding up final approval.”

Parsons contacted the board concerning the fire support system and fire detection in the one-story addition on the west end of the facility. Although every aspect of the proposed construction and renovation is in compliance with building and fire safety codes, Parsons felt that more time for communication between the University and the IFD would be essential to developing a final plan that would serve both parties best.

“What we’re proposing is in fact in compliance and does improve life safety,” Blakeney said at the meeting.

Blakeney pointed out that the new plans included a full sprinkler system and actually increased fire detection capabilities within the facility. Furthermore, all of the walkways leading to the building will be wide enough to accommodate fire vehicles, and the rink will have more exits than is required by code.

The board also felt that the issue of parking needed to be given careful and thorough consideration before final approval. With the loss of the 25-space lot due to the new construction on the south side of the rink, the board was concerned about the cumulative impact on campus-wide parking and asked to be provided with further details from the University’s transportation office concerning how the distribution of parking around the rink fit into the overall campus plan.

The board will meet again in December with final approval for the Lynah Rink expansion on the agenda. The ultimate go-ahead will rest on review and approval of the drainage system for the rink, details about sidewalks, bike racks and other landscaping features, and review and resolution of fire safety issues.

“It seems like all of these politics take the same route and same path and everybody’s concerns need to be addressed, but everything’s moving along,” Erber said.

Archived article by Olivia Dwyer
Sun Assistant Sports Editor