Since its 2021 opening night, Ed Robson Arena at Colorado College has been a game-changer, making history with the first on-campus hockey games since the program’s founding in 1938. Last month, its historic homecoming made news again, with the Tigers landing in the top 20 college hockey teams in the nation, their first such ranking since 2012.
JLG Architects led the $52 million arena design, shooting for the hat trick of bringing Colorado College hockey home, reinvigorating the program, and reconnecting the campus to Colorado Springs in the foothills of the Rockies. This move invited longtime season-ticket holders and fans to campus, and for many, it was the first time. Until 2021, Tiger hockey was played at Broadmoor World Arena, seven miles from campus.
The inaugural night symbolized three years of dedication by Colorado College and JLG Architects. However, the team’s celebration was bittersweet, with an empty seat honoring Lonnie Laffen, one of the firm’s founders, and a passionate hockey enthusiast who started the project but died before its completion.
Lonnie was the kind of guy who planted the seed and made it happen. He taught us to be relentless with the details, how to be a good listener and communicator, why relationships matter, and to never settle. When the RFP for the project was put out to interested firms, Lonnie did nothing short of being himself — he packed up the team, headed to Colorado Springs, and did an impromptu design charrette right there on campus.
JLG eventually won the project and it wasn’t long after we were navigating the venue’s design. Going in, we knew this arena needed to be a homecoming for the program, a rebirth of CC hockey, a connector to the campus, and the start of a new legacy in support of Colorado College and the region beyond.
In the time Lonnie had, he loved working with the team at Colorado College, and they grew fond of him — a relationship that was later honored with his namesake on the Tigers’ recruiting lounge. When it came to collegiate hockey, Lonnie lived out his passion, making lifelong friends while advocating for the game, student athletes, and the fan experience. Had he been there on opening night, we would have seen his signature can of Mountain Dew in one hand, and him high-fiving everyone with the other.
Lonnie didn’t get the chance to see the first puck drop at Ed Robson, but the values he lived stayed with the project team through the end. The JLG team of Ted Wright, Randy Lieberg and myself were together from the beginning, leading the project through two college presidents, two head coaches, and of course, the COVID pandemic.
Renewed fan interest has since led to a sold-out venue over its first two years, including a sold-out student seating section — approximately 25% of the student body. When it comes to largest attendance capacity, the 3,400-seat arena now ranks third in the nation and second in the National Collegiate Hockey Conference.
Lesley Irvine, vice president and director of athletics at Colorado College, called the arena a game-changer for the campus and the economy of Colorado Springs.
“Seeing games at Ed Robson be the hot ticket in town has been exciting — a resurgence of the hockey program, our campus community and our fan base,” Irvine said. “Our hockey program is such a visible part of the CC athletics program. It’s also brought our fans to campus for the first time, uniting us to our community and city.”
Adam Davidson is principal architect at JLG Architects.