Providence College students should be used to the earth movers and construction crews by now.
After renovating two dormitories in 2011 and breaking ground on a new 63,000-square-foot humanities building last summer, Providence College is now starting a $13 million renovation and expansion of Schneider Arena, home of Friar hockey and lacrosse teams.
It’s part of a multibuilding, multiyear, campus-improvement plan matched in scale during this stagnant period for Rhode Island construction projects only by fellow Ocean State colleges and universities.
But while higher education has provided the bulk of the large building projects undertaken in Rhode Island over the last several years, campus construction is not without its unique challenges.
In the case of Schneider Arena, and many other higher education projects, the calendar is the major obstacle.
Normally renovating an arena the size of Schneider would take at least a year, but the Providence College hockey teams play into March with practice for next season starting again in September, seriously condensing the time frame.
To get the project done in time to drop the puck on schedule next season, PC hired Shawmut Design and Construction, which last year built Brown University’s Nelson Fitness Center and Coleman Aquatics Center.
In fact Shawmut completed the last two major buildings. Before the classical Nelson Center, the firm built the modernist Granoff Center for the Creative Arts.
At Schneider Arena, while teams use the inside of the 64,000-square-foot building, Shawmut plans to build the 34,000-square-foot addition on the outside. Only when the hockey season is over will crews begin working on the existing space and connect it to the addition.
“That’s five months to do what would typically take a year or probably even more,” said Ron Simoneau, vice president at Shawmut Design and Construction. “That scope and amount of work translates into a very fast-paced project within limited space.”