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‘PHENOMENAL FACILITY’ — A ‘fusion building,’ ARC opens soon for tours

By Julia Ann Easley on April 2, 2004 in University

Fitness buffs. Student event organizers. Intramural teams. Conference-goers. A marching band. And cyber explorers. Together, they will breathe life into UC Davis' new Activities and Recreation Center, opening April 19.

Called "the first of a generation of fusion buildings" by the project manager for its design firm, the $46.5 million facility combines recreational and fitness areas with student club workspace, conference facilities and other informal gathering places.

"It's a new type of building on the horizon," says Marion LaRue of Cannon Design's Los Angeles office.

Even now, campus users may reserve meeting space for the fall. Doors will swing open for public tours on Picnic Day, April 17. And beginning April 19, employees can get a pass entitling them to several weeks of free admission. Memberships will go on sale starting May 17.

Two people who know the excitement building up to the opening itself are the ARC's director and a student employee.

Sophomore Rebecca Miller, who is one of a handful of students being trained to help supervise the building's daily operations, says her fellow students are eagerly anticipating the opening. "We're going to have so many new things," says the international relations major, who currently works in Rec Hall's equipment room. "Students are excited about the concept and how soon it's opening."

"We've built a phenomenal facility," says Jim Rodems, who, as director of Recreation Hall, has been involved in the ARC project since its inception.

With students funding the ARC through a self-assessed fee, their representatives led the planning process. Cannon designed the project, and McCarthy Building Companies, which built Mondavi Center, put up the ARC.

The building's exterior consists of pre-cast cement with stone from Northern California and brick. Rodems takes pride in the natural light and openness that characterize the building. Take a horizontal measure of the exterior, and windows account for about half of the distance, he says. A large exterior patio and an interior courtyard add to the activity space. "We think the campus is really going to enjoy it."

The 155,850 square foot building -- slightly larger than Recreation Hall, to which it's connected -- offers amenities including a juice bar, a pro shop, a computer lounge with PCs and wireless services throughout most of the building.

Fitted for fitness

Over two floors, the fitness facility itself features a four-court gymnasium, a facility for indoor hockey and soccer, a weight room and cardio area, group exercise studios, a running track and a climbing wall.

  • The gym accommodates four basketball, 12 badminton or four volleyball courts.
  • The multi-activity court has team boxes and rounded corners for indoor hockey and soccer. It also converts for play on one basketball court, six badminton courts or two volleyball courts.
  • At 6.5 laps to the mile, the four-lane running track overlooks the gym and passes by the climbing wall.
  • The 12,500-square-foot weight room and cardio area features nine 32" television monitors and cardio equipment with built-in FM receivers. The area also offers free weights, plate-loaded equipment and circuit training. Other cardio equipment will be distributed throughout the corridors.
  • Among the group exercise rooms -- all with spring wooden floors -- are two dance studios, a martial arts studio and an aerobics studio. A room for spinning classes will be equipped with 22 stationary bicycles.
  • Squash players can easily convert four of the eight racquetball courts to their own game by pushing forward one wall. The courts also adapt for wallyball.
  • Zone-controlled heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems will exchange the air in the locker rooms 30 times an hour and in the weight and cardio area, 10 to 12 times an hour.

Built to serve a student population of 35,000, the fitness side of the ARC is expected to generate significantly more than the 800,000 annual student visits to Recreation Hall.

Conference facilities

At the heart of the conference facilities on the ground level is a 5,000 square-foot ballroom capable of seating about 265 people. It has inset projectors and three drop screens, wireless technology, and an optional dance floor. Several meeting rooms feature windows, and the interior courtyard can host receptions and intimate concerts.

Upstairs, sports clubs will be able to receive mail and use shared workspace near the facility's administrative offices. Students will also have priority in booking the conference facilities.

Loudest among the student groups using the ARC will be the Cal Aggie Marching Band-uh! From cramped facilities in the old Fire House, the band will move into 3,670 square feet housing its office, library, workroom and individual practice spaces. It will rehearse one night a week in the ballroom.

Built at a cost of $27 million and totaling $46.5 million with equipment and furnishings, the center's construction and maintenance is supported by the Facilities and Campus Enhancements Fee students passed in 1999. Fees will be pro-rated for the spring quarter, but beginning in 2004-05, students will pay $68 a quarter toward the facility.

Tom Compton, executive director of Campus Unions and Campus Recreation, says employee user fees and other income from facility rentals and the food and pro shop sales are expected to generate $500,000 annually.

Employee use expected to double

In the ARC's first year, Rodems expects employee membership to be double the 400 -- or 4 percent of employees -- who are currently members at Rec Hall.

Garry Pearson, lead greenhouse manager for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, is one of the Rec Hall regulars looking forward to using the ARC's fitness area. "What they're offering is a much better facility and a wider variety of choice for the exercise area," says Pearson, who runs, lifts weights and plays racquet ball to condition himself not only for his job but also for cross-country skiing and hiking. "I'll be in there trying it all out," he adds.

But as Pearson points out, there's a hitch for some employees: Their membership fees will be almost doubling to about $360 a year.

"We understand the difficulty for faculty and staff," Rodems says. "We're working to keep that rate as low as possible."

Rodems says employees must be charged at least the equivalent of what students pay each quarter, and a business model suggests the employee fee should be about $65 a month. In explaining the higher fees, he cites the new facilities and equipment, additional fitness classes and expanded hours: 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Monday to Thursday, 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Pearson, Rodems and others have been exploring how faculty and staff membership might be subsidized as an employee benefit, but no decision has been reached.

Rec Hall up for renovations

So what will become of Rec Hall?

First, there will be a name change. Rec Hall will become The Pavilion at ARC.

The facility, opened in 1976, will be retooled to better host intercollegiate competitions and other special events. Restrooms will be replaced at a cost of $1.3 million, and seated risers will take the place of pullout bleachers for $2.4 million.

A consultant will be asked to recommend other changes that could include expanded food concessions. And while the basketball courts and lower-level weight room will remain, Rodems says, the racquetball courts are being eyed for a bouldering wall.

As the ARC opening approaches, Rebecca Miller is becoming more familiar with the building she'll supervise on a part-time basis. "It's been interesting to see it evolve, to witness that." And when she says she's excited for the opportunities, she isn't just talking about work, but recreation too. What does she see herself using in the fitness center? "The jogging track, the tread mills -- who knows? There are going to be so many new things offered."


Happening at the ARC...

Ongoing: To make reservations for meeting facilities for fall of 2004, call (530) 752-6071.

April 17: Tour the ARC on Picnic Day from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

April 19: The ARC opens at 6 a.m. Free passes offered, good through May 31 for those who do not have a Recreation Hall membership and through June 30 for current members.

May 17: Employee memberships go on sale in the ARC lobby.

Mid-October: ARC grand opening.