HDR: University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) Community Hockey Facility

New construction of a sports/entertainment/convention center facility

By HDR August 17, 2015

Engineering firm: HDR
2015 MEP Giants rank: 7
Project: University of Nebraska-Omaha (UNO) Community Hockey Facility
Address: Omaha, Neb., United States
Building type: Sports/entertainment/convention center facility
Project type: New construction
Engineering services: Automation, controls; Electrical, power; Fire, life safety; HVAC, mechanical; Lighting; Energy, sustainability; Plumbing, piping
Project timeline: 1/15/2013 to 9/15/2015
MEP/FP budget: $20,200,000



The owner requested a state-of-the-art solution to house their successful Division I hockey program as well as their upgraded basketball and volleyball teams. Along with the desired high-tech amenities comes the usual high cost. The challenge of this project electrically was to meet the owner’s wishes while still coming in below budget. The ability to create variable lighting levels on both sheets of ice was one of their priorities.


The mechanical design for UNO Community Hockey Facility is unique within HDR, due to the fact that it has various requirements not typically seen in HDR’s standard design practice. One of the biggest challenges that was identified in the design was designing a system to adequately control the impact of humidity on the ice sheet. The university identified this as a key design feature, as they had experienced issues with their previous venues. With a capacity of 7,000 people, the latent or “moisture” load to the space is very high. With increased moisture or humidity in the space, the “softer” and “slower” the ice sheet. This load along with tighter control of humidity in the space requires more than standard rooftop mechanical equipment. The presence of airflow across the ice also can affect ice quality and requires unique design to not only accommodate ice events but also arena events such as volleyball, basketball, graduations, etc.



When it opens in October 2015, the facility will be one of the first new arenas in the country to be illuminated by LED sports lighting. A thorough analysis of traditional metal halide versus new LED sports lighting luminaires was conducted via lifecycle cost studies and by comparing other operational characteristic functions. One of the primary factors that ultimately led to the selection of LEDs was the ability to eliminate separate life safety egress luminaires and house lighting fixtures from the catwalks above the arena floor; the LED sports lighters provided an all-in-one solution. Due to their inherent “instant ON” capabilities not possible with metal halide sources, selected LED fixtures were connected to the emergency system to provide egress illumination on the arena floor, while others provided adequate “house” lighting in the lower and upper bowl. Each LED luminaire is dimmable and individually addressed through a DMX lighting-control system.

LEDs were also used to illuminate the attached community ice rink in the form of suspended continuous linear fixtures. These fixtures are also dimmable to provide the various illumination levels required by public skating, hockey practices, and special events. Linear fluorescent lamps were only used in areas of the arena where dimming was not required.


To provide the best mechanical design for the facility, HDR took several measures, which included conducting sufficient front-end research and working with outside consultants and equipment manufacturers to produce an efficient, practical, and economical design that fits the client’s needs. Environmental conditions in the arena, including temperature and humidity, will be controlled by means of custom rooftop desiccant air-handling units (AHUs) with several unique elements. Aside from typical AHU elements such as coils, fans, filters, and dampers, desiccant-type units also include an enthalpy wheel, a desiccant wheel, and a gas-fired reaction heat section. These units allow for the most efficient process to produce the necessary 35% relative humidity and 30 grains of moisture/lb dry air that is required for all sheet-ice spaces. To address the airflow concerns, the main arena and community (practice) ice will be routed as a “loop” distribution in which all supply ductwork is routed as a continuous loop to produce even distribution in such an expansive space. The airflow is distributed in the main arena and community ice in such a manner as to reduce airflow across the ice by directing supply air toward spectators, away from ice. Knowing the space would also be used for non-ice events, the design incorporates outlets with motorized dampers directed toward the playing surface.