The Next Stage for Sage
Work is already underway and will be concluded by September 2024 without disrupting the hockey season.
- Building envelope including roof
- Mechanicals and HVAC system improvements
- New ice and refrigeration system
- New, state-of-the-art boards and glass
- New locker rooms specifically for use by men’s and women’s ice hockey teams
- Conference room and additional office spaces for coaching staff of ice hockey and other sports teams
- See renderings
These are proposed enhancements based on 2023 cost estimates, which may vary over the fundraising timeline. Work for Part Two will begin once $5 million fundraising is complete. Construction will not interrupt the hockey season.
- Additional seating with unobstructed views
- Special Guest Box
- Visual enhancements throughout, emphasizing the Hamilton brand and the strength of the Continentals
- See renderings
These are proposed enhancements based on 2023 cost estimates, which may vary over the fundraising timeline. Fundraising for Part Three will not commence until $5 million required for Part Two has been secured.
- Lobby Addition with increased square footage and outfitted with digital screens
- New viewing gallery above the seats at the east end
- Elevator and other accessibility enhancements
- See renderings
These are proposed enhancements based on 2023 cost estimates, which may vary over the fundraising timeline. Fundraising for Part Four will not commence until $5 million required for Part Three has been secured.
Sage is (literally) at the heart of life on the Hill, with a central campus location that’s attractive to players, students, and recruits. The proposed enhancements would involve renovating existing spaces and building an addition, while retaining the Sage’s prime location adjacent to the Athletics complex and sports medicine facilities.
Part Two: Proposed Renovations
Renovated spaces would provide new locker rooms exclusive to the men’s and women’s ice hockey teams as well a conference room and offices for hockey coaches and other Athletics staff.
New Locker Rooms and Offices
Part Three: Proposed Renovations
The roar of the crowd is a big part of what defines the experience at Sage — and the reason opponents call it one of the toughest places to play! The proposed enhancements in Part Three would reinforce Hamilton's home ice advantage by increasing spectator capacity through additional seating offering unobstructed views at the east end and a new guest box.
Special Guest Box
Part Four: Proposed Enhancements
Even if you aren’t attending the game, you won’t miss what’s happening on the ice! The proposed lobby addition, built on the exterior wall of Sage, would offer campus a window into the action, with the viewing gallery, rink, and digital screens visible from the outside. Inside the rink, Part Four renovations include a new viewing gallery to further increase spectator capacity.
How You Can Make an Impact
Sage Rink: Loud. Lively. Loved.
The nation’s second-oldest college ice arena is the home of Hamilton’s men’s and women’s hockey teams. Named for Russell Sage — the financier and railroad magnate whose widow included Hamilton among numerous philanthropic causes — it was constructed in 1921 and restored and renovated in memory of Albert Ira Prettyman and George Joseph Batt in 1993.
Frequently Asked Questions
The College regularly engages in a strategic planning process, reviewing current operations and identifying future priorities to enhance the educational experience for all members of the Hamilton community. Repairs and updates to Sage Rink have been discussed for some time to support the ice hockey program and ensure NCAA hockey can continue to thrive long-term on campus. The Sage issues identified above in Part One were deemed a current priority initiative during the past year, and the College committed $13 million to address health, safety, structural (building envelope, roof), and operational issues. Further proposed renovations and enhancements were also discussed, but with competing and significant strategic initiatives related to classroom space, residence hall experience, and more, additional enhancements to Sage were approved to move forward only if donor-funded.
Working collaboratively, the coaches, athletic director, facilities team, and the Building & Grounds Committee of the Board of Trustees spent more than a year considering three possible scenarios:
- A complete teardown of the existing Sage Rink and a rebuild of a new rink at the existing location.
- A renovation of the existing Sage that would address all health and safety, operational and roof issues, celebrate the rich history of the Hamilton Hockey programs in the Sage, and enhance the experience delivered at the Sage,
- The construction of a new arena somewhere else on campus with the understanding that a re-purposing of the land at the current Sage location would be required.
Numerous factors including College-wide priorities, objectives, and challenges identified by the Board of Trustees and senior leadership were taken into account. Additionally, visits were made to competing NESCAC rinks and interviews were conducted with key stakeholders at peer schools who have recently opened new rinks.
