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University of Idaho turns to mass timber for new basketball arena

The University of Idaho (UI) in Moscow, Idaho, has partnered with the state’s timber industry, and Portland-based Opsis Architecture, to construct their newest multi-use basketball arena out of mass timber. The Idaho Central Credit Union (ICCU) recently purchased the naming rights for the arena for $10 million, meaning the arena is now well on its way to breaking ground, with $34 million of the needed $45 million accounted for. With a 4,200-seat basketball court, practice court, offices, locker rooms, conference spaces for both the men and women’s basketball programs, and volleyball courts, university officials have expressed hope that the arena would jumpstart athletic fundraising, as well as architectural and engineering interest in the school. In addition to the sports facilities, the 70,000-square-foot space will double as convention space and also be used to alleviate overcrowding in other buildings on campus. Designed to showcase the massive curvilinear roof that drapes itself over the building, Opsis has chosen to leave the structural timber elements exposed throughout the project. V-shaped timber columns are on prominent display above the entrance, while the underside of the roof features a curving lattice of wooden beams that’s visible from everywhere in the building. Light wood finishes have been used in the few interior areas where the structural elements are hidden, and the building’s exterior will be clad in metal paneling. If completed, the ICCU Arena will be the largest mass timber arena in the country, and the ICCU would retain naming rights for the next 35 years. Opsis is shooting for a LEED Silver certification or higher. The national firm Hastings + Chivetta has signed on as the interior architect / Sports planner, and KPFF are the consulting structural engineers. Assuming fundraising continues at the same pace, UI officials expect construction to complete in 2020, and possibly as soon as 2019. The accelerated timetable makes sense considering the advantages in construction speed that mass timber provides, especially as the materials would be locally sourced.