The Mack Report

Merrimack Dedicates New Facilities

MC Athletics Fireworks

Students, alumni and supporters packed Merrimack’s campus Thursday night to celebrate the dedication of new facilities.

NORTH ANDOVER – If you haven’t been on Merrimack’s campus since the end of last hockey season, you’re barely going to recognize the place.

A major construction project that kicked off last September was officially dedicated and opened at a ceremony last night. In just one year the college was able to construct and open an entire new village of townhouse-style dorms, a new ice rink that is adjacent to Lawler Arena, a new sports medicine facility, a new strength and conditioning center and a new lobby which includes new luxury boxes inside Merrimack’s home rink. The gym floor inside Hammel Court was also completely replaced, opening with a volleyball match this past Tuesday.

In all, the footprint of Merrimack’s Athletic Complex doubled in size.

“It’s amazing,” said senior volleyball outside hitter Jackie Jones. “To be the first team to use the new floor was pretty special. It looks great. Everything looks great.”

The Islander Hockey Club, an organization that sponsors youth teams all the way through high-level juniors in the United States Premiere Hockey League, has a long-term agreement with Merrimack to use its facilities as its home rink. The new second ice sheet at the college bares the Islanders’ logo at center ice and will serve as the youth hockey power’s primary home.

Richard Gallant, president of the Islanders, and his wife Susanna donated $2 million dollars to the college last year, which was one of the largest single gifts the college ever received.

If you’re a hockey parent taking your kids to 5 a.m. Saturday games or just a Merrimack fan in need of a caffeine fix, you’ll likely love the addition of the Dunkin Donuts, which is housed inside Merrimack’s new bookstore in the lobby of arena.

The college’s growth under president Christopher Hopey is astonishing. In just over three years Hopey has completely erased any stigmas surrounding Merrimack and has not only moved the college forward, he’s done so by leaps and bounds.

The college’s enrollment – roughly 2,500 students when classes began a few weeks ago – is an all-time high and Hopey has his sights set on nearly 3,000 total students before it’s all said and done. Part of that strategic plan includes the new dorms as well as the expanded athletic facilities.

Last night, several thousand students, alumni and supporters crammed the college’s campus center parking lot for celebration that included a live band a fireworks display.

“The job of any college president is to leave the school better than better than when we inherited it,” Hopey said. “That’s my job here now and it will be the job for whoever comes after me. When I first got here I saw that Merrimack had all the ingredients to be great. The stuff we’ve done here was a natural thing to do. It takes hundreds of people to make this happen and it was really a great team effort between my administration and the board of trustees and the employees, everyone here.”

In 2008, the graduating class consisted of 289 students. This fall’s freshman class is 850.

It’s clear that athletics plays a vital role in his plan for growth.

Under Hopey’s leadership the athletic department is seriously considering a move to Division 1 for all of its athletics, including basketball and football, which would not only remain as one of the department’s offerings but play a vital role in the college’s growth with nearly 100 student-athletes on the roster.

“Athletics is important for three reasons,” Hopey said. “Obviously for pride, then there’s building within the community and finally enrollment. Athletics plays a big role in driving that and Merrimack needs all three of those things to being doing well.”

And if you think Merrimack’s done, think again.

“We’re not ready to announce anything but there is a phase two,” Hopey said. “Stay tuned, it’s even bigger than this.”