The Virtue Field House for Middlebury College is one of the most unique training and competition venues in collegiate athletics. The flexible facility incorporates an indoor practice space, competition track, expanded recreation space, and improved spectator accommodations. The 120,000-square-foot field house includes a 200-meter track and features over 20,000 square feet of athletic turf. The multi-use complex accommodates 500 spectators for sporting events and up to 5,000 people for large campus functions in an assembly configuration. The structure allows all athletic teams to practice indoors during inclement weather on a state-of-the-art performance surface and provides a much-needed large multi-purpose space that accommodates a variety of events such as NCAA track meets, intramural and recreational uses, and special campus and community functions. A rigorous master planning and programming effort determined the size and location of the facility, carefully considering the building's relationship to the existing athletic center and outdoor fields. The plan also enhances critical outdoor spaces to better integrate the entire sports complex with the campus fabric.
The project replaces the existing "bubble" – an athletics-only facility that housed an indoor competition track and floor space for field events. The new field house was an opportunity to better serve the entire College as well as the local community in Middlebury, Vermont. By increasing the width of the fieldhouse and placing the straight sprint lanes outside the track oval, the interior of the track became available for a myriad of different uses. Departing from the traditional installation of hard-top basketball or tennis courts within the track's center, this area is covered in synthetic field turf—providing athletes with the unique opportunity to work on grass skills in temperate indoor space during Vermont's colder seasons. The rest of the Middlebury community also benefits from the flexible, multi-purpose nature of the field house: intramural and club teams convene, friends gather to toss a Frisbee around, town neighbors come to walk or run, and children's sports leagues take over for weekend games.
Set slightly apart from the main hub of Middlebury's campus, the new field house needed to draw people in by externally projecting the energy and activity happening inside. The use of significant glazing along the front of the building provides clear views onto the track below and transforms the building into a beacon at night. Lowering the event floor 12 feet below grade mitigates the building's significant height and mass, creating a complementary relationship with surrounding facilities and outdoor fields. An expanded entry lobby provides a single point of access for each of the major venues housed in the sports complex including the field house, ice arena, natatorium, basketball arena, squash center, and recreation facility. A hardscape plaza and tree-lined pedestrian promenade connects the facility to the main campus.
Because of the inherent large scale of field house facilities, the reduction and management of energy use was a key design consideration. Middlebury was able to experience a significant reduction in energy consumption due in part to the eight 24-foot-wide ceiling fans circulating air thereby eliminating the need for air conditioning, efficient LED lighting, super-insulated walls and ceilings, and an abundance of natural light. The Virtue Field House has achieved LEED Gold certification from the US Green Building Council.
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