Demolition of Alumni Hall Makes Way for New Convocation Center

Demolition of Alumni Hall Makes Way for New Convocation Center

Image of Alumni Hall Demolition

(L-R) Engineer John Phelan, Sr. with VP for Facilities David Frassinelli, moments before the demolition of Alumni Hall.

Fairfield University and Prep community members, including one of Alumni Hall’s original engineers, recently met for a final walkthrough of the building — a Stag Country landmark for over 60 years.

“The buildings are less important than the memories you made, and the people that did it, and the people who built and created these buildings.”

— Vice President for Facilities Management David Frassinelli

John Phelan, Sr. was among those who gathered onsite on Monday to share memories and watch the crane descend upon the roof and concrete arches of Alumni Hall on day one of its demolition. Phelan, a Fairfield Prep graduate from the Class of '50, helped construct the facility in 1959 as a field engineer alongside his father who was an architect on the project.

“It’s not going to be there anymore,” Phelan said, referring to seeing the building every time he would drive on to campus.

Vice President for University Advancement Wally Halas FP'69 also has strong ties to Alumni Hall, having helped clinch Fairfield Prep’s first basketball state championship as a high school senior in 1969. “It’s bittersweet for me because of the great memories we had at Prep.” Alumni Hall had originally been divided by a wall splitting it into two sections, and Halas recalled how the gym was packed with fans all the time.

Along with Halas and Phelan, Fairfield University President Mark R. Nemec, PhD, Vice President of Marketing & Communications Jennifer Anderson '97, MBA'02, Athletics Director Paul Schlickmann, Men’s Basketball Coach Jay Young, and Vice President for Facilities Management David Frassinelli were in attendance. Fairfield Prep President Christian Cashman, Prep’s Vice President of Advancement Rob Cottle, and Leadership Gift Officer Mike Connelly FP'83 were present, as well as Phelan’s daughter, Fairfield’s Assistant Director, Recreation Betsy Blagys, and his son John Phelan, Jr. '89,FP'84.

Under Frassinelli’s leadership, Fairfield’s modern campus has evolved and expanded. The Frassinelli family has had a long association with the University, starting with the construction of Xavier and Berchmans Halls in the 1940s. They built most of the buildings up to the 1980s, about one million square-feet.

Alumni Hall has been a landmark facility in Stag Country for more than six decades — home to the University’s three-time MAAC Champion men’s and women’s basketball teams, and the 11-time MAAC Champion volleyball team. The venue has also housed concerts throughout the decades, with memorable performances by the Beach Boys, The Byrds, John Legend, and more.

Frassinelli said that “Fairfield has put a priority on improving the quality of what we have — the overall experience,” and that the new facility will “really raise the bar for events on campus.”

Construction began this Spring on a new Arena & Convocation Center that is being built by Gilbane Building Co. on the current site of Alumni Hall. Designed by Architects and Planners of Centerbrook, Conn., the new 85,000-square foot, 3,500-seat Convocation Center will feature a state-of-the-art broadcast and media center, luxury seating and lounge areas, and will revolutionize the Stags home game and campus event experience. Projected to open November 2022, the facility will be home to Fairfield’s Division I basketball and volleyball programs, Fairfield Prep basketball and will host convocations, concerts, and gatherings for the University community and the neighboring community at large.

While focused on what’s ahead, Frassinelli reflected on Alumni Hall’s storied past. “The buildings are less important than the memories you made, and the people that did it, and the people who built and created these buildings.”

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