The Leo D. Mahoney Arena at Fairfield University, a GMS project completed with Centerbrook Architects, opened its doors in November 2022. Our structural engineering and BIM teams, including Gary Steficek, Eugene Kim, John Hinchcliffe, Phoebe Wang, Rui Zhang, and Petr Vancura, assisted in creating this 85,000-sf convocation center that received an Honorable Mention at this year’s SEAoNY SEE Awards.

The building is adorned with a curved roof, shaded glass, and a brick façade. The arena contains a lower bowl between the court and concourse levels and an upper deck [or club] level, collectively seating 3,500 spectators. This space is designed to host basketball and volleyball games, as well as concerts, commencements, and large-scale campus events. This $51 million-dollar project included structural elements that required innovative solutions proposed by the project team.

The roof is supported by curved long-span trusses made of exposed steel. The two primary trusses span almost 200 feet east to west, and eight secondary trusses span 150 feet north to south. The secondary trusses have a horizontal top chord and a curved bottom chord, the opposite shape of the moment diagram. The trusses were assembled on-site and lifted to their positions with cranes. To provide the primary trusses with temporary support before the installation of the secondary trusses, the project team utilized steel cables, which also allowed for the uninhibited maneuvering of the cranes. The site is surrounded by other structures, so the team worked with the contractor and included an erection sequence in the documents.

The bowl level is slab on grade, with conventional spread footings. The concourse and club levels are steel framed with either concrete on metal deck or stepped precast in the areas of permanent seats. The north foundation wall is a retaining wall to hold back the surrounding grade.

Since the arena’s opening, it has hosted a variety of sporting events, as well as its first-ever commencement ceremony in May 2023. We were honored to contribute to this project, and we hope the Fairfield community continues enjoying everything this space has to offer!

Featured image by Jeff Goldberg/ESTO.