Chapel Hill architect designs UNC ice arena

UNC Ice Hockey Arena front view design. Courtesy of Gurlitz Architectural Group.


By Gregory DL Morris

Gurlitz Architectural Group, based in Chapel Hill, has completed designs for the ice arena that the UNC Tar Heel Ice Hockey Booster Club plans to build at Carraway Village. The firm and the club released the initial images on Monday. The club announced plans early in November for the facility, which could be completed for the 2025-26 hockey season if all goes smoothly.

The arena will be home to the UNC men’s team — which currently plays at the Orange County SportsPlex in Hillsborough – and a future UNC women’s team, as well as recreational ice sports, including youth and adult hockey leagues, hockey camps and clinics, learn-to-skate, figure skating, ice dancing, and public skating.

Facilities will include one dedicated locker room for each university team and four other locker rooms for youth and adult hockey. The planned capacity is about 2,000 seats, seven sky boxes, a dedicated adult lounge, and concession stands.

The Chapel Hill arena will also have an essential service that the Carolina Hurricanes notably need to improve at PNC Arena: public transportation.

“The Carraway property’s location adjacent to a Town of Chapel Hill Park-Ride lot offering express bus service to and from campus is the next best option we could find to being on campus in terms of easy accessibility for athletes, students, and fans,” said Greg Morey, president of the Booster Club, and prime mover in the arena project.

UNC Ice Hockey Arena architectural rendering. Courtesy of Gurlitz Architectural Group.

“We expect this to be a $20-million project, Morey told TLR, “and is subject to the Town of Chapel Hill process, just like any other construction project in town.” He added that the club has its escrow payment “standing by” for the four-acre parcel and anticipates completing the purchase before the end of the year.

“Within 60 days of that moment, we expect to file our application with the planning department to fulfill this vision,” said Morey. “We further anticipate the town process to take from 90 days to several months to execute the necessary construction permits while we are lining up the various vendors to complete their work for the site and selecting a construction company.”

If all goes well, ground could be broken as soon as the fourth quarter of 2024. The arena will take about a year to build, meaning it might be ready for the start of the 2025-26 season.

“It is a rare opportunity to design a state-of-the-art college hockey arena, so we focused on creating a space that the team, their fans and the Chapel Hill – Carrboro community can be proud of,” said architect Richard Gurlitz. “We believe this arena enhances the overall fan experience, whether for a hockey game, a figure skating competition, or a community event.”

At the end of the fall semester, the UNC men’s team is 12-5-1, and in second place in the Atlantic Coast Collegiate Hockey League. The last game was a 5-3 win over NC State at PNC Arena for the Governor’s Cup. The next home game is January 13 at the SportsPlex versus Virginia Tech. Given its record, the club will likely qualify for the playoffs starting February 9.

Gregory DL Morris is a business journalist and historian who reports regularly for TLR.

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