Mike Lynch on Student Village: a social, educational, and cultural mecca
By Brian Fitzgerald
There is a tone of ebullience and expectancy in the voice of Mike Lynch, BU’s new athletics director. It’s as if the former minor league pitcher is gearing up for a big game. As, in fact, he is. On January 3, the men’s hockey Terriers will host the University of Minnesota at Harry Agganis Arena, officially opening Boston’s newest sports and entertainment venue for action.
“What a time for me to walk into this job,” says Lynch, pointing out that the Fitness and Recreation Center, next to the arena, is scheduled for completion in the spring. “Having been involved in the fundraising for the John Hancock Student Village project since the very start of the campaign, I find it very gratifying to see the facilities coming to completion.”
On July 22, shortly after Lynch officially assumed his new position, work on Agganis Arena — named after the late standout BU athlete and Red Sox first baseman Harry Agganis (SED’54) — reached a major milestone when concrete was poured to cover the building’s event floor. However, lately “it’s amazing how quickly everything is taking shape,” Lynch says. “I had the opportunity to walk through the arena and Fitness and Recreation Center a week ago. They were in the process of installing the framing for the seats in the arena, and the glass has gone up around the dasherboards on the hockey rink. People touring the facility now are getting a good sense of what the finished product is going to look like. I can sense the anticipation from everyone I’ve been bringing through there — they can tell what an exciting place it’s going to be.”
Lynch says that the Student Village, with Agganis Arena as its centerpiece, will benefit not only BU athletics, but also the University community as a whole by providing social, educational, cultural, and residential opportunities for students, and by creating a new center for campus life.
“We’re trying to market the John Hancock Student Village project to alumni and friends of BU as an opportunity for them not just to support sports, but to support the University in general,” he says, “and I think that’s why we’ve been able to reach out to so many people. We have close to 1,000 contributors now, and these are people of many interests, not just those who care about hockey and other sports. This has been a campaign that has allowed us to get folks involved who have never donated to the University before. Between individual giving and corporate sponsorships, we’ve raised close to $58 million for the project so far.”
Fitness and Recreation Center
Lynch says a perfect example of the project’s impact beyond varsity athletics is the Dance Center planned for the Fitness and Recreation Center, which will allow the Department of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (PERD) to consolidate its three existing dance practice and performance spaces into one.
“This is another piece of the project that has allowed us to extend to so many donors because we’ve been able to incorporate different BU schools and colleges,” he says. “The College of Fine Arts will be able to hold performances in the Dance Center, so we’ll be able to promote CFA through this very public facility. It will seat about 250, and will host a number of ticketed events, not just for people at BU, but also for the greater Boston public to enjoy.” The center is also going to house the 100-seat Black Box Theatre, which will provide a place for College of Communication students to screen their films.
The Ryan Center for Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation, also in the Fitness and Recreation Center, will be a collaborative effort between Sargent College and PERD. BU trustee Sharon Ryan (SAR’70) and her husband, Robert, “are further examples of people who came forward in support of the project because they felt it was going to improve the lives of BU students,” says Lynch. “The Ryan Center is going to be a one-of-a-kind place, where you can experience a full continuum of care. If you want a wellness profile, if you’re rehabilitating an injury, if you’re seeking to understand how to eat better and live a more healthy life, you can do that all under one roof.”
The facility’s aquatics complex — a competition pool, a diving area, and a recreational pool — will have seating for 600 and locker rooms large enough for the men’s and women’s swimming teams to host invitational meets. The building will include a climbing wall and several multipurpose rooms that can be used by different organizations on campus, “or by students interested in yoga or badminton,” Lynch says. “We tried to think of everyone when we planned this facility.”
More than just a home for hockey
Of course, athletics events at Agganis Arena will be an effective way to showcase the Student Village. The first BU basketball games to be played there will be a pair of February doubleheaders. Both the men’s and women’s teams will host Vermont on Saturday, February 12, and Northeastern on Sunday, February 20. The women’s games will begin in the early afternoon, with the men’s contests following.
Although the Case Gymnasium will be the teams’ primary home court for most basketball games, Lynch envisions high-profile games being played at Agganis Arena. The men’s team will play Michigan and Rhode Island on the road this year, but the following season they will host both teams, which made postseason appearances last March.
These games should be an enticing draw for college basketball fans throughout the region, says Lynch, but so will the Vermont and Northeastern contests. The Terrier men’s basketball America East championship thriller against Vermont was a sellout at the Case Gym last March — despite being played during spring break — and the BU-Northeastern rivalry brings not only hoards of students from both universities, but many other basketball fans in the Boston area.
“We’re working to build on our fan base for basketball,” says Lynch, “and we thought that the best way to do that would be to utilize the new arena for basketball this season, rather than waiting for next season. There will undoubtedly be a lot of interest in these games.”
BU officials, he adds, are negotiating with several producers about booking family events at the arena, including comedians, concerts, and trade shows. “I think the entire Student Village will be not only a recreational and athletic hub, but also a social center,” he says. “With a game or another event at the arena, and a residence tower full of students, we could have upwards of 10,000 people in that 10-square-block area. All of a sudden, it becomes a city of its own.”
And for many sports fans and arts patrons, an event at the Student Village will mark their first trip to BU and serve as an effective recruiting tool for potential students and staff. “They’ll experience one of the finest college facilities in the country,” Lynch says, “and it will help create an impression in their minds of what BU is all about: excellence.”