UC Berkeley News


The transformation of the southeast quadrant of the Berkeley campus includes renovation of Memorial Stadium, a new student-athlete high-performance center (west of the stadium), a building to house Boalt Hall and Haas School of Business offices, and landscape-design improvements. (Courtesy UC Berkeley)

Renovation of Memorial Stadium announced
Stadium, southeast-campus plans fit Cal's ambitions in athletics and academics alike

| 17 November 2005

On Thursday, Nov. 10, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau led a team of campus officials in unveiling new details of an ambitious overhaul of Memorial Stadium. At a press conference that afternoon he described the first phase of a master plan aimed at turning a difficult field position - an aged and rundown football arena built atop an earthquake fault - into major gains for Cal sports, the business and law schools, and the integration of athletic and academic excellence at Berkeley.

State-of-the-art training and sports-medicine facilities in the new student-athlete high-performance center will serve 12 intercollegiate teams as well as Cal's football program. (Courtesy UC Berkeley)
The announcement fleshed out the comprehensive southeast-quadrant plan first outlined in February. Made on the eve of Veterans' Day weekend, it also honored the history of Memorial Stadium, which opened in November 1923 and is dedicated to UC Berkeley students, alumni, and other Californians who lost their lives in World War I.

"We have a transformation underway of the southeast quadrant of campus that will extend UC Berkeley's leadership in academics and athletics," said Birgeneau. "Our plan is ambitious, exciting, and innovative."

The initial phase of the multi-year plan calls for construction of a new student-athlete high-performance center for which the campus plans to break ground in December 2006, or, as Birgeneau put it, "right after we win next year's Big Game." Projected to cost between $100 million and $125 million - all of it to come from private funds, with roughly half that amount already donated - the 132,500-square-foot facility will serve 13 of Cal's 27 intercollegiate teams and include a sports-medicine center, weight rooms, study center, and team meeting spaces.

The low-profile, two-story structure is designed to follow the contours of the ground's natural slope, with the top of the building forming a pedestrian terrace.

Upgrading the school's training facilities has been a top priority for Bears football coach Jeff Tedford, who has said since arriving on campus in 2002 that the current substandard building, equipment, and locker rooms put Cal at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to recruiting top high-school talent.

"This is a great day," Tedford proclaimed, adding that the new facility was something Cal athletes "have been looking forward to for a long, long time."

A pair of Cal student-athletes backed him up, offering the hope that more successful recruiting will lead to more success on the field. Alex Sutton, an outfielder on the women's softball team, admitted that the plans for new locker-rooms "made my heart stop," while injured Bears quarterback Nate Longshore was particularly enthusiastic at the prospect of a larger trophy room.

Construction of the new center should be completed in time for the 2008 football season, and will not require the team to find an alternative site for home games.

The new high-performance center, to be built just outside the west stadium wall, will also enable the university to address the seismic threat to the hundreds of students, coaches, and staff who now occupy training and equipment rooms and offices under the west rim. Top priority for the master plan was to ensure the life safety of the people who use the facility daily.

Coach Jeff Tedford, who has emphasized the importance of such a center to the Golden Bears' recruiting efforts since his arrival on campus in 2002, proclaimed himself pleased with last week's announcement that the training center will be a linchpin in the first phase of the southeast-quadrant plan that also includes renovation of Memorial Stadium. (Steve McConnell photo)
Future components of the master plan - to be completed "as they are prioritized and funded," said Athletic Director Sandy Barbour - will include a seismic retrofit in the north and south fault zones of the stadium, a new press box, and grandstand improvements like better seats, concessions, and what Barbour called, only half-jokingly, "the all-important restrooms." The student section will remain at midfield on the east side of the stadium.

Barbour said the renovation of historic Memorial Stadium, which was built for $1.4 million, will result in a somewhat reduced seating capacity, but that she was committed to accommodating "at least" 60,000 fans, and possibly significantly more. She called the renovation "an exceptionally exciting project," and "the foundation for all that we will do athletically" in future years.

"I'm very excited about the momentum this project has taken on. Our supporters clearly understand how important this project is to our athletic ambitions," Barbour said. She proclaimed it "a statement about our commitment to excellence in our athletic endeavors, and a commitment to both a high-quality student and student-athlete experience here at Cal."

The well-attended news conference, at the Haas School of Business, also gave campus leaders a chance to show off a conceptual design for a future law and business building, as well as a landscape design and open-space improvements - key elements of what Birgeneau predicted will be "a wonderful renaissance of the campus's southeastern corner."

Chris Edley, Boalt Hall's dean, described the proposed new building as "a cross between a butterfly and a pyramid," with a wing each for business and law and "lots of prime hang-out space for students and faculty."

"Our goal here is to create the destination venue on the Berkeley campus - outside of football games, of course," Edley said. He added that the aim was to provide a "window onto Berkeley for the rest of the world" by featuring "four-star events" such as gubernatorial debates and talks by world leaders.

Edley said the new building would give the two schools critically needed space to expand their faculties and research programs and "maintain our international competitiveness," and enable them to "marry their intellectual excellence and energies in various ways . that frankly will be unprecedented on any campus in this country."

Edley also lauded "the integration of academic and athletic aspirations that we believe is very, very special and has caused a great deal of excitement here on campus and in our donor communities."

Added Richard Lyons, acting dean of the business school, "That stadium and what goes on up there is an important part of the connective tissue between our alumni and this wonderful university," including both law and business alums. "We want to participate in that."

The law and business project will cost between $140 million and $160 million. Like the stadium, it will be funded from private support.

An environmental-impact review will encompass all proposed elements of the comprehensive southeast quadrant improvement plan, including the stadium master plan, the law and business building, landscape-design plans, and a parking lot incorporated into the Maxwell Family Field site.

Birgeneau said that while economic considerations favored a renovation of the existing stadium over construction of a new arena, aesthetics and history also played an important role in the decision to give Memorial a makeover.

"I think there are very few sites in the United States that rival [Memorial Stadium] in terms of the intrinsic beauty of the stadium, and we wanted to preserve that," he said.

Designed by John Galen Howard, Memorial Stadium began construction in December 1922, and opened in time for the 1923 Big Game, which drew 73,000 fans. Cal outdueled Stanford that day by a score of 9-0.

The design team for the multi-phase project includes URS Corporation (project management), HNTB Architecture (stadium), Moore Ruble Yudell Architects and Planners (law/business building), and the Olin Partnership (landscape and site design).