Education Snapshots: Sacred Heart University – Martire Family Arena

With its dramatic hillside location and pavilion-like form, Martire Family Arena at SHU upends the typology of an ice rink as a windowless box.

JLG Architects and The S/L/A/M Collaborative collaborated to complete the Martire Family Arena for Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.

Sacred Heart University (SHU) teamed up with JLG Architects to lead the design of its new world-class collegiate ice arena, creating a permanent home for the University’s men’s and women’s hockey, figure skating, and club teams. With its dramatic hillside location and pavilion-like form, Martire Family Arena at SHU upends the typology of an ice rink as a windowless box. Fairfield, CT’s landscape inspired a more biophilic design, embracing the region’s upland forest, meadows, and wetlands.

Opening to fans in January 2023, the 3,600-seat arena elevates expectations from every point of view — starting with the entry portal and grand entry plaza. Along SHU’s portal from the underground parking, light sensors create an interactive, motion-activated experience that illuminates the logo letters, creating bold and branded wayfinding.

The Arena’s transparent grand stairwell connects sight lines to all major amenities, located on one side of the concourse to maintain immediate views to the ice. Here, SHU fans can enjoy foodservice with a custom wood-fired pizza oven, eight rows of premium seating, youth activities on the concourse, a Pro Shop, and a branded club space for Connecticut’s thriving craft brew industry.

Once seated, fans are immersed in a gameday atmosphere unlike any other, including a center-hung scoreboard, ring board, and light show within a continuous seating bowl and 180-degree view overlooking Merritt Parkway — all through a state-of-the-art smart-glass wall system. Fans also enjoy uninterrupted views of the action with a steeply raked seating bowl designed with true radiused curves.

Two clubs with feature bars overlook the seating bowl, and premium seating offers luxury suites with fully catered amenities. The premium level is also home to offices for the entire coaching and operations staff, contained within an extraordinary glass box and conference space. The glass boxes are cantilevered over the ice with two-sided glass walls for a spectacular panoramic view of the ice and outdoors.

The design celebrates SHU and its athletes through equitable men’s and women’s team spaces featuring personalized custom hockey lockers and a team lounge with integrated branding and lighting for a unique team atmosphere. The team space also features a video review theater, sports medicine suite, and strength training facility — all with state-of-the-art technology to make training and coaching more effective and recovery time faster and safer.

Martire Family Arena is truly multi-purpose, designed with adaptable space to welcome community, faculty, and students. The Arena hosts guest lectures, concerts, and open skate times for community and campus, along with a variety of youth and education programs. Beyond the ice, the Arena is a classroom and practical learning laboratory for students to hone their craft, working behind the same technology used in professional sports. Here, SHU provides an educational internship and graduate assistantship space for those studying academic disciplines in hospitality, sports communication & media, and sports management & marketing, along with a statewide leadership role with its certificate program in brewing science. This project was completed in collaboration with SLAM Collaborative, and CMTA served as the MEP Engineers on the project.