Award Winner - July/August 2003
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Doing Your Homework

Belmont Hill School's Gerald R. Jordan Athletic Center
Belmont, Mass.

There's no denying sports play a major role at Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Mass.

With a student population of 425 boys participating in 16 sports throughout the academic year (not to mention extensive summer school and sport camps), the time was right for the private prep school for boys to invest in a new facility.


"We had been living with separate facilities that were much outdated and not equal to the quality of our athletic program," says Gary Hall, director of financial operations for the school. "Our goal was also to have everything under one roof so there was a synergy."

Well, it's fair to say there's plenty of synergy now.

"You can just step across the hall from a basketball game to a hockey game to a squash match," Hall says. "It makes it exciting to be in the same building with all these things going on."

The key to the project was to design a solution for inserting such a large complex in an area already occupied by playing fields, a track and old athletic spaces, all facilities that needed to remain open during the two years of construction. Of course, the new complex also had to fit seamlessly into the style traditions of the 75-year-old, 26-acre campus, which is surrounded by an established residential neighborhood.

Easy enough, right?

The innovative design called for partially burying much of the structure in the hillside adjacent to nearby homes while masking the larger playing spaces with smaller elements more in scale with the setting. For example, the most massive profile of the new complex now faces the open campus playing fields, while the adjacent houses only view building elements like roof shapes, heights and pitches that are in keeping with residential scale. Careful planning also placed all exterior equipment behind landscape walls or roofs so that all views towards the new complex include an uninterrupted skyline.

Since wrestling is a major sport at the school, the new wrestling venue was given its due prominence—instead of being banished to a dungeon-like basement like at many other schools.

"We wanted ours showcased instead of hidden away," Hall says. "It's exciting for student athletes."

A master goal of the project was to create quality sports venues for both student athletes and spectators, so planners did their homework, researching top-notch elements such as the right light levels and the appropriate flooring for each sport. They also toured other schools to get ideas.

"I think there's also an attention to detail that makes the building work particularly well," Hall says. "For example, typically an ice rink is a metal box set in a field. We added some features, like wood paneling, which warms it up. It wasn't terribly expensive, but it makes it feel like it's special."

Likewise, planners decided to give the basketball courts a more intimate feel. Instead of putting the two courts in the same large space and relying on a divider curtain to separate games, a permanent wall was built in between the courts.

"We wanted a space that when we have a crowd, it feels jam-packed," Hall says. "It feels exciting and packed to the rafters."

"A function hall to die for.
Nice visual connections throughout.
Gorgeous connection from track to building."

—Michael Bourque

"This educational facility is packed with recreation value for the athletic enthusiasts as well as the student. The blended use of brick as well as views to the athletic fields as well as natural surroundings make this facility a comfortable fit both for the site as well as the use. The attention to detail both inside and out results in a facility that presents the pride of the campus. While the space is significant, the functional layout allows a number of activities to take place without impending on one another. The architectural response to this athletic facility recognizes the campus pallet while at the same time pushing the design envelope's use of modern materials."

—D. Scot Hunsaker

"The building has a beautiful presence on the site. The level of detailing compliments the materials utilized on the building. Careful attention to the plan organization along with the consistency of interior detailing provides some wonderful spaces within."

—Reed I. Voorhees

Submitted by: Jeffrey Millman Associates now in association with ADD Inc in Cambridge, Mass.

Size: 93,800 square feet

Project cost: $15.5 million

Quick tour:

  • New 26,000-square-foot field house/ice rink
  • Two new basketball courts (8,400 square feet, varsity; 7,600 square feet, JV) that occupy separate spaces replicating the warm look and cozy feel of the old bandbox-style gym that was razed
  • Seven-court squash pavilion
  • 4,100-square-foot wrestling arena
  • 3,000-square-foot training suite that takes advantage of views into and out of the space without compromising either privacy or the need for controlling natural light
  • 2,250-square-foot Common Room that serves a variety of school functions and is designated to hold up to 175 people for a sit-down dinner, with an adjacent full catering kitchen
  • Spectator and student locker/support facilities
  • Expanding the existing four-lane track into a six-lane cushioned track with the varsity football as the infield

Associated Firms

Construction manager: AJ Martini, Inc.

MEP engineering: Engineered Systems and West Mechanical

Structural engineers: Engineers Design Group

Scoreboards: Daktronics, Inc.

Gym components: Jaypro Sports, Inc.

Basketball surfaces: Robbins Sports Surfaces

Bleachers/grandstands: Hussey Seating Co.

Gym, racquetball and ice rink lighting: Columbia

Tennis surfaces: Gerflor Sports Flooring

Track surfaces: Dalton

Wrestling mats: Resilite Sports Products Inc.

Ice rink dashers: Crystaplex, a division of Athletica

Locker room flooring: American Olean

Lockers: Republic Storage Systems Co.

Racquetball flooring/walls/ceiling panels: McWill Sport Systems

Racquetball glass walls: All

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