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Still building, SDSU turns to sports and housing

A rendering shows the plan for the university’s new South Campus Plaza. Image courtesy of San Diego State University

San Diego State University has undergone big changes recently with its new Aztec Student Union and the large-scale renovation of its Storm and Nasatir halls, but Montezuma Mesa isn't through being upgraded.

In early June, SDSU began renovating Aztec Court at Peterson Gym, the home of Aztecs volleyball, and announced plans in July to begin building SDSU's new basketball training facility. And things have finally come together on a long-awaited, mixed-use development on the university's south end, with a site being cleared for the $142.7 million South Campus Plaza.

Completed in early August, in time for preseason volleyball practice, the renovation at Aztec Court brought several changes to benefit athletes and spectators of Aztecs volleyball, ranked 25th nationally for its 2014 recruiting class.

Volleyball head coach Deitre Collins-Parker said there will be a very different look to Peterson Gym this season.

"I am particularly excited about the quality of the floor and what it will mean to the health of our student-athletes," he said.

SDSU switched the floor to multilayered hardwood maple product from Connor Sports Flooring, a nationally recognized manufacturer.

Installed on top of a subfloor, the new Permaflex maple court creates a "floating" floor system. The floorboards are anchored and provided shock absorption through a vapor barrier, resilient "Rezill" pads, a steel channel-encased base and "flex sleepers" at the upper and lower contact points between the boards and concrete subfloor.

Connor markets the floor as providing greater stability and uniform high-ball rebound.

A modern 25-foot fan has also been installed in the gym's ceiling, as well as new bleachers with 238 seatbacks from Hussey Seating Co. and new doors on the north and south ends. Some of the gym's retractable basketball hoops were also removed.

Collins-Parker said the new bleachers and ceiling fan should make watching volleyball in the gym more comfortable.

"All in all, this is coming as a new era of Aztec volleyball begins," he added.

Nick Pettit, SDSU's associate athletic director of events, facilities and equipment, said the renovation had long been planned for SDSU, as the university knew the court, bleachers and doors in 33-year-old Peterson Gym all needed to be updated.

The gym previously served as the home court for Aztecs basketball until the opening of Cox Arena, now named Viejas Arena, in 1997.

"It's a huge renovation that will make a substantial difference as far as giving our student-athletes something to be proud of," Pettit said.

Not far from Peterson, just across Aztec Walk behind the Parma Payne Goodall Alumni Center, construction has also begun on SDSU's new basketball training facility, which was announced in July to be named the Jeff Jacobs JAM Center.

Its name, including the acronym JAM, was derived from the last names of the most major donors to the center's construction: Jeff Jacobs, Hal and Debby Jacobs, Steve and Lisa Altman and Jim Morris.

The groundbreaking for the 23,500-square-foot, $14.5 million facility was planned for Aug. 27. Expected to be completed by August 2015, it was designed by JCJ Architecture and is being built by the Hunt Construction Group.

SDSU announced plans for the center and first publicly sought donations for its construction in November 2013, when it had already raised more than $8 million. By July, the university had raised $12.5 million in private donations. The facility was conceived to support the continued growth and development of the SDSU men’s and women’s basketball teams, both which have risen to success in recent years.

The facility will include two full-length courts, eight baskets, locker rooms, film rooms, team lounges, athletic training room and coaches’ locker rooms.

Also on the south end of the campus but for a different purpose, South Campus Plaza is in the early stages of construction.

Formerly planned as the Linda Paseo Verde project, the mixed-use development renamed South Campus Plaza will bring SDSU a greater ability to house students on or around its campus, which the university said benefits student grades.

Robert Schulz, the university's vice president of operations and architect, noted recently the correlation between academics and housing.

“We know from experience and data analysis, that our housing and residential education program is instrumental in improving academic performance, student retention and graduation rates,” Schulz said after the university's acquisition of an apartment complex not far from where South Campus Plaza is.

According to university figures, students living on campus have a 10 to 15 percent better chance of succeeding in college and are more likely to have higher GPAs, take more units and graduate on time.

South Campus Plaza will provide both student housing and an opportunity for more local retail and eateries.

Though the project is divided into two long-term phases, the success of the approved first phase — including two residential buildings with housing for 600 students — in meeting the residential demands of the university will be assessed before a second phase is potentially designed, SDSU spokesman Greg Block said.

"A lot of that's going to be what the market dictates … depending on what the needs are for student housing," Block said. "We might need more student housing or less student housing. We don't know."

Phase 1 is budgeted for $142.7 million and is scheduled for completion by fall 2016. It includes two residential buildings with ground-floor retail — a community market store, restaurants and other retail shops — and an adjacent parking structure.

The residence halls will have double-occupancy student rooms and apartments for residential education staff and visiting scholars. The design-build contractor, Sundt Construction, is including in the buildings student learning spaces, multipurpose rooms, faculty offices, study areas, lounges and a community kitchen.

Sundt worked with architects MVE Institutional Inc. and SPGA Architecture and Planning on the project's designing. The construction manager is O'Connor Management Inc.

Wide sidewalks are planned between the buildings, while SDSU hopes to provide a pedestrian- bicycle- and transit-friendly area. Plans call for tree-lined streets around the buildings, open space and bicycle amenities.

The project is hoped to achieve LEED Silver certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

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