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Blueprint for the Future: Architects Named, Plans Announced for University Events Center

By Nate Ethell ('08)

A dream more than two decades in the making, Pepperdine University has begun taking its first steps to construct a new University Events Center, its largest ever single capital project. It represents the Campaign for Pepperdine's most ambitious priority, seeking to raise at least $50 million. Once completed, the University Events Center will be celebrated as the University's premier events and athletics facility, uniting the Pepperdine community and its students like never before.

As the future iconic centerpiece of the Malibu campus, the University Events Center is being billed as the quad evolution. "From the outset, this project was viewed as one of the most important opportunities to enhance student life on campus," said Phil Phillips, vice president for administration. "With its prominent place among student residences, availability of open spaces for courtyards, plazas, and other gathering places, and its inclusion of food service components, the University Events Center will bring students together every day."

Envisioned 20 years ago through Pepperdine's Long-Range Development Plan, the project was approved unanimously by the Los Angeles County Regional Planning Commission in May 2011. Staged at the top of the undergraduate campus in the heart of student housing, the building will be a multi-purpose events, performance, and student athletics complex, designed to unite the community through indoor and outdoor recreation, meeting, and dining spaces central to student life.

"The University Events Center will play a key role in bringing together resident and non-resident students, athletes and non-athletes, and undergraduate and graduate students," said Wilbur Faulk, associate vice president for planning, operations, and construction. "Its highly prominent location at the top of the Runnels Sports and Recreation Village will connect students, as well as alumni, with signature events and athletics that enrich the collegiate experience."

Part of the University's Campus Life Project, the building will include an 18,500 square-foot event floor with spectator seating for up to 5,000. As Pepperdine's largest venue, it will host the University's major events, including graduations, convocations, and the annual Bible Lectures, as well as conferences, lectures, concerts, dinners, and athletic competitions. Continuing Pepperdine's tradition of implementing green building design and construction, the structure will be designed to meet or exceed LEED Silver standards.

The facility's commitment to community will be exemplified in its additional spaces, including a food court and academic work rooms, as well as an amenity-rich hospitality room. Featuring panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, the hospitality room will host a variety of gatherings, from student and alumni events, banquets, and meetings to pre-game and halftime receptions and rallies.

Seaver College alumni Joe ('76) and Tari ('76) Rokus are leading the project's fundraising effort. "As cochairs for the University Events Center and Athletics campaign committee, Joe and I are thrilled to be steering the way for this extraordinary facility," said Tari. "One of my fondest memories as a student was assisting President Gerald Ford and John Wayne at the dedication of Firestone Fieldhouse. It is my hope that one day other students will get the honor of escorting another president as we dedicate the new University Events Center."

Pepperdine has hired Sink Combs Dethlefs as principal architects and Gruen Associates as associate architects for the project. Following a request for qualifications sent to 15 potential architectural firms, and interviews with the eight most qualified firms, the University made its final selection from three firms asked to submit formal proposals and participate in a design competition. Those finalists were chosen for their excellent staffing, expertise in the industry, and experience with athletic facilities.

"We selected Sink Combs Dethlefs based on the results of several design workshops, presentations, and concept development with the final three firms," said Wilbur. "Their concept design was an exciting demonstration of their clear understanding of and ability to address the University's needs and its unique architectural heritage and aesthetic direction."

Sink Combs Dethlefs' principal-in-charge has been involved in the design of each of the more than 40 arenas completed by the firm in the past 35 years. The firm's president, who will also be assisting with design review, has worked with more than 20 Division I schools in athletic and recreation facility design. Sink Combs Dethlefs will serve as lead design architect, while local-architect Gruen Associates, also working with Sink Combs Dethlefs in the design process, will oversee day-to-day construction. McCarthy Building Companies, one of the top 10 commercial builders in the country, will serve as the project's contractor.

"In selection of both the architect and contractor, primary factors we considered were experience and reputation with the building type and institutional clients, especially in higher education, and the firms' business philosophies and ‘fit' with Pepperdine," remarked Chris Portway, campus architect for Pepperdine. "It was very important that we bring on board collaborative professionals who will truly partner with Pepperdine in pursuit of the best possible project for the University."

Event's Center: South Facade

Event's Center: Vista Terrace

Event's Center: Concert

Event's Center: Debate

Event's Center: Hospitality Room

Event's Center: Basketball

Event's Center: Volleyball

The University Events Center will also be an important upgrade to Pepperdine's athletic facilities. Fully complying with NCAA regulations for athletic competitions, elements developed specifically for student athletes will serve as an influential recruiting tool for Pepperdine athletics, which recently was honored for the third time in eight years with the Division I-AAA Athletics Directors Association All- Sports Trophy for the 2011-2012 year.

"The competition for recruiting Division I student athletes is intense, to say the least," said Steve Potts, director of athletics. "There are so many positives about Pepperdine and our athletics program, but this new facility will be an incredible addition to our recruiting efforts. It will signal that Pepperdine competes in intercollegiate athletics at the highest level and quality in all that we do."

Plans for the complex include full-size practice courts, allowing student-athletes to practice when other events are occupying the main arena floor. Recruiting and team success will be enhanced by a performance center for strength and conditioning, as well as a comprehensive sports medicine suite, where doctors and trainers will be equipped to administer injury rehabilitation for all of Pepperdine's student-athletes.

As Pepperdine continues fundraising for the facility, early backing for the endeavor has been encouraging. "The surge of support from donors for a project of this scale is very exciting," said Sam Lagana, associate vice chancellor. "The University Events Center will be a lifechanging experience for this campus, and we are in a wonderful position to welcome many people who will help us make it a reality!"

Meanwhile, the University currently is progressing through the application and submission process for California Coastal Commission approval. The construction permit process for the building will follow the coastal commission's approval.

"The University Events Center will be a world-class complex for students and alumni and a preeminent athletic facility on the West Coast," said campaign co-chair Joe Rokus. "We still have plenty of work to do before we break ground, but if we all do our part in supporting this remarkable new facility, there will be no limit to the number of lives we can change."

For more information about giving and naming opportunities for the University Events Center, please contact Sam Lagana, associate vice chancellor, at (310) 506-4454 or .