Tile flooring

Boston University’s Agganis Arena opens sensory room, the first of its kind in the region

The crowds, lights, noise and other trappings of large events can be “sensory assault” for some attendees, but Boston University has found a way to help people decompress.

The opening of a sensory room at Boston University’s Agganis Arena on Saturday, however, will make adults and parents of children with sensory processing disorders much more comfortable hanging out at venues across the Grand Boston, said Brenda Dater, executive director of Watertown-based Asperger. /Autism Network.

Tucked away in a small room that once served as storage space, next to the offices of hockey coaches, athletic department administrators and interns, is the arena’s sensory room – the first of its kind in the area. – where guests of all ages experience sensory processing difficulties at an event allows you to decompress while enjoying live entertainment.

The 18ft by 8ft venue features a TV with a live feed of the event so guests won’t miss the action from above, bean bag chairs, floor tiles on a wall filled with colorful shapes , a colorful wall that guests can control the color and speed of the bubbles, a rocking chair, a bench, and weighted blankets.

“It’s really inclusive instead of saying, ‘This is a space that’s really not available to you,'” Dater said. “If we can do it here, we can do it in a lot of other places, which is great.”

Kris Brassil was general manager of the Agganis Arena for 19 years and he said he saw the need for such a venue growing throughout his tenure. Inquiries come from guests attending the arena’s various events, from hockey games to family shows to concerts, he said.

“Each event, we would receive one or two requests from a parent who has a child or an adult who is experiencing sensory processing issues,” Brassil said. “In the past, we directed them to the main hall or outside. Now we have this space.

If needed during an event, guests can ask any nearby arena employee for access to the venue, and the employee will escort them there. There, a guest services employee will monitor the venue, said Rebecca Reid, the arena’s events manager.

Dater’s organization has trained all part-time and full-time Agganis staff on how to recognize and respond to customers with sensory overload.

Sensory bags filled with headphones, sensory push-pop bubble fidget toys and other items are provided for guests who may need to decompress but feel comfortable enough to stay in the arena bowl.

There will be no waiting lists for the Sensory Room as it will be used on a first-come, first-served basis, Reid said.

“There are a lot of unseen challenges people might have,” she said. “Anyone with PTSD, if that foghorn goes off, they might need some space to decompress.”

The arena’s website contains social narratives or instructional stories that adults can use to alert their children to the different sights, sounds and smells that can be expected inside the arena before they arrive, Charlotte said. Powers, assistant director of marketing.

If there is strong interest in the sensory room, officials could consider expanding it to other spaces in the arena, Powers said.

“Being in these communities is very helpful to us,” she said. “They teach us as much as we try to grow and be more inclusive. Making sure we’re in spaces where it’s talked about has been huge for us.

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

Agganis Arena events manager Rebecca Reid unfolds a weighted blanket as she sits in a rocking chair in the arena’s newly opened sensory room for guests with sensory processing disorders at the University from Boston on Saturday. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

The Agganis Arena offers a bag full of items including headphones, sunglasses and fidget tools for customers with sensory processing disorders to relieve stress in the arena's newly opened sensory room at Boston University on October 29, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

The Agganis Arena offers a bag full of items including headphones, sunglasses and fidget tools for customers with sensory processing disorders to relieve stress in the arena’s newly opened sensory room at Boston University on October 29, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

Agganis Arena events manager Rebecca Reid unfolds a weighted blanket while seated in a rocking chair under a wall-mounted bubble screen in the arena's newly opened sensory room for guests with sensory processing disorders at Boston University on October 29, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

Paul Connors/Boston Herald

Agganis Arena events manager Rebecca Reid unfolds a weighted blanket while seated in a rocking chair under a wall-mounted bubble screen in the arena’s newly opened sensory room for guests with sensory processing disorders at Boston University on October 29, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)

Agganis Arena Deputy Marketing Director Charlotte Powers presses against a liquid-filled tile for guests with sensory processing disorders to relieve stress in the arena's newly opened sensory room at Boston University on October 29, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Paul Connors/Media News Group/Boston Herald)
Agganis Arena Deputy Marketing Director Charlotte Powers presses against a liquid-filled tile for guests with sensory processing disorders to relieve stress in the arena’s newly opened sensory room at Boston University on October 29, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts. (Paul Connors/Boston Herald)