Haas Captures Intimacy of Harmon
By D. Lyn Hunter, Public Affairs
"One, two, three...GO BEARS!" This familiar refrain, shouted by reporters, campus administrators, student athletes and friends of the university, produced a mighty echo that reverberated off the blue seats and gold bleachers of the new Walter A. Haas Jr. Pavilion.
As the roar of the cheer slowly dissipated, the group of 200, who gathered Sept. 16, for the unveiling of the facility, got an awe-inspiring hint of the raucous noise sports fans will make there for generations to come.
"I wouldn't want to play here if I was Stanford," said Chancellor Berdahl, referring to the arena's potential for intimidating opponents with loud noise, a hallmark of the old Harmon Gym. "We will have an enormous home court advantage, worth eight to ten points per game," he joked.
Virtually everyone at the unveiling agreed that despite the addition of 6,000 more seats, the new pavilion has retained the intimacy, integrity and spirit of Harmon.
"My fears of losing Harmon were washed away with awe when I walked into the new pavilion today," said student body president Patrick Campbell, who slept on the floor of the old gym after the final game there in 1997.
Campbell was impressed, not only with the acoustics of the new structure, but with the amount and location of student seating.
More than 2,600 seats, 900 of them court-side, have been set aside for students, said Berkeley Athletic Director John Kasser. These sections were specially built so students could stand during the game without obstructing anyone's view.
"We did not want a professional arena," said Kasser. "We want the students to be a big part of this."
Basketball players attending the event were also impressed with the new facility. Junior Shawn Lampley, a veteran power forward on the men's team, said the new arena doesn't feel that different from Harmon.
"It'll be great to be back in our own gym," he said. "We got pretty tired of having to travel to Oakland all the time."
"I'm so excited, I want to sleep here," said Lauren Ashbaugh, a junior from the women's team. "The lighting is incredible, and I love all the blue and gold seats. It feels like home."
Don McQuade, vice chancellor for University Relations, proudly announced that with the construction of the new pavilion, Berkeley is no longer home to the smallest basketball facility in the Pac 10. "That distinction now belongs to Stanford," he said to thunderous applause.
"Bigger isn't always better," said women's basketball Coach Marianne Stanley of her concerns about losing Harmon. "But Haas is like a bigger, better Harmon. With the basketball, volleyball and gymnastics programs coming here, this building is going to come alive."
In addition to the 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; offices for coaches and athletic staff; and a state-of-the-art sports medicine and weight training facility.
"This will have a tremendous affect on our ability to recruit," said Kasser. "These improvements show we're serious about our athletic programs."
Although two-thirds of Harmon was torn down to make way for Haas, great pains were taken to incorporate as much of the old structure as possible.
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 as well as its ancient chandeliers and ceramic tile floor. The wooden plank bleachers were replaned and refinished and are predominant in the student section.
The pavilion is more than just an impressive sports facility, said Chancellor Berdahl. "It will serve the campus community as well by providing a venue for extraordinary campus-wide gatherings, conferences and special events," he said.
Berdahl also expressed his deep appreciation to the Haas family for making the construction of the pavilion possible. Their $11 million gift got the project off the ground. Work began in March 1997.
"This is a dream come true for my father," said Walter "Wally" Haas, son of the late Walter A. Haas, Jr. "He loved Cal sports."
The $57.5 million dollar project is being financed with a combination of private gifts, revenues from athletics, a campus seismic safety fee paid by students and miscellaneous income funds.
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.
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.