Award Winner - May 2010
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Wildcat Recreation Center

Chico, California

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Sasaki Associates Inc. in San Francisco

Size: 110,000 square feet

Project Cost: $43.7 million

Quick Tour:

  • Three-court gymnasium
  • Multi-activity court
  • Indoor three-lane running track
  • Two-floor fitness room
  • 35-foot climbing wall
  • Two 10-foot bouldering walls
  • Four multipurpose rooms
  • Outdoor 25-meter, eight-lane swimming pool with zero entry
  • Outdoor heated spa
  • Locker rooms
  • Offices and support space


inished in August 2009, the new Wildcat Recreation Center (WREC) at California State University, Chico fills a long-held need for recreation space. The Recreation Sports program formerly shared space with both Intercollegiate Athletics and Kinesiology in the Acker Gymnasium, but now students can enjoy approximately 110,000 square feet of activity space, designed to appeal to a broad spectrum of students.

Students enter through a soaring central gallery that visually and physically connects all the major activities in the building and extends the interior to the First Street forecourt and pool court. From this central space, there is a view of the activities and social spaces that enable this facility to serve as the campus 'living room' originally envisioned by students, staff and faculty. Social interaction and leisure factor highly into the atmosphere here, with the setting provided by places of varying size and location. A lounge and refreshment bar extend the gallery's social space, and overlooking the gallery itself, private areas offer room for stretching or to sit back and read a book.

Materials and colors draw from the campus's built environment and local terrain. The exterior incorporates a custom brick blend that reflects the original masonry administrative buildings. The main circulation flooring is a gray porcelain tile, which echoes the rock-strewn river that winds through campus. Wood framing salvaged from the warehouse that formerly sat on the site provides benches and desks.

Horizontal bands of translucent and clear glazing accentuate the experience of running along the 1/8-mile track. Protruding window bays punctuate the exterior face of the building's massing, capturing flashes of action at night and framing views for participants in the day.

The WREC is expected to earn a LEED-NC Silver rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. Its design emphasizes daylighting, water conservation and the use of sustainable materials. The site incorporates bioswales to filter stormwater and drought-tolerant plantings. Building systems incorporate solar thermal panels and high-efficiency boilers to reduce energy use.

But perhaps most impressively, the building provides a home for Recreation Sports programs and staff, and offers a place to gather and get fit for an average of 2,000 users a day.


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

"This is a great piece of architecture regardless of its use. The entire project 'holds together' as one complete design thought and not a series of arbitrary forms."

Dave Larson

"Very nice presence at entry. Interesting forms and materials."

Justin Platts

"Nice visual connection inside and outside. Outdoor heated spa is sure to be a student 'pleaser.'"

Susan Wallover

"Has a transparent quality, not just on the exterior wall but as it displays the variety of activities. Light and airy interiors bring the natural light deeper into the spaces."

Frank Beans

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

General Contractor: John F. Otto Inc.

Structural Engineer: Rutherford & Chekene

MEP & Technology Enginerers: Flack + Kurtz

Pool Design: Aquatic Design Group

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