By Tyler Kennedy
Staff Writer
A ribbon-cutting ceremony on Tuesday afternoon marked the grand opening of the Watkins Student-Athlete Center in the University of New Hampshire Field House.
The ceremony had over 150 attendants, including members of the university staff, donors, alumni and some of the student-athletes who call Durham their home. University President Mark Huddleston and director of athletics Marty Scarano made opening remarks for the ceremony.
One hour after the ceremony ended, one student-athlete was already making use of the newly christened room.
“All the athletes are very excited and grateful to have something like this,” said Kathryn Violette, a senior whose swimming career at UNH has recently concluded. “Especially in the Field House where we spend a majority of our time.”
Violette expects to utilize the new facility as much possible within the few months she has left.
Chris Watkins and his wife Karen, the primary donors for the newly established center that bears their name, cut the ribbon. The university recognized other donors by dedicating individual rooms within the center to them.
The center, which is located on the second floor of the Field House, is available to all varsity and Northeast Passage athletes here at UNH to use. On Wednesday, the center will open its doors for the first time at 8:30 a.m., staying open until 9 p.m.
This will be the current permanent schedule; Sundays will have an abbreviated schedule.  The current operational hours, however, will likely be extended in the fall semester.
The newly-established room has dozens of available seats, along with two small clusters of new Apple computers.  Also included in the center: a functional resource room and a group meeting room.
Violette described the previous study room in the Field House as “cramped, hot and [always happening] in front of a fan.” That old study room, which is located in the basement Field House’s basement, only contained around 25 seats.
Joanne Maldari, who serves as the Assistant Athletic Director for Academic Support, has her office located within the center where she offers guidance for many of the students who will surely spend precious study time there.
Maldari, along with two of her colleagues, works directly with the student-athletes on matters concerning the world of academia.
The university doesn’t have any firm requirements concerning student-athletes and minimum study hours. According to Maldari, many of the coaches employ such obligations on their own behalf.
“It’s a huge recruiting tool,” remarked Maldari as she made note that coaches have started to show the Watkins Center to potential UNH athletes.
Maldari helped to clear up some confusion regarding the funding of the center.
According to her, private donations were the entire basis for the creation of this center, and that seemed to be unbeknownst to some students on campus. The center, which cost an estimated $1.9 million, received no public funding.
That might seem like a hefty sum, but the benefits are expected to match the price tag.
“I do think it will motivate and help out the other athletes who need the space and support system that the academic center provides,” said Sarah Olver, a sophomore swimmer and bioengineering major. “Plus with the new computers, windows and other renovations, it will make everything more enjoyable.”

Executive Editor