Multiple potential locations on campus were considered for a new stand-alone arena, all of which would need to be on the edges of campus. Working with consultants who specialize in ice rink construction, the College received cost estimates for a new rink surpassing $50 million. Competing priorities and initiatives preclude Hamilton from devoting $50 million to building a new arena, meaning funding would need to come from donations. (For comparison, the most Hamilton has ever raised from gifts for a new building or renovation project is $16 million.) Additionally, many players and alumni expressed concerns that a rink on the edge of campus would lower game attendance from classmates and other campus fans. They were hesitant to lose the atmosphere of excitement that occurs in Sage when the arena is packed, the walls amplifying the cheers from the crowd, and the stands are literally shaking — an intimidating experience for opposing teams.
Tearing down Sage Rink and building an arena on the same site would mean displacing the hockey program to an off-campus location for two years and impacting the use of the nearby structures (Alumni Gym, Bristol Pool, Scott Fieldhouse). It would also incur similar costs to a new, stand-alone rink.
In the context of a thorough review of the three identified scenarios, and based on the various priorities and strategic initiatives committed to by the College, it was determined that the most feasible approach was to proceed with a renovation project to enhance the Sage Rink. Part One would be funded by the College and address the immediate need to maintain the rink as a home for Hamilton Hockey. Parts Two, Three, and Four are identified as opportunities to include more enhancements if gift funding is secured. A Proposed Renovation Project Plan, complete with renderings, is now available for key stakeholders and alumni to review. The proposed plan has the support of the ice hockey coaches, players, and the Hamilton Athletics department, and was developed with their input.
There are three main reasons the College is not pursuing the option to construct a new facility.
- The cost of constructing a new ice hockey arena is estimated at more than $50 million. Sufficient funding sources to reach this total cannot be identified, even considering financial commitment from the College and potential donor contributions.
- A new arena would need to be located away from the heart of campus, giving up the convenience and draw of Sage’s central location — for both players and fans in the on-campus community. This was a sentiment passionately expressed by many of the students who value Sage’s proximity to academic buildings, dining halls and residence halls. The prime location was also identified as an attractive feature by players during the recruiting process and provides athletes direct access to the sports medicine and other athletic facilities adjacent to Sage.
- Operating a new, standalone arena would mean additional ongoing costs for the College (i.e. new personnel, secondary laundry facilities, transportation for student athletes, winter outdoor maintenance). The Sage building would be repurposed for use by Athletics, so the current operating budget couldn’t be reallocated to a new facility, and expenses are not one-to-one in any case.
Delaying the project for the time-being, or passing up on the renovation opportunity altogether, does not come with a guarantee that future strategic planning will make a new arena a priority. In other words, it's being considered now because the timing is right due to the $13 million in renovations underway by the College. Once those urgent issues are resolved, the hockey facilities project may move further down the list of College priorities.
As an academic community committed to providing the best of a liberal arts education for 2000 undergraduates with more than 100 buildings situated on 1,350 acres, there will always be new needs and priorities that come up. Taking advantage of the current opportunity could impact Hamilton Hockey immediately.
Structural engineers evaluated the columns and the related view obstruction. Our project team includes ice arena specialists from Architectural Resources Cambridge (ARC) and LeChase Construction who have designed, renovated, and constructed numerous ice arenas throughout the northeast, including those at Bentley, Harvard, Brown, Colgate, RIT, Union College, and the University of New Hampshire.
The engineers determined that in order to remove all of the existing columns, the entire roof structure would need to be removed and replaced. New support columns would then need to be constructed outside the rink, impacting the facilities adjacent to Sage (Bristol Pool, the Field House). To accommodate new column foundations, utility systems would need to be relocated. The construction effort would exceed eight figures and displace the hockey teams to train and compete elsewhere.
Rather than trying to remove all of the columns, structural engineers are now working with Hamilton to estimate the cost of removing only the columns surrounding the team benches, which will improve sightlines for coaches and egress for the players to the ice.
The College has committed $13 million to urgent repairs and updates to Sage, which are already underway. To move forward on the Part Two renovations and enhancements, $5 million will need to be raised from donors. For Part Three, a further $5 million will need to be secured, followed by $10 million to begin work on Part Four. In total, commitments of $20 million are needed for the full proposed project. Construction costs have gone up dramatically across the country and are continuing to increase. It will take a partnership to make the bigger vision a reality.
Whenever a new project is under consideration, Hamilton begins an extensive process of research, development, and evaluation with input from current campus stakeholders. This process involves Trustees, Facilities Management, relevant departments (in this case, Athletics), architecture firms, and construction companies. It is important to vet potential projects to determine their feasibility before sharing the plans with others so that conversations can be informed and productive.
