Renovations become reality

Athletics Department and School of Engineering Get New Spaces

New club level seating inside the War Memorial Gym at the Sobrato Center opened to guests on Nov. 9, while a hall of fame museum dedicated to social justice remains under construction.  PHOTO BY BEAU TATTERSALL/SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN

After years of construction halted by the pandemic, the University has new spaces for students to visit as two donor-sponsored projects are moving toward completion.

Opening its doors just in time for the college basketball season, the Sobrato Center is a new space on the West side of the War Memorial Gym that faces the University Center and will function as the gym’s new main entrance for athletics and other events. During home games for women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball, the space functions as a VIP area for guests. When not in use during game days, the space can be used by students and staff as a work space, lecture room, study space, and more. The space features TVs, projectors, and speakers that can be used by visitors. The design includes polished concrete and open painted ceilings as a cost-saving measure and features counters made from the recycled wood of the gym’s old bleachers that were removed during construction. This space leads into the new premium seating area for games and features cushioned reclining chairs. Soon, the entrance to the space will feature an interactive basketball-themed water feature. The project was sponsored by the Sobrato family, who donated a historic $15 million gift in 2016 to launch the renovation project. 

Athletic Director Joan McDermott sees the renovation as a way to integrate the athletics department with the USF community, utilizing a shared space. “We really wanted to kind of be the center of campus in many ways. That’s why we have that new entrance. I think it really draws students to the building,” McDermott said. “We don’t want Athletics just to be this little group of students over here in the corner. It’s important that we are involved with the University community as a whole. This is our way of inviting the campus community into the building to utilize it.” 

War Memorial’s old entrance on Golden Gate Avenue is being turned into a Social Justice Hall of Fame that will tie moments in the University athletics’ history with the school’s social justice initiatives. “We’ll start the social justice museum, and we’re going to thread that through the building. We’re going to have different places in the building where the story is told,” McDermott said. “Whether it’s the 1951 Dons football team, or the ‘55 and ‘56 men’s basketball teams, we are trying to tie it in over the years.” 

Located on the first floor of Harney Science Center, the Innovation Hive’s open space is designed to be used by all students. PHOTO BY BEAU TATTERSALL/SAN FRANCISCO FOGHORN

Elsewhere on campus, the Innovation Hive in Harney Science Center is now open, which provides two spaces for students to work. One space, situated at the building’s main entrance, is open for all and provides seating and whiteboards students can use for studying. The second space is located behind the public area. This space is for the new school of engineering students to design and build model prototypes and projects. The section features machinery including a laser cutter, 3D printers, drill presses, industrial printers, and lockers for students to store their designs. The space was a gift to the School of Engineering in celebration of the new engineering program. 

Director of Engineering Laboratories Sean Olson has played a vital role in getting the space ready for students. “My excitement for the Hive gets all wrapped up in my excitement for having students back on campus. My role has been to consolidate two main goals and share these needs with facilities who have been coordinating with the architects and construction for the design and build of the new lab,” Olson said. 

 “My first role has been working with Dr. Julia Thompson, the faculty director of the hive, to look at how and with what equipment project classes will be taught in the Hive. The second is planning out how the Hive will be used by engineering and the rest of campus outside of the engineering project classes.”

The new workspace, which used to be office space, is projected to be ready for classes in January 2022.

James Salazar contributed to the reporting of this article. 

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