University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture

University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Exterior Photography, Facade, Beam

Text description provided by the architects. Inspired by the undulating landscape forms of the Palouse region, formed by the cataclysmic Missoula floods at the end of the Ice Age, the 4,000-seat multi-use Idaho Central Credit Union (ICCU) Arena was designed as a dramatic gateway to the University of Idaho campus. It serves as the home for the University’s basketball program and a gathering place for a variety of activities including athletic events, concerts, convocations, and campus programs.

University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Exterior Photography, Facade, Beam

The new facility provides an intimate spectator experience, showcasing the region’s unique characteristics and deep connections to sustainable natural resources. The mass timber design and abundant use of natural light represent a significant break from the traditional steel and concrete sports arena typology. The arena was envisioned to promote innovation in sustainable wood design, through collaboration with regional foresters and wood product industry partners.

University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Interior Photography, Beam
University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Image 20 of 22
University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Interior Photography, Stairs

The project’s formal and material expression creates a sense of place rooted in Idaho’s history that looks toward the future. It is a place meant to celebrate athletic achievement and serves as an educational catalyst in the form of a learning laboratory for students in the University’s forestry and engineering departments by showcasing the innovative use of locally harvested timber in glue-laminated long-span trusses, and dowel-laminated-timber (DLT) structural elements.

University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Interior Photography, Kitchen, Beam
University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Interior Photography, Kitchen

Extending back from the levitated west-facing entry porch, the roof splits apart to create overlapping contoured forms above the north concourse, invoking the sinuous rolling hill contours of the Palouse. To the east, the roof gently wraps down around the practice court and connects with the ground plane. The exterior side walls were designed to be embraced by the expressive glue-laminated structure. 

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The undulating texture of the charcoal-stained cedar walls draws inspiration from early homestead structures in the region and stands in juxtaposition to smooth fabricated beams. The open fissures between the roof planes are infilled with translucent glazing to provide diffused natural light throughout the performance court and a fully glazed wood curtainwall provides views in and out of the arena where the action is always on display. The exposed and undulating Douglas fir roof structure creates a warm and embracing experience for players and patrons alike.

University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Exterior Photography, Facade, Windows

To realize the poetic beauty of the wood structure it was imperative to integrate the mechanical and electrical systems into the structure itself. The primary structure utilized a splayed portal truss and a repetitive king post truss system. The portal truss and king post trusses were designed with double glue-laminated top cords creating an interstitial space between the structure that was used as a “utility highway” to conceal mechanical and electrical components. On the west side of the arena, utilities were concealed behind soffits integrated into the athletic offices, locker room, and alumni center which provides an upper-level special event room overlooking the main court. Looking to the west patrons can also experience the Vandal terrace under cover of the robust cantilevered roof with views out to the rolling hills of the Palouse where the experience of place and community comes full circle.

University of Idaho Central Credit Union Arena / Opsis Architecture - Exterior Photography, Facade

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