New building at Merrimack College

·2 min read

Aug. 14—NORTH ANDOVER — Merrimack College presented plans for building a new storage structure on campus at a recent meeting of the Planning Board.

As described by Felipe Schwarz, vice president for Capital Planning and Facilities at the college, the building would stand at 315 Turnpike St. at a northern corner of the athletic complex, and it will be visible from Route 114.

Beyond that, he admitted that there wasn't much to say about the building's features.

"It is a pre-engineered building," Schwarz said. "It is a lovely shade of blue. That was the biggest decision we had to make on the project."

Yet at 3,200 square feet, the proposed structure is big enough to require a site review by the Planning Board, while the Conservation Commission is considering its environmental impacts.

And however limited its design, the building testifies to recent growth at Merrimack College, which includes elevating its athletic programs to Division 1 status four years ago.

"This is a building that is intended to house storage equipment associated with athletics," Schwarz said.

There are more things to store because the basketball team now plays a more competitive schedule, which forced the school to move games into the hockey rink, where the stands can accommodate bigger crowds.

"We have started doing basketball on the ice, so we'd like to house the flooring that we have for the ice, the wood flooring, the sub-floor as well as the hoops that we have," Schwarz said. "We did three games last year and we intend to do more this year so this is a great opportunity to store that immediately next to the building."

Competitive athletics are part of a strategy at Merrimack that developed after the Great Recession of 2008, which holds that "we had to grow in order to survive and thrive," as Jeff Doggett, executive vice president and COO at Merrimack told the Planning Board last October.

He then shared a graph showing that enrollment at the school has in fact grown "considerably" from a total of around 2,250 students in 2011 to 5,524 in 2021.

The link between sports and enrollment is spelled out in a memo that accompanied Schwarz's presentation on Tuesday, which describes the "positive impact" of the new storage building as an example of "Enhanced athletic facilities to further support the growing athletics program and recruit and retain students."

Chair Eitan Goldberg said the Planning Board will issue decisions on the project after the Conservation Commission has finished its review.