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Campus Sports a New Trophy: UC’s New Varsity Village


The opening of the University of Cincinnati’s Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village will cap the 2005-2006 school year with the celebration of another milestone in UC’s Master Plan. Project architects describe the new core of Varsity Village – the Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center – as a muscular building of solidity and girth.

Date: 4/27/2006 12:00:00 AM
By: Mary Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Andrew Higley

UC ingot  

It was while sitting in the press box of the old baseball field on campus that architect Bernard Tschumi got the idea to position the University of Cincinnati’s new Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center as a ‘squeeze play’ into the compressed space between the university’s Fifth Third Arena and Nippert Stadium.

View of Lindner Center and Fifth Third Arena

Recalled Tschumi, “In our first meeting, the UC athletics department said to me, ‘You can site the building anywhere you want to. You can reshuffle everything as long as you put everything back with space for all our needs… . Then, one day, I was sitting in the baseball press box, and I looked over and saw the squeeze space between the stadium and Fifth Third Arena. No one had looked at that space yet. It was a lost piece of ground.”

Tschumi was instantly attracted to this unused alley of space because he wanted the new athletics center to have a strong connection to campus life. “Athletics and academics are part of the same university family,” he explained. “This space was a natural linchpin, a pivot. That’s why I wanted it even while it demanded we design a building of unusual shape.”

Diagram of Lindner Center

Seen from above, the new Lindner Athletics Center is shaped like a boomerang – one which will propel the university into a new era of integration between athletics and academics. That’s because the center will – for the first time in UC history – centralize all athletics facilities around a single core, bringing organization and cohesion to the university’s intercollegiate administration, training, coaching, competition and academic services.
 
The Lindner Athletics Center is the centerpiece of the entire Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village complex, which consists of the new Marge Schott Stadium for baseball, which opened in 2004;  Gettler Stadium (a soccer and track venue), which likewise opened in 2004; and remaining projects, all of which will open during a two-day celebration of the building May 12-13, 2006. This final phase of Varsity Village will debut:

  • the Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center
  • a tennis center

The 236,000 square foot Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center is designed by Tschumi in cooperation with Kim Starr, senior architect with Bernard Tschumi Architects; Mark Thurnauer, senior architect with local firm, glaserworks; Barrett Bamberger, UC project manager; and Ron Kull, university architect.

Aerial view of Lindner Center

Thurnauer, who has been involved with the project since before construction began in 2003, agreed that the architects were unsure where to site the building that now nestles between Nippert Stadium to the west and Fifth Third Arena to the east. “When we began looking at the west side of Fifth Third arena, we also looked on the east side too,” he explained.

The decision to place the “lattice-work” structure to the west of Fifth Third Arena came down to practicalities: There were too many utilities located under the east side of Fifth Third Arena. Also, by siting the new Lindner Center on the arena’s west side, the designers could incorporate two existing floor levels, below ground, into the new structure.

“There were two existing floors where we needed to build a football locker room and a mechanical room. Those never closed throughout the whole project. We spanned over the existing floors,” according to Thurnauer who explained that the building contains eight floors in all, five above ground and three below.


However, what most will see is the curving “grid of triangles” formed by the concrete-covered steel trusses that comprise the structure. “This building is as precise as a Swiss watch. It’s a tough, fitted building of steel and concrete,” said Thurnauer.

Tschumi goes further, succinctly describing the building as “precise, muscular, eventful.” He added, “The building openly expresses its structure via its exposed diagonal trusses. It’s a building with incredible personality, possessing a muscular feel appropriate for an athletic center. It’s also elegant. It doesn’t have to sweat. It’s comfortable with itself and its site.”

Interior of Lindner Center

The active nature of the building stems not only from the diagonal movement inherent in the exposed trusses but the vertical and horizontal movement the building will encourage among users. For instance, Tschumi deliberately draws the eyes upward by means of a five-story atrium at the center’s main entrance.

“It’s a deep building, not unlike a cathedral. Because of its depth and size, I wanted to bring light down into the structure while also drawing the eye upward. That’s achieved by the skylight that caps the atrium,” said Tschumi.

