‘Game Changer’ for Athletics, Academics

When you hear the new Edwards Family Athletics Center described as a “game changer,” you might immediately think about our participation in NCAA competition. And you would be right, given the new center’s role in strength training and conditioning, and sports medicine, and as a team facility.

But it is also a game changer for academics for all UC Davis students; for student-athletes’ personal growth and post-graduation success; for sports medicine for students, staff, faculty and the Davis community; and for collaboration between the Davis campus and UC Davis Health.

A ceremonial groundbreaking was held last Wednesday (June 24) with a limited number of people on-site, including Chancellor Gary S. May and Athletics Director Kevin Blue. Others watched online, via a livestream. Watch the recording here.

The program was the university’s second celebration of new construction in two weeks, the first having been held June 16 for the Ernest E. Tschannen Eye Institute on the Sacramento campus. See separate story.

‘Exceptional impact’

UC Davis Athletics in November 2018 held a news conference to announce it would build what was then being called the Student-Athlete Performance Center on the north side of UC Davis Health Stadium near the intersection of Hutchison Drive and La Rue Road. The $40 million project also includes a practice field, which was completed last year.

At the ceremonial groundbreaking, Athletics Director Blue announced the new name: Edwards Family Athletics Center.

Three men, physically distanced, in conversation circle.
Catching up, from left: Blue, May and Edwards at the ceremonial groundbreaking, held on Bob Biggs Field next to the construction site. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

“Bruce Edwards and his family have made an exceptional impact on our organization,” said Blue, speaking from the new practice field.

“His donor contributions are extraordinary,” Blue said. “But more than that, he has really invested himself in getting to know our student-athletes, coaches, and being there every step of the way throughout this process.”

Edwards, who, with his wife, Diane, provided the lead contribution for the new center, played football and ran track for UC Davis, en route to earning his degree in 1960.

“This is a great day for UC Davis, UC Davis Health, UC Davis Athletics and a dream come true for me thanks to the leadership of Chancellor Gary May and Director of Athletics Kevin Blue,” Edwards said. “This facility is a game changer.”

Chancellor May called the new center “a perfect example of the growing collaboration between UC Davis Athletics and UC Davis Health.”

“This is a first-class facility that will maximize one’s time as an athlete — and a student — while at UC Davis. For UC Davis Health, this is the ultimate fulfillment of a goal to have an expanded footprint on campus and provide sports medicine access to our local community.”

In revealing the forthcoming construction project in 2018, UC Davis Athletics also announced a partnership with UC Davis Health under which the health system received naming rights to the stadium (it had been called Aggie Stadium since it opened in 2007) and became the exclusive provider of health care services to student-athletes.

In addition, UC Davis Health will establish a sports medicine clinic in the Edwards Family Athletics Center, serving not only student-athletes but the public as well as part of the health system.

Centralized hub

Seven people dig into a trough of dirt, with golden shovels.
The groundbreaking crew, from left: Jim Les, head men’s basketball coach; Dan Hawkins, head football coach; Kevin Blue, athletics director; Bruce Edwards, lead donor; Gary S. May, chancellor; Jennifer Gross, head women’s basketball coach; and Jim Carroll, associate vice chancellor and campus architect. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Athletics Director Blue said: “I am excited about this facility because of the transformational impact it will have on our student-athletes, specifically their health and well-being.”

He described the center as a centralized hub for training and rehabilitation, with gathering spaces for teams, and expanded space and resources for the Aggie EVO program, which helps student-athletes move into the best possible jobs or graduate school opportunities upon completion of their UC Davis degrees.

Nonathletes will also find opportunities at the center, as sports medicine interns, for example, and trainers and assistants who work with Aggie teams. A 140-seat auditorium will be available for general use, for classes and programs.

Bob Biggs in hat, on video.
The former coach “attended” the groundbreaking by way of a prerecorded message.

The center will overlook the new practice field, with real grass, for use by all sports. Blue took the opportunity during the ceremonial groundbreaking to announce a name for the field, too: Bob Biggs Field, after the former Aggies’ quarterback and longtime football coach — 35 years in all, the last 20 as the head coach. He retired at the end of the 2012 season with a record of 140-78-1, the second-most wins in the history of UC Davis football, and having led the Aggies to eight NCAA Division II playoff berths including seven straight before UC Davis began its transition to Division I.

The building portion of the project encompasses 38,000 square feet of new construction (Edwards Family Athletics Center), and 16,000 square feet of renovation (Bob Foster Team Center, in one of the buildings on the stadium’s north rim). The renovation, to maximize the use of the available space, calls for updated locker rooms and offices, plus equipment storage for football, lacrosse and field hockey.

The athletics center and renovation work are due for completion in April 2022.

“The Edwards Family Athletics Center addresses the growing needs of our athletics program, which has grown in size and scope over the last few decades,” Blue said. “We are excited to see this come to fruition; this would not have happened without the generous support of our donors.” 

Names inside

  • Paul and Nancy Sallaberry Strength and Conditioning Center, the biggest space in the new facility, providing a greater number of student-athletes and teams with the ability to work out at more convenient times. Compared to the current weight room located at Toomey Field, the new training area is nearly four times larger in size.
  • Bruce and Marie West Auditorium, with 140 seats, for general campus use, for classes and programs.
  • Mike and Renee Child meeting rooms and EVO Lounge, providing additional quiet space for student-athletes to study for exams, work on class projects or enjoy a break from their daily class and workout schedules.

Additional naming opportunities are available at a variety of levels. More information is available online.

Eric Bankston, assistant athletics director for communications and public relations, contributed to this report.

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Media Resources

Dateline Staff, 530-752-6556, dateline@ucdavis.edu

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