Workers have started clearing 230 acres in Hamden in preparation for the building of a $150 million expansion of the Quinnipiac University campus.

Quinnipiac President John Lahey announced the expansion — which includes a $65 million athletic center, a graduate education center and a student residential community — last week. The first step of the expansion will be the construction of a 157,000 square-foot athletic center containing a basketball arena and a hockey arena, each with 3,500 seats, university spokesman John Morgan said.

The new athletic center — which will be named the Hudson United Bank Center after the New Jersey bank that gave $5 million to Quinnipiac — is scheduled to open in January 2007. The arenas will be joined by a common lobby area for concession stands and ticket sales. The facilities will also include locker rooms, club and premium seating, conference and meeting rooms, storage, offices and weight-training facilities.

Morgan said the addition of the new athletic center will help Quinnipiac attract better athletes and will allow its teams to play against bigger schools. Quinnipiac advanced from a Division II athletic program to Division I in 1998, and its hockey team was recently invited to join the Eastern College Athletic Conference, which includes Yale and other private schools, for 2005 and 2006.

“Our athletic programs are already growing, so the expansion will only serve to benefit the university,” Morgan said.

The graduate education center will increase departmental space, add housing, and create parking for graduate students in medical fields including nursing, physician assisting, physical therapy, lab science, biology and pathology. Some of these programs’ offices are now located off campus for lack of space, and the university has never before provided graduate student housing.

The expansion will not only affect Quinnipiac students and faculty but also residents of Hamden and other surrounding communities. Yale Associate Vice President for New Haven and State Affairs Michael Morand said Quinnipiac’s expansion will generate revenue for Hamden because of the growth in economic activity that will result.

“Just as Yale University is the largest employer in New Haven, Quinnipiac University is the largest employer in Hamden,” Morand said. “President Lahey and other leaders at Quinnipiac have been terrifically entrepreneurial in making the school more competitive and attractive, which is good for the entire region.”

The new facility was approved by the Hamden Planning and Building Committee after a public hearing and lengthy discussion. Hamden Mayor Carl Amento said the university took “great pains” to ensure that traffic and noise surrounding the project would be regulated, although the campus is in a relatively isolated area. He said he supports the project, estimating that it will create jobs and draw 500,000 people a year to athletic events.

“Not only will the expansion have a great overall impact on the town by bringing in business to restaurants and shops, but it will also help put Hamden on the map in terms of Division I athletics,” Amento said.

Morand said he thinks the effects of the Quinnipiac expansion will reach as far as New Haven, because expanding higher education is good for the Connecticut economy.

“Quinnipiac attracts faculty and students whose education will contribute to surrounding areas as well, including the New Haven economy,” Morand said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report