University of California Davis Activities and Recreation Center Davis, CA

Project Category : College/University

Total Construction Cost : $12,300,000

Total Gross Square Feet : 167,292

Approximate Cost Per Square Foot : NA

How was the facility funded? : Other

Project Description:

The Activities and Recreation Center (ARC) at the University of California Davis reimagines the recreation experience to better serve the university's growing student population. Situated in the Northwest corner of the campus, the ARC serves as one of the universitys flagship facilities with the goal of encouraging students to incorporate exercise and recreation into their daily routines.

Opened in 2002, the 18-year old facility was under strain to address growing demand, resulting in overcrowding and long wait times for equipment and classes. To meet the infrastructure and program needs of the university population, the ARC underwent a critical renovation and expansion, optimizing the facility's functional organization, building utilization, and energy performance.

Functional Planning

To accommodate its 5,500 daily users, the expansion updated the boxed-in facilities of the existing ARC into a more open environment that promotes flexibility and change over time. The redesigned facility features 23,000 sq. ft. of renovated space and a 2,750-sq. ft. expansion with a new cardio mezzanine (8,600 sq. ft.) and additional space on the ground level (7,850 sq. ft.), including a new outdoor functional training yard.

Beginning at the front door, the ARC creates an inclusive and welcoming space for students and staff. The Centers control point was relocated to enable the multipurpose use of the lobby, which doubles as a lounge, meeting/lecture area and study space for students. This also allows increased visibility from the lobby to the weight room, bringing in natural light and connecting the different spaces on the ground level.

At the same time, the new Member Services desk offers multiple points of entry and purchasing of Campus Recreation items, decreasing patron wait time and improving access to facilities, offerings, programs, and services. Locker rooms were updated to meet current ADA standards.

The new cardio mezzanine was built above the lobby to maximize the existing volume of the building to allow for more program square footage without increasing the building footprint. By hanging supports from the existing roof structure, the design of the new mezzanine allowed the lobby to remain open and column-free, maximizing daylight and views to the outdoors while providing 2,400 sq. ft. of cardio space above. The cycling room was also expanded into the mezzanine to accommodate more users.

Prior to expansion, the ARC programs lacked identity and were huddled into small areas of the facility with no room for growth. The addition of the outdoor area, the fitness assessment studio and functional areas have been instrumental to programmatic growth, connecting fitness neighborhoods to establish a cohesive floor plan. The expansion is integrated into the existing facility to feel like one building, filled with daylight and activity throughout.

The design created connections throughout the facility by removing walls, adding windows and skylights, as well as creating openness between program spaces. The existing weight room, for instance, was fully enclosed with walls and doors which restricted movement as well as flexibility. Now, the spaces can be used for various types of programs and additional light flows into the space from the adjacent spaces.

Since the original layout did not allow space for expansion, the design converted the existing courtyard into additional indoor fitness space and created an outdoor studio, increasing programmable space while maintaining access and views to the exterior. The courtyard serves as an extension of the indoor workout space that opens out to create an indoor/outdoor connection.

With the additional facility space, Campus Recreation was able to increase the volume of equipment, allowing them to better serve the campus population and improve accessibility of previously non-represented groups. The expansion has also decreased wait times for equipment and fostered a strong culture among students, faculty/staff and community members. Furthermore, several programs have been expanded into informal recreation areas, which has led to growth and overall awareness of these programs: Small Group Training, Fitness Assessment, Instructional Series and Nutrition Education all contributing to the ARCs mission of incorporating exercise and recreation into the students daily routines.

Interior Design

The interior design stayed true to the buildings original aesthetic while upgrading the materials and finishes to give it a modern look-and-feel. The exposed ceilings and circular LED lighting in the weight room open up the space vertically to give it a larger and lighter feel. New flooring throughout the facility creates a seamless transition and allows flexibility of program within the spaces. The patterns in the flooring also express movement and activity. Furthermore, skylights and the use of glass along the north facade allow natural daylight to permeate the space and provide views to the courtyard.

The ARC incorporated a significant number of sustainable strategies to create a healthy interior environment for users. The design incorporated 30% regionally manufactured materials (within 500 miles of the project) and 32% FSC certified wood; 20% of the existing interior components were reused; and low VOC products were selected for adhesives & sealants, paints & coatings, and flooring systems. Natural daylighting was optimized to create strong visual connections to the outdoors and within the interior spaces. A complete LED lighting replacement, optimized with daylighting and occupancy sensors and controls, resulted in 38% lighting power reduction. To further improve energy performance, 95% of equipment and appliances purchased are ENERGY STAR-rated.

During construction, 88% of the construction and demolition waste were diverted from landfill or recycled. A rigorous construction management plan was implemented to reduce contaminants and a full building flush-out was performed prior to occupancy, providing students with the best indoor air quality possible.

All these strategies contributed to the facility being certified as LEED Gold with the United States Green Building Council.


The original building had two separate entries located along the front facade. This often caused confusion to visitors new to the facility as to where the main entry was located. The new entry was designed with two sets of double doors and a canopy to be visible and welcoming. The new expansion used materials that complemented the original building. These included precast concrete and fiberglass-reinforced concrete panels with a rainscreen system. The integrated use of the materials allowed the expansion to appear as part of the original facility but still provide a sense of a space through its varied assembly system and material character.


The design explored various options to expand the building footprint. The existing site only allowed expansion to the east or to the north. Both options were analyzed and the original expansion was set for both locations. Due to budget constraints, the expansion was scaled back and was built to the north side only.

The design preserved as much of the existing building as possible in order to both maximize the program and minimize the projects impact on the environment. The team used creative solutions to expand the program space within the footprint of the existing building and site. These include the new mezzanine and outdoor studio. The remaining exterior space received new landscaping that contributed to the overall campus-wide landscape goals.

Since the building is open year-round, the construction sequence and noise mitigation were a big challenge for the project. Temporary barrier walls were installed between the construction zone and occupied spaces, and work hours were adjusted around class schedules. This helped minimize impact to the buildings operating schedule and allowed it to remain in use during the expansion project.


Cost is a primary driver for all projects. To allow the University to get the most program for their budget, the design team studied various alternates during the design of the project. Cost estimates were provided at each phase and modifications were made as needed, to align the scope of the project with the budget. At final bid time, the University had enough money to accept one of the alternates and implement it in the project This was the new entry portal to the lobby.

The total construction cost for the project was $12.3 million, with furnishings, finishes, and equipment amounting to $1.5 million. Financing for the project was pooled across a variety of sources: $9.1 million in debt financing, $670,000 in capital, $6.1 million from the Universitys Facility and Campus Enhancement initiative, for a total of $15,875,000.

Floor Plans