Starting in the spring of 2023, after the Board approved the proposed plans (with the contingent that Parts Two, Three, and Four be donor funded), staff from Athletics, Advancement, and Facilities Management began introducing the Sage project to alumni and other stakeholders. Timing was based on project approval, and only after options and related costs were identified and discussed, providing important information to share about the proposed scope of work, timeline, and impact on the hockey program. Involving alumni and other stakeholders any sooner would have resulted in more questions than answers, and the outcome of the planning process would have been the same — with the two main options being renovating versus building a new rink elsewhere on campus, and the cost of the latter being out of reach.
We are still in the very early stages of this project. There is a great deal of work to be done — and that includes raising the $20 million required to fund the entire enhanced vision. Alumni, parents and fans are encouraged to take part in the effort to move the plan forward.
Yes. Maintaining an uninterrupted hockey program during construction was non-negotiable in any options considered.
The health and safety of our community is our top priority. That’s why the College has made a substantial $13 million investment in Sage Rink so that it can address the building’s most critical needs. This is considered Part One of the project and is not dependent on the fundraising initiative. Part One includes repairing glass as well as cracks in the foundation; repairing roof-related issues; upgrading to new mechanical and HVAC systems; removing mold, mildew, and asbestos; and installing new ice and boards. This important work began during the summer of 2023 and will resume and be completed during the 2024 summer season.
Work is also underway with structural engineers to estimate the cost of removing the columns surrounding the team benches, which will improve sightlines for coaches and egress for the players to the ice.
The initial work (securing the building envelope, new ice, new boards, HVAC, etc.) is happening now with funding provided by the College. That work is scheduled during the summer months to allow for an uninterrupted program.
The start date for the enhanced vision is slated to follow the work already underway, pending funding. Once the first $5 million is raised, design and construction will take place over one to two years, with work spread out over off-seasons to ensure uninterrupted hockey programs.
The renovations will increase seating from 606 to 634 and add a viewing platform that will hold about 50 spectators, bringing the overall capacity to 684, or about a 12% increase.
When you review the plans, note that at the east end, the seats now begin at the top of the boards and go up from there. All of these seats, along with the addition of the viewing platform above, offer unobstructed views!
In short, no. During the regular season, attendance ranges from 300-500 for men and 200-400 for women. Playoff games can reach 600.
More importantly, whether the crowd is big or small, Sage feels full, and that’s one of its best qualities! The packed house energizes the Hamilton players and intimidates the opposing team. Building a larger arena with more seating is not only unnecessary to accommodate average attendance, but would lose the magic of Sage’s stands.
Yes. This puts Hamilton in a better position to host championships.
Once the initial $13 million renovations are completed, energy efficiency will improve in a number of ways and operating costs will decrease. The impact of remaining renovations on operating costs will be explored during the next phase of design development when funding is secured. Those costs are not expected to become part of the donor-funded initiative.
Each part of the proposed renovations can't and won’t happen without donor funding. The total $20 million is divided into three prioritized tiers of $5 million, $5 million, and $10 million. Work will begin once each milestone of fundraising is complete.
Please contact Sara Ziesenitz to let us know of your intentions. All commitments can be paid over four years, but we need to have confirmation of those commitments before April 2024 in order to plan for the project and do so in a way that does not incur additional cost or disrupt the programs’ schedules.
Based on past Hamilton experience, we hope to identify several lead donors to get us to more than 50% of our goal, then rely on the participation of legions of former players, players’ families, fans, and friends to help make the vision a reality.
Honoring Sage’s history means keeping the name in some format, but there are opportunities to recognize donors throughout, from naming the arena to the spaces within.
The Proposed Renovation Project Plan was created for the purpose of sharing the vision for the Next Stage of Sage. If you have a question or comment, any of the following Hamilton staff members or volunteers would be happy to talk to you more about the project. Please contact Sara Ziesenitz, senior philanthropic officer, who can connect you to any of the following:
- Jon Hind ’80, Director of Athletics
- Monty Pooley ’84, P’16, Trustee
- Lori Dennison ’87, P’16, Vice President for Advancement
- Mike Klapmeyer, Associate Vice President for Facilities and Planning
- Rob Haberbusch, Head Men’s Ice Hockey Coach
- Kayte Holtz, Assistant Women’s Ice Hockey Coach
- Dick Tantillo, Senior Philanthropy Officer