Award Winner - May 2010
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Richard Jefferson Gymnasium

Tucson, Arizona

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

TMP/Breckenridge Architects/Planners

Size: 29,700-square feet

Project Cost: $11.8 million

Quick Tour:

  • 2 competition-sized basketball courts
  • 4 reduced basketball "sport" courts
  • 5 volleyball courts

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

General Contractor:
  Lloyd Construction

Civil Engineer:
  RS Engineering

Structural Engineer:
  Holben, Martin & White

Landscape Architect:   Wheat Scharf
  Associates Inc.


ompleted in December 2009, Richard Jefferson Gymnasium is a new practice facility for the University of Arizona's men's and women's basketball and women's volleyball programs. Prior to the gymnasium's construction, these three programs competed with one another and with other events in McKale Center, the university's arena. But then Richard Jefferson, a three-year letter winner for the Wildcats from 1998 to 2001, donated $3.5 million as the lead gift toward the project, one of the largest gifts ever given by a current professional athlete to his alma mater.

One of the first buildings that visitors see when entering the university campus, the gymnasium design reconciles several opposing aesthetic requirements. It frames the entrance to the campus while being a background building. It complements McKale Center without competing for attention. And, it conveys a sense of the university's long athletic tradition without being historically derivative in design. The building's massing, vaulted roof and large arched entryway are reminiscent of Bear Down Gym, the university's historic first basketball venue built in 1926. But, the materials and architectural detailing are more modern.

The new gymnasium houses two full-court basketball courts running end to end, as well as room for four cross courts, and five volleyball cross courts. Drop-down nets separate the main courts in order to add flexibility. In addition, the maple court flooring in the new gymnasium matches that in McKale Center so that players do not have to adjust their techniques from practice to competition.

The building features several innovative solutions. Flagstone from Northern Arizona was honed to ˝-inch thickness, allowing it to be thinset onto the corner stair towers like ceramic tile. An innovative frameless curtainwall system gives the appearance of monolithic sections of glass, overlaying the traditional building form with modern treatment. Unlike traditional metal halide court lighting, the gym's fluorescent court lighting can be switched in stages, allowing some or all of the tubes to be energized, making for more flexibility in lighting levels. Occupancy sensors and daily timers help conserve energy spent on these lights.

The gymnasium not only supports the university's athletic needs, but also the community's. Hundreds of Southern Arizona children enroll in summer basketball and volleyball camps each year. This facility greatly increases the number of courts available for this purpose.

The 1997 National Champion Men's Basketball program uses every tool at its disposal to convince the nation's top high school players to enroll at Arizona. The first-class practice facility, named for a former UA and NBA star, has become instrumental in that effort. The women's basketball and volleyball programs also find this facility indispensable in their efforts.


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