In addition, the atrium incorporates a four-story trophy case, part of the George and Helen Smith Athletics Museum also housed within the Lindner Center. As part of that museum – created by designer Eva Maddox of Chicago – a 20-foot-tall video screen will display two-minute videos on the history of each sport.

While the multi-leveled atrium and trophy case create a powerful visual impact at the building’s entrance, a monumental “floating” staircase dominates the building’s central core. The wide stairway – a vertical runway, if you will – proceeds on a straight north-south line from its underground source on the center’s north side to where it rises aloft and comes to rest on the eighth floor on the building’s south side. Upheld by horizontal supports at each landing – and so without visible support from below – the stairway seems to glide, to be pulled upward.

Interior of Lindner Center

The construction of the Lindner Center has been both a challenge and a joy for glaserwork’s Thurnauer. “This is a truly unique project. There has been no book to follow in building it, and it’s been a privilege to be a part of it. You know, a few years back, I almost moved to Chicago because I figured it would be the only way I could work on the magnitude of projects that would really prove a challenge. But Cincinnati and UC have really made so much possible for designers and architects.”

And for athletes. Newly appointed Director of Athletics Mike Thomas said Varsity Village will make a difference for generations of students: "I have been in college athletics for more than 20 years, and this is one of, if not the most integrated facilities that I have ever seen. Not only will Varsity Village serve our campus community on a daily basis, but it will also be a magnet for UC to help us recruit the best prospective student-athletes and staff members. This is the finest collegiate athletics complex anywhere in the nation."

The Varsity Village project began under the leadership of UC’s former athletics director, Bob Goin. Back in 2001, Goin explained, “We don’t have accommodations befitting a Division I program. When you list the universities across the country and walk in the front door of the athletics complex, it shows a comprehensive program of excellence. We will become the university of choice. This will allow us to compete with the Kentuckys, the Purdues, the Indianas and the Louisvilles.” 

Thurnauer concluded, “We had a vision of being able to stand in one spot and see all the University of Cincinnati teams practicing and playing at the same time. That’s the vision that led us to today’s Varsity Village.”

And yes, stand on the topmost floor of the Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center’s southern tip, and you can see every practice and playing field used by UC’s varsity athletes.

 

Schedule of Public Events to Celebrate UC's Varsity Village
Among the events to celebrate the opening of the Richard E. Lindner Center and other portions of Varsity Village are

Saturday, May 13
1-4 p.m.

  • Self-guided tours of the Lindner Center
  • Nippert Stadium open for viewing
  • Bearcat Band performances as well as dance and cheerleading performances on Sheakley Lawn (in front of the Lindner Center)
  • Autographs, demonstrations and clinics by coaches and student-athletes in Gettler Stadium, Keating Aquatics Center and the Trabert-Talbert Tennis Center
  • At 4 p.m., free admission will be provided to Marge Schott Baseball Stadium to watch UC vs. West Virginia University

 

Within the Richard E. Lindner Athletics Center
Given the construction materials and the elemental use of diagonal trusses to form the structure, it’s a building of size, solidity and girth. It will also house a sizeable list of functions and features, including:

  • a five-story atrium with a museum detailing the history of UC’s athletics and academic achievements
  • a 12,000 square-foot practice gym with basketball and volleyball courts
  • new strength and conditioning facilities
  • a sports medicine, training and rehabilitation suite
  • a faculty club and restaurant with seating on two levels overlooking Nippert Stadium
  • the University Health Services Center
  • Varsity Village Imaging Center, a 2,200 square-foot MRI facility
  • academic services facilities to occupy one entire floor
  • centralized administrative offices
  • faculty club dining
  • ticket office
  • Pride Shop featuring UC branded merchandise and apparel

The overall Varsity Village complex surrounding the Lindner Center also includes:

  • a 3,300-seat baseball stadium, Marge Schott Stadium, completed in May 2004
  • Gettler Stadium (soccer and track venue) completed in September 2004
  • a 450-seat tennis center located atop a 150-car parking garage
  • a 160-by-300 foot synethetic turf lawn, Sheakley Lawn, for student use

UC's new Richard E. Lindner Varsity Village is part of the university's Master Plan, set in motion in 1989 to transform campus. To date, the Master Plan encompasses more than 30 projects.