Colby College is thrilled to announce multimillion-dollar gifts from Trustees Jack O’Neil ’77 and Tim O’Donnell ’87 for the ice arena in Colby’s new Harold Alfond Athletics and Recreation Center. Their gifts will name the 38,650-square-foot ice arena the O’Neil | O’Donnell Forum and also name the venue’s rink in honor of legendary Colby hockey coach and Hockey Hall of Famer Jack Kelley.
“This facility will serve the students of Colby and—equally important—it will serve Waterville residents for decades to come,” said O’Donnell. “Colby ice hockey, both women’s and men’s, has always brought the community together, and the Forum builds on that proud tradition. It will attract the best and brightest student athletes who want to write the next chapter on Colby’s ice.”
Both O’Donnell and O’Neil were student athletes, with O’Donnell playing on the men’s basketball team throughout his Colby career and O’Neil playing four years of ice hockey and serving as the team captain for the 1976-77 season with Jack Kelley as mentor and coach.
“Creating a connection back to the Forum is very important to me, and what’s even more meaningful to me and Jack Kelley’s family is that we’re naming the rink to honor his legacy,” said O’Neil, who was named Colby’s C Club Person of the Year in 2018.
“Jack O’Neil and Tim O’Donnell are individuals of extraordinary character who are guided by their values and their commitment to helping the institutions that helped shape their lives and continue to better the lives of others,” said President David A. Greene. “By honoring the great Coach Jack Kelley they stay true to form—always acknowledging the good work of those who came before them, always recognizing the power of relationships that challenge us to find our better selves and reach higher for the things that really matter. Their generous spirits will be forever part of Colby, and for that I cannot be more grateful.”
A Dynamic New Space
The O’Neil | O’Donnell Forum includes a new center ice suspended scoreboard and audio system as well as a meeting space, the Cerepak-Knight Room, which overlooks the Forum on the concourse level and can be used for various events. The angle of the tiered seating in the new venue also keeps the intimate atmosphere of the former Alfond Ice Rink, while allowing excellent visibility at all levels.
To support Colby’s leadership in developing sustainable buildings, indirect sunlight enters the space through translucent panels, and heat recovered from the ice arena and ice-making systems is used to preheat the pool water, Zamboni snow-melt pit, and under-ice slab heating systems. The venue also pays special attention to design elements that are important to coaches and players such as ventilation, spacious locker rooms and lockers, a teaching space, and high-quality ice.
“The new ice arena provides an incredible space for players and coaches alike to achieve their personal and team goals,” said Women’s Hockey Head Coach Holley Tyng. “We can’t wait to welcome the community into the facility to be part of the action.” The space is ideal for coaches and teachers, providing a platform for student athletes to train and develop, including video cameras under the scoreboard to offer a three-dimensional view of the game and a classroom theater off of the rink.
Hockey Hall of Fame Coach
A key component of the gifts from O’Neil and O’Donnell is naming the 200-by-85-foot year-round regulation ice rink after legendary coach John “Jack” Kelley. Kelley, who passed away this past September in Oakland, Maine, at the age of 93, had a profound impact on the lives of hundreds of student athletes and elevated Colby men’s hockey into an indomitable force beginning in the 1950s.
From 1955 to 1962, Kelley coached Colby’s men’s hockey team, which posted a record of 89-51-5. After the 1961-62 season, Kelley left for his alma mater, Boston University, returning to Colby for the 1976-77 season where he coached his son Mark along with O’Neil. At Boston University Kelley won national titles in 1971 and 1972. He also formed the New England Whalers in the new World Hockey Association, which became the first winner of the league’s Avco World Trophy. Kelley went on to work in the Detroit Red Wings organization and was president of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1993, the same year he was inducted to the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame.
“Ask anyone in the community and they’d tell you that Jack Kelley is Colby men’s hockey,” commented O’Neil. “When he came back to Colby during my senior year, he brought the program to a different level.”
Supporting the Community
The forum, which is currently only accessible to those in Colby’s Covid-19 testing program, will eventually be accessible to the broader community for games, practices, performances, and open skate sessions.
To support Waterville’s passion for hockey, elements from the Alfond Ice Rink in Colby’s former Harold Alfond Athletic Center are being repurposed throughout the community. The glycol- and ice-making system, much of the piping and plumbing, lockers, doors, skate sharpeners, and several other items will be used in the new Waterville community rink being built by the Alfond Youth and Community Center. The wood from the trusses will also be salvaged and reused as the exterior finish of the support building on the new athletics green and in custom benches placed throughout the site.
“I’m looking forward to the look on people’s faces when they come in here,” commented Blaise MacDonald, Jack Kelley Head Coach for Colby Men’s Hockey. “The ability to get a big crowd for the Bowdoin game and have 2,000 people going crazy after a victory will be amazing. Just as important will be having local youth hockey teams coming in here to score goals and celebrate those moments.”
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