New Haas Pavilion at UC Berkeley captures intimacy of old Harmon in vibrant 12,000-seat arena

By Public Affairs

BERKELEY-- On the same site where beloved Harmon Gymnasium once stood, the University of California, Berkeley's new Walter A. Haas, Jr. Pavilion was unveiled for the first time today (Thursday, Sept. 16), revealing a stunning new campus building and state-of-the-art sports facility that retains the old gym's famous intimacy and spirit.

The new basketball arena, the centerpiece to the new facility, has more than 12,000 seats, about twice as many as its predecessor. But a clever seating arrangement - "as if 6,000 people were on top of the shoulders of 6,000 others," according to one Cal sports administrator - will continue to keep fans close to the game action.

The towering building is 37 feet taller and 28 feet wider than Harmon and built to withstand a major earthquake. Funded through generous private gifts and other non-state support, it also provides the Berkeley campus with a much needed indoor site for large-scale, non-athletic events.

"The transformation of Harmon Gym into the Haas Pavilion is a magnificent addition to our campus. The moment you walk in you feel the vibrancy of the place, but you also instantly feel a very real connection to the past that is just wonderful," said Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl.

"Student athletes will love playing here and our great and devoted fans will love watching the action here. But the Haas Pavilion is more than just an impressive new sports facility. It provides our large campus with a venue for extraordinary campus-wide gatherings, conferences and special events," he said.

The Walter A. Haas Jr. Pavilion is the first building completed and the most highly visible result of the campus's record-breaking $1.1 billion Campaign for a New Century. The $57.5 million project is being financed with $41 million in private gifts and $16.5 million from a combination of revenues from athletics, a campus seismic safety fee paid by students, and miscellaneous income funds.

In addition to the basketball arena, the pavilion includes a refurbished home for the Department of Human Biodynamics, including classrooms and labs; a club room for spectators and special events; widespread Internet connections and some 50 TV monitors; a state-of-the-art video system; a modern press room; athletic administration offices; and a team store selling Cal merchandise. And, while the 1930s-era Harmon Gymnasium was designed strictly as a sports facility for men, the new pavilion offers equal locker room and training facilities for men and women athletes.

Home to Cal's intercollegiate basketball teams, Haas Pavilion also will house offices for the varsity women's volleyball squad as well as aquatics, soccer, track and field, and the baseball team.

The public will get a chance to view the new pavilion on Friday evening, Sept. 24 when it will be open for a rally from 7:30 p.m. to 8:45 p.m. as part of the campus's annual Homecoming, Reunion & Family Weekend.

Harmon Gym, which opened in 1933, was the Pac 10's smallest basketball facility but the Haas Pavilion is now among the largest. The new pavilion is large enough to host first- and second-round NCAA tournaments.

The first basketball games to be held in the arena will be exhibition games for both the men's and women's teams in early November.

The idea for a new pavilion to replace aging Harmon arose on campus in the mid-1970s. During the next 20 years, feasibility studies were done and suggestions made, including tearing Harmon down and rebuilding on the same site, constructing a new stadium off campus, and sharing the Oakland Warriors' New Arena.

"There just was no question about it - the Haas Pavilion needed to be here, in the heart of the campus. It is a symbol that we are serious about what we are doing for our student athletes. Everything we've designed into the new pavilion was done with the student athlete uppermost in our mind," said Athletic Director John Kasser.

An $11 million gift from Walter A. and Evelyn Haas, Jr., got the pavilion construction project off the ground, and work began in March 1997. Donations came from many more sources, including individuals and groups who purchased seats.

Walter Haas, Jr., who died in 1995, "dreamed for many years about the creation of a great new sports pavilion for Cal athletics," said his son, Walter "Wally" Haas. "He hoped it would become a wonderful new resource for the university community. Today, he would be thrilled and honored by its opening and for what the pavilion promises for Cal's great future."

Except for landscaping and installing the scoreboards and video replay boards, the construction project is virtually complete, said Jules Feher, senior construction manager for Project Management Associates, on-site project management consultants.

The renovation required 2,000 tons of steel, 10,000 cubic yards of concrete and more than one million square feet of dry wall.

"I've never seen a thing or an object generate as much excitement as this building and the anticipation of its opening," said Kevin Anderson, UC Berkeley associate athletic director for development. "People who have never before contributed to the athletic department or the campus came through in a very generous way."

From the outside, the new pavilion has a contemporary look that incorporates the 1930s, Art Deco style of Harmon Gym. The old and fragile decorative facade and window detailing were kept intact and recessed into larger, stronger new walls.

The main entrance's old, paneled foyer was refurbished. Its ancient chandeliers and original ceramic tile floor are in the process of being preserved as well.

Inside the arena, the new court features a six-inch-thick flooring system - one of only two in the country. The resilient floor will help prevent lower extremity injuries to athletes and give the basketball a truer rebound, said Bill Manning, UC Berkeley's senior associate athletic director.

The arena was designed to preserve another facet of the old Harmon Gym - intimidating the opponent with raucous noise. Consequently, sound-baffling devices were omitted intentionally.

"Noise is what makes for a lively exchange on the court," said Manning. "Around the country and, in particular, in the Pac 10, the tendency is to move students away from the court. Not here."

Student seating has been doubled from 1,300 seats in Harmon to 2,600 seats in Haas. About 900 of the student seats are court side, and the Cal band will sit opposite the visiting bench. Harmon's old wooden plank benches, which were removed, replaned and refinished, are predominant in the student section.

But chances are, the students won't use them. Traditionally, most Cal students stand for the entire game. Knowing this, the architects arranged the seating so that fans on their feet won't obstruct any one's line of sight.

In fact, no one's line of sight will be obstructed in the new arena, where the building's designers insist that there is not a bad seat in the pavilion. The last row of seats is only 88 feet from the court - a distance that compares with watching Cal basketball from the lower concourse level of Oakland's New Arena, where games have been played the last two years during construction.

Nearly 2,000 club seats with chair backs have been installed in the arena. The athletic department had a highly successful campaign for donors to subscribe to these premium seats to help pay for the building's construction.

Fans also will enjoy wider corridors, a quadrupling in the number of restrooms and new concession areas. Eventually, the arena also will have four high-tech scoreboards and two huge, high resolution video screens with instant replay.

For Cal athletes, and for athletes considering playing for Cal, the pavilion's $500,000 sports medicine and weight training facilities "are more impressive than elsewhere in our conference, and the equipment is the best in the world today," said Manning. "This is top, top stuff that is critical in terms of the athletes' health and welfare, and it's critical in recruitment."

Previously at Cal, said Manning, "recruitment would come down to relationships between coaches and players. Now, we've got not only good coaches, but one of the finest basketball facilities in the country. "

The UC Berkeley Office of Planning, Design and Construction was the project manager; project architect was Ellerbe Becket; and general contractor was Morse Diesel International.


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