Campus Kicks Off Construction at Athletic Center

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Twenty-three months after they hoped to first begin construction, UC Berkeley broke ground at the site of the planned $140 million athletic center in a private gathering near Memorial Stadium.

In a speech to campus administrators, coaches and donors who attended the ceremony, Athletic Director Sandy Barbour said she was relieved construction was beginning after such a long delay.

"For now we are under way and it sure feels good," she said.

The center would provide much-needed locker and training space to student athletes, campus officials say.

The center has been funded entirely by private donations. So far approximately 300 people have donated almost $108,000,000 to the project, Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said.

UC Berkeley alumnus Barclay Simpson, one of the chief contributors to the project, said he thought it was important to fund college athletics because a strong football team would get people excited about the campus and they would then donate their own money.

Simpson, the owner of Simpson Manufacturing, declined to give the exact amount of his donation, but did say it was more than $10 million.

The campus was prevented from building until a few weeks ago, when a state court lifted an injunction preventing construction that had been in place since January 2007.

The injunction was put in place after three groups--the city of Berkeley, Panoramic Hill Association and the California Oak Foundation--all sued the campus seeking to prevent construction.

But in July a judge ruled in favor of the campus.

Both the foundation and the association have appealed the decision.

Charles Olson, the attorney contracted by the campus, said he was not concerned by the appeal.

"If (the California Oak Foundation) wants to appeal, they can go ahead and waste their time and do that," he said in an interview after the ceremony.

But Zachary RunningWolf, the unofficial leader of the nearly two-year tree-sit protest that ended in early September, said he would continue to fight the project.

"We're very concerned and we are going to be pressuring them," he said.


Will Kane is the city news editor. Contact him at [email protected]

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