Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour, coach Jeff Tedford and the Deans of the schools of Law and Business all participated in the announcement in an effort by the University to convey the concept of an integrated plan for the area - and to emphasize the word "student" in the much used phrase "student/athlete."
"Academics" in partnership with "Athletics" was much on display here.
The plan includes four major components: a Student/Athlete High Performance Center (HPC) located west of the present Memorial Stadium along much of the stadium's western wall, a new building across Galey Rd. that is a joint project of the business and law schools, a landscape design intended to make the area west of Memorial Stadium more fan- and public-friendly, and finally, (and lastly), reconstruction of Memorial Stadium itself.
This is a very different plan than the several preliminary presentations that have been discussed over the years since Memorial Stadium was determined in 1997 by the UC Regents to require seismic upgrades. Early design concepts centered, appropriately, on the reconstruction of the stadium itself.
In yesterday's announcement, the central element of the plan is to first construct earthquake-proof buildings to house all personnel whose offices now reside within Memorial Stadium. Athletic Director Barbour emphasized moving "those personnel who work in the stadium 365 days of the year" to safer facilities - even while the unimproved stadium continues to be used for football Saturdays.
The logic is clear. If an earthquake were to strike in the next year, it would put at risk the people who work in the facility most of the days of the year, many for 8, 10, or 12 hours a day, certainly much more during football season given coach in-office sleeping habits. Leaving aside the rigor of careful estimates, for the sake of discussion we can postulate that the stadium is occupied at least 40% of the year, which means if a quake hits, there is now an (at least) 40% chance of risk to life.
The numbers change dramatically when staff and personnel have been moved to the new buildings. Once that's accomplished, fans for football games will occupy the stadium for just 6 (or 7) days a year for (say) 4 hours. That amounts to 28 hours total out of a year of 8,760 hours, thus reducing the chance of occupancy during a quake to less than one-half-of one percent.
So, safety comes first, as it should.
But there's more strategic thinking in the plans outlined yesterday than just earthquake safety. The first-to-be-built buildings also address coach Tedford's key goal: state-of-the-art training facilities. The new buildings will include 132,000 square feet of "program space" and 23,000 square feet of strength and conditioning facilities. Also to be included are academic-study areas, locker rooms, sports-medicine facilities, meeting rooms, and others. Detailed plans have not been released, but Athletic Director Sandy Barbour's stated goal is that these facilities should be "competitive on the national level."
|Side cutaway view|
The HPC buildings will be substantially underground, or more accurately "below grade", so they will not obstruct the view of the western wall of the stadium. This approach allows the inherent beauty of the classic structure to remain visible, and will allow long-time Cal fans to do personal genuflections at Cal's own western wall as they remember great Cal teams of the past.
(To see a full-screen view of the image above, click here.)
Construction of the High-Performance Center will begin following the 2006 football season "after we defeat Stanford in the Big Game," according to Barbour, and will be completed in 2008.
Meantime, the stadium itself will abide. It will not be structurally changed while the HPC buildings are being erected, though some fan amenities may be addressed in the interim. Actual renovation of the stadium will not begin until 2008 or 09 - with both schedules and plans dependent on fund-raising that can be substantially undertaken only after HPC center funding is complete.
Barbour said Thursday that the current thinking is that the stadium can be renovated without playing any home games at other locations. "We may be able to do the work section-by section in a way that allows games to be played while construction is still underway.
"Our minimum spec at this point is 60,000 seats, some of which on the western side will be club or premium areas with either chair-back or bench-back seating. We're hoping for more total seats, but 60,000 is the minimum.
"One idea we're looking at is what we are calling 'a California box' where (say) eight seats would be grouped together and set aside for group-purchasers. And - I'm still firmly committed to the idea that the student section will stay where it is."
Thus this phased approach is a radical innovation from early concepts. It inherently redirects all past fund raising for the project away from a stadium rebuild - to the new, separate, "facilities'" build. Though Barbour did not address the issue publicly, it is probable that donors who made early commitments may have been contacted for approval of this revised plan.
That's a bold step, one that appears to have succeeded. In the press conference Thursday Barbour said that past and present commitments - "plus those under current negotiation" - add up to about $60 million, about half of what will be needed for the HPC buildings
The phased approach is, inherently, a gamble. The plan builds now that which is affordable now, while deferring fund-raising for future phases. This may be the only realistic plan given the financial realities imposed by fund-raising to date, but it does accomplish key goals.
This report also contains video clips of the announcements made by Athletic Director Sandy Barbour and Jeff Tedford. These videos are available to Bear Insider subscribers only:
Sandy Barbour, part 1:
Sandy Barbour, part 2:
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