Sending In the Specialists

Sending In the Specialists

Hockey rinks, chapels, or academic offices, these guys know the job

By Stephen Gawlik
Staff Writer

It is revered as the site of memorable Boston College hockey games, and the home ice of the 2001 national champion Eagles. But up until three years ago, Conte Forum's Kelley Rink also drew its share of criticism.

Members of the Facilities Management Special Projects Group (L-R): Andrew Prince, Nicholas Mastropoll, James Greene, Paul Banta, James Brown, Donald Murphy, John Romeo, John Page and Fernando Senatore. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Visiting teams claimed the alignment of benches at one side of the rink gave the team defending the near goal an unfair edge, because their substitutes could reach the action a few seconds earlier than those of the other team.

The complaints may have amounted to more than sour grapes. A National College Athletic Association rule states that a coach who believes a rink's configuration is unfair can demand that teams swap ends at the halfway point of the third period to nullify any potential advantage. The rule was invoked more than a few times by visitors to Kelley Rink over the years, adding psychological intrigue to the already intense competitive atmosphere.
Finally, at the end of the 1998-99 season, administrators decided the time was ripe to renovate the rink - as soon as tight scheduling and budgets allowed.

Enter Facilities Management's Special Projects Group.

In just a few weeks, the group relocated the rink's benches, gates, penalty boxes as well as the scorer's box and all the wiring and controls - and all the results met the NCAA guidelines.

"Special Projects did an exceptional job," said Construction Project Manager Stephen Connors. "We were fortunate we had a team we could rely on."

Since its founding in 1989, the Special Projects Group has been winning the praise of many at Boston College. The eight-man team is charged with taking on the campus construction and renovation projects that require a high level of skill and attention to detail - and often have to be finished on a tight schedule.

"The guys in this group work very hard and you can see it in the finished product," said Associate Director for Capital Project Management John Romeo, who helped establish the group. "These are some very talented and motivated individuals."

Romeo said the group was created to make scheduling construction and renovation projects more flexible and to reduce the University's dependence on outside contractors. By virtue of their high skill level, efficient work methods and familiarity with the intricacies of BC's buildings, Romeo says, the group helps keep projects on schedule and on budget.

"There's no doubt that the advantages are in the group's availability, the quality of their work and the cost savings they offer Boston College," said Romeo.

Along with Romeo, the group consists of lead carpenter John Page, carpenters James Greene, Andrew Prince, James Brown and Nicholas Mastropoll, and carpenter's helpers Fernando Senatore, Donald Murphy and Paul Banta.

Some recent examples of Special Projects' work include renovations to Waul House, Lawrence House, Connolly House, 14 Mayflower Road, and the recently completed renovations in St. Joseph's Chapel.

For lead carpenter Page, projects like the 1999 renovation of Hovey House are the source of considerable pride for the Special Projects. The stunning 122-year-old brick manor, now home of the Center for International Studies and several History Department faculty offices, required extensive work, including the addition of office space to the basement, the renovation and restoration of a conference room and access for the handicapped. The plans also called for hanging new ceilings, refurbishing the grand stairway and installing lamps that resemble 19th-century gas lights.

"Every guy put his heart into that project," said Page, a professional carpenter for 22 years, the last 12 of them with Boston College. "Everybody has their strengths, and it came out in that house."

The fine details of Waul House are examples of craftsmanship that Special Projects can bring to a job, says Connors. The exterior and interior millwork was crafted by the group, as were the ceramic tiles throughout the house. On the exterior, an overhang with large dental moldings was made and installed by members of Special Projects.

"One would never know that this building was only three years old as it blends right in with its 100-year-old neighbors," said Connors.
Special Projects has also taken on smaller, but no less visible tasks such as the construction of the trophy cases in Conte Forum and the display chests in Gasson Hall.

The group is now at work on renovation projects in Bourneuf House, St. Clement's Hall and the Psychology Department laboratories in McGuinn Hall, and will shortly begin work on the BC property located at 22 Stone Avenue in Newton.

One of the biggest challenges came in 1995 when Special Projects was asked to assist with Project Agora, an information technology initiative providing students access to voice, data and video services through connections in their residence hall rooms. For two summers, the group went into each room in every residence hall to cut holes in the walls, build closets for telecommunications equipment and make preparations for the cabling and outlets that now serve as part of the University's network infrastructure.

"It wasn't as much fun as it sounds," laughed Page.

Each day offers a different set of challenges for a small group that often has several ongoing projects, Page said.

"One day we'll be putting the finishing touches on a job, the next day we'll be doing demolition work. It's always something new and there's always something new to learn," said Page.

While each member of the group has his own strengths and skills, Page says the group's collective effort is what gets the work done.

Said Page, "There's nobody special in Special Projects. We're a team."


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