The new Student Athlete High-Performance Center hugs the contour of the Memorial Stadium and is largely underground. Photos: Tracey Taylor

In a few weeks, a brand new, 145,000 sq. ft. building will open its doors in Berkeley. Architects, engineers and construction crews have been working on it for almost three years, and the scale of the endeavor cannot be underestimated. However it’s likely you haven’t even spotted this building; and, even when it’s fully operational by the beginning of next year, it will continue to be largely hidden from public view.

Cal’s new Student-Athlete High Performance Center, built at a cost of $150 million in private donations, has been designed to be almost entirely invisible. Sited largely underground, it hugs the west side of the Memorial Stadium. From the street, the facility appears to be simply a long, stone-clad wall which follows the curve of the stadium.

“The beauty of the design is that it maximizes views of the stadium and keeps that as the architectural focus,” said Bob Milano, Assistant Athletic Director at UC Berkeley as he took this reporter on a tour.

The entrance to the Center which has been designed to highlight the historic stadium and retain views

The Center will cater to 400 student athletes and is divided into three main sections — one part is dedicated to Cal’s football facilities, another to the 12 other Olympic sports in the school’s athletic department, and a large core area houses an impressive array of training, conditioning and rehabilitation facilities.

The high-performance zone and main work-out space inside the center

Milano explains that a key objective of the design was to better connect the whole stadium area with the campus and the city. That explains the goal to ensure the athletic center wouldn’t obstruct views from the former to the latter.

The two acre Grand Plaza on the roof of the new Center includes newly planted trees

It was also the impetus to design a 2-acre Grand Plaza on the roof of the new center, a spot that formerly played host to a parking lot and a chain link fence. A number of trees have been planted into the “ground” of the roof plaza — not an easy feat, and achieved thanks to ingenious engineering and the vision of landscape architect firm Olin Partnership. The plaza will be unveiled at the same time as the stadium reopens.

“The plaza and open space gives the project a human scale,” said Milano.

Walls of Champions clad in cherry wood run throughout the Center

The lead architects on the whole project are HNTB Architecture and Studios Architecture and the structural engineering — critical on a site that sits atop the Hayward Fault — is being overseen by Forell-Elsesser.

New trees have also been planted in and around the grove of oaks which was the scene of almost two years of tree-sitting protests, after it was revealed some of the oaks would have to be removed to build the new sports complex. The trees in question were finally cut down in September 2008. The university has planted three new trees for every one it removed.

A bonus of the work: newly repaved road, new sidewalks and lighting as well as under-grounding of power lines on Piedmont Avenue

The center is reached by climbing a new sweep of wide, shallow steps that leads up from Piedmont Avenue. The street will also see improvements thanks to the stadium and athletic center work. The northbound lane is being resurfaced, a new sidewalk is under construction, new lighting will be installed, and all the power lines are being put underground.

A sweep of steps leads up from Piedmont Avenue to the entrance of the new athletic center with the stadium behind

Inside the athletic center, the amenities include work-out areas, a fitness studio, sports science labs, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, meeting rooms, a broadcast studio and press room. All the spaces are large and surprisingly light for a building that burrows underground — natural light is captured whenever possible.

Milano said some people will start to move in to the new center in early to mid-October and the bulk of its occupants will be in-situ after the football season in December-January.

Horizontal lines are a design theme at the Center, here seen in frosted glass in a medical office

The Memorial Stadium itself is still in the throes of its major, $321 million, renovation, as the presence of gigantic bracing and the hordes of construction workers attest. Two-thirds of the original building — including the concourse, seating, press section and core structures — are being replaced and only the historic walls will being retained.

The landmarked Memorial Stadium, which sits on the Hayward Fault, will reopen in September 2012

The public can view the ongoing work at a vista point on Piedmont Avenue on the stadium’s east side, which is open during construction hours.

A public hearing on the stadium, to discuss modifications to its Environmental Impact Report, takes place on Tuesday August 9 at 7 p.m. at the International House, 2299 Piedmont Avenue. Visit the project website for information.

The stadium is scheduled to re-open for a home game in September 2012.

Tracey Taylor

Tracey Taylor is co-founder of Berkeleyside and co-founder and editorial director of Cityside, the nonprofit parent to Berkeleyside and The Oaklandside. Before launching Berkeleyside, Tracey wrote for...

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  1. DD, My understanding is this project was generated from private funds.Wouldn’t any school on campus have the same freedoms, that is wouldn’t all the schools on campus be free to raise money to build or renovate their buildings?

  2. This benefits what, like 1% of students? It sure would be nice to have some upgraded facilities for the rest of us student-athletes.

  3. Based on these images it looks like a great design solution and something Berkeley can be proud of. Can’t wait to walk up and see it in person.

  4. I very much doubt it.  I would think they each have their own foundations and expansion joints or some kind of separation between the two.  I have not reviewed the plans however, so that’s just speculation.

  5. Remember that all of the construction now ongoing would already be completed, absent the tree protests and numerous lawsuits filed to block the project.

