Campbell Sports Center Designed as Home for Athletics and Academics

March 21, 2013Bookmark and Share

The New York Times has called Columbia’s new Campbell Sports Center a building that shows both its “brains and its brawn,” which makes perfect sense for a facility meant to support the University’s athletic and academic excellence.

The new Campbell Sports Center at Baker Athletic Complex
The new Campbell Sports Center at Baker Athletic Complex

It also makes sense that the sleek, geometric structure is named for Columbia’s trustee chair, William V. Campbell, whose career as a Columbia football player and coach, and later as a trusted mentor to leaders in the technology industry, embodies those two goals.

The new, 48,000-square-foot building, located on the corner of Broadway and 218th Street, contains a study center and a theater-style multimedia athletics classroom, as well as a state-of-the-art strength and conditioning center, giving the teams a home base alongside the fields and courts of Baker Athletics Complex.

“The Campbell Sports Center,” says M. Dianne Murphy, the University’s director of intercollegiate athletics and physical education, “gives coaches and student-athletes an opportunity to use the facility year-round and will transform the student athlete experience.”

All the outdoor teams will be based there: football, baseball, men’s and women’s tennis and soccer, women’s lacrosse, softball and field hockey.

The center’s completion gives Columbia an architectually iconic presence at Baker, where the Lions played their first home football game in 1923. Made possible through the generosity of numerous donors, the facility is named in honor of Campbell, who was the captain of Columbia’s football team in 1961. In the 1970s, Campbell was the University’s head football coach for six seasons before going on to hold key positions at Kodak and Apple, eventually becoming chairman of Intuit. Campbell is now a revered figure in Silicon Valley, who has also maintained an active leadership role at his alma mater.

The building named for him is a sign of the University’s commitment to excellence in every endeavor, University President Lee C. Bollinger explained. “We value the great buildings that comprise the University, and we want that to be part of our athletic identity as well.”

The Campbell Sports Center was designed by Steven Holl, a professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, who has taught at Columbia since 1981. In the last two decades he has completed three huge developments in China and museums in France, Norway and Finland. Closer to home, Holl has designed an architecture and design school for Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and a large dormitory at MIT.

The building, which was officially dedicated last October at a Homecoming ceremony honoring Campbell, is an angular structure with an aluminum facade that literally reflects its surroundings. The center rises on slender legs and allows visitors to pass under it, creating in Holl’s words, “a gateway to the Baker complex.”

It is also a reflection, according to Chris McVoy, the Steven Holl Architects partner in charge of the project, of the kinds of diagrams that coaches draw. The stairways that climb down the front of the center accentuate the feeling of a building that is practically in motion.

Inside, there’s a strength-training room with eye-level views of the No. 1 subway line, lounges, conference rooms and a lecture hall with seats big enough for the burliest football players. Nearly every room has a spectacular view—not just of the entire Baker complex, but even downtown to the midtown Manhattan skyline.

The sports center isn’t the only change coming to the athletics complex, which faces the waterfront in Inwood Hill Park. The University is building the Boathouse Marsh, which will restore the park’s salt marsh and create public access to previously inaccessible waterfront along the Harlem River. The design by James Corner Field Operations—the landscape architects of the elevated High Line park on Manhattan’s west side—includes seating, picnic areas and water gardens. The project is nearing completion, and planting is scheduled for the spring and summer.

Campbell, recalling his years as a Columbia linebacker, and later the team’s coach, described the dilapidated Baker Field, when he coached there in the 1970’s, as “not a welcoming place.” Today, by contrast, “we have a stadium, now we have a welcoming gate, now we have an athletics facility that the students, the faculty, the alumni and the neighborhood will all be glad to be a part of.”

—Story by Columbia News Staff
—Video by Columbia News Video Team

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Milestones

Columbia University mourns the death of Robert Belknap, professor emeritus in the Department of Slavic Languages, who died March 17. An expert in Russian literature, particularly Dostoyevsky, he also taught Literature Humanities in the Core Curriculum for 50 years and influenced generations of Columbia students. For more information, please visit this page.

Mary Bassett, associate professor of clinical epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health, was named New York City’s commissioner of health.

University Professor Ronald Breslow won the 2014 American Institute of Chemists Gold Medal, the AIC’s highest award.

The Record