2015 NIRSA Award Winner

Loyola_NIRSA AwardSCB is proud to announce that our Sports + Recreation Complex at Loyola University Chicago has won a 2015 NIRSA Outstanding Sports Facility Award. It is a tremendous honor to have this unique, highly sustainable, state-of-the-art project recognized by the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association.


In 2009, Loyola University Chicago embarked on a strategic plan to drive the institution’s progress through 2015. The strategic plan set out three main goals: to deliver the premier undergraduate education experience in Chicago; deliver high quality professional education; and create an institutional culture devoted to public service and research, emphasizing interdisciplinarity, thereby encouraging students to step outside their comfort zones.

In keeping with the strategic plan’s goals of providing a premier undergraduate experience, the University launched Reimagine, a campaign to revitalize the student community at its Lake Shore Campus. The $100 million campaign focused around an ambitious, four-phased building project to elevate sports, recreation, and athletic facilities as well as to centralize student life offerings for the campus. The 280,200 SF Lake Shore Campus sports and recreation complex, constructed from 2011 – 2014, features state-of-the-art athletics and student recreation facilities combined with a new student center and student life support spaces.

Located at the center of campus, the new complex has become a hub for student activity, wellness, and collegiality, exemplifying Loyola University Chicago’s mission to deliver a transformative educational experience that develops the whole person through an integrated curricular and co-curricular program.

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1. Correlation to campus master plan and mission

The Lake Shore Campus sports and recreation complex is sited along the West Quad, which was developed to foster personal and community growth as a means to mirror the East Quad, which facilitates academic and spiritual learning. These two complementary spaces speak to Loyola’s mission to offer a four-year transformative education that develops the whole person by creating connections between different student body communities as well as providing a means for students to step outside their comfort zones and explore physical as well as intellectual and spiritual learning opportunities.

The complex addresses three key points of the 2009 – 2015 strategic plan: integrating curricular and co-curricular programs to deliver a transformative educational experience; recruiting and retaining a diverse student body, faculty, and staff by providing state-of-the-art facilities and varied opportunities for physical, spiritual, and intellectual growth; and creating University environments that support educational objectives, including spaces that promote academic, social, and recreational interactions and activity.

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2. Intended and actual impact on recreation program

An NCAA Division I University, Loyola developed the complex to integrate athletics with centralized student life offerings, developing a more cohesive community and contributing to the campus’ vibrancy. Meanwhile, the state-of-the-art facilities serve as a recruitment tool to attract talented athletes to the University while offering support services to ensure their success. The impact of the space is exceeding its goals: last year, Loyola was invited to the Missouri Valley Conference, one of the oldest, most prestigious, and most stable conferences in the country. Meanwhile, 1159 students visit the complex daily and it has become a thriving gathering space for the broader campus community.

3. Unique aesthetic or architectural design features

Developed within the constraints of a tight urban campus site, the buildings in the complex maximize space through efficient floor plans; speak to their context via thoughtful gestures toward other campus buildings; and feature glass and steel construction to offer transparency and clear sight lines across the quad—allowing dialogue between interior and exterior activities.

The Joseph J. Gentile Arena’s unique design allows the space to be configured for a variety of crowd sizes and athletic events. Initial tiered bleachers retract hydraulically to open up the space or change to dual court events. For a more intimate setting, large blackout draperies can be lowered to cordon off tiers of seating. The venue’s lighting and audiovisual capabilities are equally flexible.

The renovation and expansion of the existing Halas Recreation Center is a model for adaptive reuse of an underutilized campus structure. A new brick and glass facade allows the building to seamlessly connect to other facility components of the surrounding sports and recreation complex, as well as complement the traditional campus center.

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4. Facility functionality

The Norville Center for Intercollegiate Athletics is a 75,000 square foot addition to the Joseph J. Gentile Arena to support varsity athletic programs. The building houses coach’s offices, a weight training and fitness facility for student athletes, locker rooms, academic support spaces, and a media room.

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The Joseph J. Gentile Arena is a state-of-the-art sports arena that serves as the new home of the Loyola University Ramblers. The structure is designed to accommodate multiple sporting and special events. The project includes a 7,500-seat arena that will be used for men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball; Loyola special events (including commencement); and Rogers Park-Edgewater neighborhood gatherings, concerts, and performances.

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Halas Recreation Center is a full service recreation and fitness center providing spaces for group exercise, cardio, and weight training, as well as supporting locker rooms and administrative space. The facility also houses a climbing wall and a 25-yard, multiple lane pool.

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The Arnold J. Damen, S.J. Student Center is the new hub for student life on campus. Focused around a sun filled atrium, the Damen Student Center’s networked and interlinked activity spaces accommodate student dining, student government, and ecumenical faith worship spaces, as well as movie theater, retail, student lounge, and entertainment areas. This vibrant mix of actively programmed, comfortable, and inviting spaces provides students with a new campus community center designed for work and play.

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5. Relationship between facility design and staffing

The complex was designed to accommodate new programs developed to support Loyola’s mission, such as the Outdoor Environmental Experience program, which led to constructing a climbing wall. The program encourages students to step outside their comfort zones and engage with the natural environment to foster learning around conservation efforts—one of the University’s core values. In addition, the design of the complex allowed the University to centralize student services and support, offering students a single, accessible location for their needs. Staffing plans were developed to align with programming, including creating new positions to support new programs.

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6. Innovative construction materials or methods

Constructing the complex on a tight timeline while allowing existing elements to continue to serve students, faculty, and staff required innovative strategies and approaches as well as highly strategic phasing. Each phase of construction had to be moved around the site as if it were part of an enormous chess game. The Joseph J. Gentile Arena was built in the timeframe of a single basketball off-season, to ensure no games were missed. Massive trusses were run along the area where Norville and Gentile connect, to run the mechanical systems and ensure continuous usage. At the same time, trusses were used in Halas to support the ceiling and walls of the existing space while renovations called for cutting through columns to expand the pool.

 7. Sustainable / green features / LEED rating

Halas Recreation Center, completed in July 2014, is seeking LEED Silver certification. Sustainable features include radiant heating and cooling, highly efficient mechanical systems, natural ventilation, and daylighting to reduce energy consumption. Occupancy sensors in all interior spaces are tied to the building’s sustainability goals.

 8. Use of technology and how it benefits customers, staff, and / or budget

Buildings in the complex feature a number of wired third spaces to foster collaborative work among students and faculty, and the entire complex was designed to support strong wireless access to allow for continual connectivity.

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 9. Floor plans – click to enlarge

Click here for more images.

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