  6. Perhaps “share” was the wrong word. Doesn’t the SAHPC serve to buttress the foundation of the stadium in some way?

  7. The SAHPC and the Stadium are structurally separate; they do not share any wall.  

    The Omnibus Bill of 2009 enabled the University to get around the Alquist-Priolo limits on renovations.  Gov. Schwarzenegger signed the Omnibus Bill in October 2009.  Language to SB113 specifically exempted Cal Memorial from the Alquist-Priolo limits.

  8. Controversy and aesthetics aside — and I do care about both — the fitness center was a brilliant way to shore up the stadium foundation on the west side. The new center shares a wall with the stadium, which, I believe, enabled the university to get around some of the legal/regulatory objections to the cost of the retrofit project.

  9. On game days, I see lots of drunken people staggering from fraternity row to the stadium.  Would you prefer having all those drunken people driving to a more distant stadium with lots of parking?

    I also see many people getting out of BART and walking to the stadium or walking there from surrounding neighborhoods.  Would you rather have the stadium in  a location with no transit  or pedestrian access?

    And I see hoards of people shopping and eating at Telegraph Ave and downtown Berkeley businesses on game days.  Would you rather lose all those customers?

  10. A very discreet building. I can’t think of how the project could hev been executed with more sensitivity to the historical California Memorial Stadium. The improvements to the site, stadium and street are a true gift to the community. When the project is completed it will be a true source of pride for the University and will be admired by visitors for generations.

  11. This truly is a beautiful, non invasive environmentally conscious building. I love the way it tucks into the existing hill and celebrates the historic stadium wall. The underground placement which reduces the need for exterior skin materials and the use of the earth as a natural cooling system is ingenious. This will be a wonderful extension to the west end of campus and a great addition of public green space with the new plaza.

  12. First, the SAHPC (the athletic facility you reference) is not built on the fault.  It’s close to the Hayward Fault, but it is not on it.  Second, Cal Memorial is not being rebuilt, it’s being massively renovated.  If it were being rebuilt, all of it would have been torn down.

    Your question about a different location for the Stadium and SAHPC with access to parking suggests that you have a location or locations in mind.  For the sake of argument, let’s assume that Edwards Stadium (SW corner of campus) would be the location of a new football stadium.  You’d also have to relocate Evans Diamond and Hellman Tennis Center to accommodate a new football stadium.  That location would be close to mass transit and it would be close to several parking lots and there would be better access to main roads and freeways, but it would not necessarily be seismically safer.

    Also, it’s not certain that you could build both a new stadium and an analogous SAHPC for $471 million (combined costs) in the Edwards Field location.  You’d have to tear down Edwards Field first and then you’d also find that you’d have to rebuild not only a track-and field facility and soccer facility (sports for which Edwards Field is home), you’d also have to relocated Evans Diamond (baseball) and the Hellman Tennis Center.  And you haven’t even started on the new football stadium.

    Where else are you going to build this new stadium?  At Golden Gate Fields?  That’s an even bigger nightmare (seismically), would cost way more than $471 million, and would be distant from campus.

  13. $150 Million for the athletic facility built on the earthquake fault plus $321 Million to completely rebuild a the stadium.  How much would it have cost to build these in a location not on the fault where stadium goers go have access to parking?    I bet a new stadium could have been built at a better location for a lot less.  

  14. Care to qualify and/or clarify your question?  How does one go about investigating or answering the question?

    Football is a part of the Intercollegiate Athletic Department (IAD).  At Cal, there are a total of 29 sports, of which football is one sport.  But, as is the case at the vast majority of NCAA Division I-A institutions, football is the revenue engine that drives the IAD bus.  The lion’s share of revenues (ticket sales, TV rights, licensing fees, sports apparel, etc., etc.) is generated through football.

    After football, Cal’s other revenue generator is men’s basketball (MBB).  Women’s basketball represents a net financial loss as do most of the other sports supported by Cal’s IAD.  As has been discussed in the local press frequently over the last two or so years, Cal’s IAD has historically run a deficit.

    That deficit has come from supporting 27 other sports.  To be fair, though, some of those sports reportedly have endowments or are self-supporting.  Most notably, men’s rowing has a large endowment; rugby otherwise meet the costs of their program through fundraising.  Indeed, rugby has offered to help found an intercollegiate women’s rugby program at Cal and work on fundraising to endow that new sport as well.

    Football brings the university millions in net revenue; how many, I’m not sure.  That football revenue is likely to increase significantly in the coming years with the new Pac-12 TV contracts.  We know that while those contracts include all of the Pac-12’s sports, the bulk of TV revenue is due to football, men’s and women’s basketball. 

    Other sports need that revenue in order to operate. And Cal has 29 sports, many of which were women’s sports added to comply with Title IX while maintaining men’s sport already in existence before Title IX became law.

    I am in no way an expert on this subject, but I am familiar with the broad general outlines and probably more familiar than most readers here.  So, you see, while I’ve only begun to answer the question in a general way, the issue is complex and hitched to myriad other issues outside of football alone.

  15. I certainly hope it was worth all the months of irritating construction.  How much revenue does football bring the university again?