Understanding the Future of War Memorial

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A map shows the expected locations of each section of the ongoing construction at the War Memorial Gymnasium complex. PHOTO FROM GOOGLE EARTH, GRAPHIC BY KALAN K. BIRNIE/FOGHORN

If you’ve ever attended a game in War Memorial Gymnasium, you may have asked yourself, “Wait, what’s the Sobrato Center? Which part is Malloy Pavilion? I thought this was War Memorial Gym?”

You’re not alone. The confusion may stem from the fact that the USF Athletics Department is involved in two simultaneous construction projects in and around War Memorial.

To make sure we are all on the same page, let’s get these names straight.

War Memorial Gymnasium is, for all intents and purposes, the gym. It’s the existing building between Hayes-Healy Hall and the University Center, where the Dons women’s and men’s basketball teams play, as well as the Dons women’s volleyball team.

Malloy Pavilion is the area within War Memorial Gym which is currently under renovation, to the west of the newly-opened student bar, in the direction of the UC. When opened, it will host office suites and enhanced seating options open for games and events. It will be walled-in either by a retracting wall or accordion-style wall units. By having the option to seal off Malloy Pavilion, it can be opened to the public and the USF community even when games are not happening. Ideally, it will become a gathering space for the community during the day and then host fan experiences at night.

Umbrellaed into the Malloy Pavilion project is an expanded USF Athletics Hall of Fame and a newly created Dons Hall of Social Change. Both will open to the public to share the stories and histories of the Dons through the years.

The existing Dons Hall of Fame, a wall of plaques on the east end of the War Memorial lobby, features athletes like NBA Hall of Famer Bill Russell, civil rights icon and football legend Burl Toler, and cross country and track and field legend Jennifer Hartford — who was the first runner in Dons history to qualify for the NCAA Track and Field Championships. It also honors award-winning historic teams like the 1951 Dons football team, the 1978 NCAA champion men’s soccer team, and 1995-96 women’s basketball team which won West Coast Conference tournament title and made an appearance in the 1996 NCAA Tournament reaching the Sweet 16.

The Hall of Social Change will feature a number of interactive video presentations which will offer visitors an in-depth look at the effects the Dons have had on history. The most notable example is the 1951 Dons football team, which turned down invitations to bowl games because their organizers wanted the team to exclude their African-American players.

Currently, the Malloy Pavilion project is blocked from public access with partitions and a large, hanging banner.

The banner advertises our third contestant: The Sobrato Center.

The Sobrato Center does not exist — yet. It’s still in the design process. When construction is completed, it will be a new state-of-the-art practice facility standing on stilts (seriously) above the Hayes-Healy parking lot.

The Sobrato Center will be a multi-purpose facility featuring 7500 square feet of gathering space. While the specific use is yet to be determined, it is intended to benefit the entire campus community, not just the athletics department. It will also feature an enclosed practice facility of one full basketball court and one partial court. Designers have also toyed with incorporating classroom and office space.

Now, before you go complaining that your tuition is going straight to sports, both of these projects are being financed through private donations. In December 2014, Mr. and Mrs. Tom and Sharon Malloy donated $5 million to the athletics program in commemoration of the storied Dons basketball program.

Nearly a year later, in November 2015, Mr. John A. Sobrato, a real estate developer and philanthropist, and his wife, Susan, committed to a gift of $15 million to the University to rebuild and revolutionize the War Memorial Gymnasium complex. Upon their donation, it was announced that the Sobratos would become the namesake of the center.

According to an interview with the athletics department, the Malloy Pavilion is currently waiting for a permit to be approved by the city before it can begin construction. If all goes according to plan, work should begin this coming summer.

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