Sunday, February 10, 2013

UO Football Operations Center

7-28-13 update: I've uploaded more recent photos of the Operations Center as part of my post about "Zen North," the improvements to Autzen Stadium's north side.

UO Football Operations Center under construction 2-9-13; courtyard view (construction photos by me)

The new football operations center for the University of Oregon is nearing completion. I recently paid a visit to check on its progress; as both an architect and avid fan of Oregon’s high-octane football program, my interest was twofold in nature. 

The yet-to-be named facility is another in a remarkable string of lavish projects for the UO Department of Intercollegiate Athletics. Like the others, the center is funded by the munificence of Phil Knight, Oregon’s uber-donor and best-known alumnus, and its construction managed by Knight’s development corporation, Phit LLC.(1) 

Totaling 130,000 square feet and set to open in time for the kickoff of the 2013 season, the six-story complex will extend the Ducks’ reign as custodian of some of the best facilities in the high-stakes world of college athletics. 

Brian Libby provided a first-rate summary of the project’s attributes on his Portland Architecture blog: 

Featured in the expansion, which will wrap around the north and west sides of the Casanova Center, will be a new 25,000-square-foot weight room, an enhanced grass football practice field as well as the addition of two new synthetic turf practice fields, and a full-service dining facility available to all University athletes, students and staff. 

The ground floor of the six-story center will feature a lobby and reception area celebrating Ducks football history, giving way to a centralized football operations center upstairs that will include nine dedicated football position meeting rooms, two team video theaters, offense and defense strategy rooms as well as a larger conference suite for the entire coaching staff. The centralized area will be flanked by office and locker facilities for coaches, staff, and student-athletes. Additional amenities will include a players' lounge, a recruiting center to host prospective student-athletes, dedicated areas to accommodate professional scouts, a media interview room, as well as an advanced video editing and distribution center. 

A new outdoor courtyard and plaza to the west of the Casanova Center is designed in the center of the complex, uniting the expansion with the existing Cas Center and Moshofsky Center

View from southwest overlooking new practice fields

Libby also posted excerpts from his interview with Eugene Sandoval of ZGF, the lead designer for the new building: 

"It’s not just about football. It’s about building a sports community. . . this building does represent Chip Kelly’s notion of football: we build our own future. We’re all about the best and the latest. We’re open to anything that makes us better. He’s an amazing man. And he’s also very savvy. Chip is really about changing and reinventing football, not only in terms of strategy with offense or defense but the way he trains people. And he needs a place for this. It’s really a pedagogy. The building is about supporting Chip Kelly and the mission of moving forward. And built into it is the flexibility to change over time." 

Since Sandoval’s comments, Kelly has traded his Oregon visor for one emblazoned with the logo of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. I fully expect his successor, Mark Helfrich, to extend the Ducks’ image-conscious, forward-thinking variety of football. The program is now larger than the figures most responsible for its success; likewise, the Oregon brand—cool, sleek, and state-of-the-art—is central to the design brief for every project. The new operations center furthers the advancement of this brand: like Oregon Football itself, the design is audacious and intimidating. It is also calculatingly sinister, cloaked within a darkly inscrutable suit of armor fit for Darth Vader. 

During his tenure at the helm, Kelly was notorious for his disdain of the press, his closure of practices to the public, and his sphinx-like silence on the subject of player injuries. Phit LLC and ZGF have followed suit, disclosing little about the new project, whether the subject under discussion is its exact cost or the full extent of players’ amenities. For now, we’re left to glean what we can from Sandoval’s comments and observations of the project under construction (Phit’s project documents are not accessible under Oregon Public Records law). 

View looking south from Martin Luther King Boulevard

This Death Star of a building may ultimately prove to be the zenith of an unsustainable college football arms race. Its completion is certain to stir the debate that pits seemingly unlimited support for athletics against spending devoted to academics. In the end, history may not judge the project by its architecture at all.

(1) Phit is leasing the property from the university, building the expansion, and will donate the completed project to the university.

1 comment:

interior designer california said...

Huge building. Suited for the sports itself.