Disapproval of Memorial Stadium construction continues

Ayon Kabir/Staff
The construction of the Student-Athlete High Performance Center has irritated some of those living nearby.

With the new Student-Athlete High Performance Center set to open in a few weeks, members of the Berkeley community voiced their concern with the entire Memorial Stadium construction process at Tuesday night’s public hearing to discuss the project’s Environmental Impact Report.

The performance center — a project estimated to cost $150 million and covered by private donations — will be of use to 13 different sports teams, with a whole section devoted to UC Berkeley’s football program.

The performance center has been a project of the campus’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics since 2005, when it was included as part of the initial plans for the Memorial Stadium renovations that were unveiled by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. Campus spokesperson Dan Mogulof said the performance center is a vast improvement over the “extremely inconvenient” system in place before.

“Some teams had no locker rooms of their own and were changing clothes in their cars,” Mogulof said. “When you go back to locker issues and places for team meetings, it was either at Haas Pavilion or nonexistent.”

While there has been controversy regarding the stadium construction in general, campus officials maintain that the construction of the performance center thus far has not been problematic or greatly delayed since ground was broken in the spring of 2009. Furthermore, there have not been any complaints or issues raised by neighbors with the performance center building process specifically, according to Mogulof.

“This is a different kind of work … there’s no demolition,” Mogulof said. “A lot of the noise was sheltered or muffled — it’s a little more removed from where folks are living.”

As the performance center prepares to open, residents around the stadium and the Panoramic Hill neighborhood made their case that the measured environmental impact of the Memorial Stadium project has been understated. Panoramic Hill resident Robin Olsen stated that “people are confused.”

“There’s the futility of this meeting — the project manager is sitting on the side (of the meeting) … people have given up,” Olsen said. “When they accustom players to noisy and hostile conditions … they also subject the neighbors to this.”

Additionally, representatives of the UC Berkeley student body were in attendance to highlight their concerns or comments on the construction thus far.

ASUC President Vishalli Loomba held that the campus was doing “a good job addressing concerns,” whereas Berkeley Student Cooperative Vice President of External Affairs Alex Ghenis discussed how the construction was negatively affecting Berkeley co-op residents living in Sherman Hall — across the street from the construction area.

Ghenis said that residents of Sherman Hall have reported respiratory problems due to dust from the construction and are also requesting that double-pane windows be installed.

The topic of what constituted an appropriate volume for the construction was another issue of frustration for some community members. Hank Gehman, a representative for the community group Stand Up for Berkeley!, claimed that “noise rules haven’t been dealt with,” regarding the sound of backup beepers on trucks early in the morning.

“Please make arrangements so that there’s no more noise before 7 a.m.,” Gehman said.

Berkeley resident and Stand Up for Berkeley! member Nigel Guest said the campus has mismanaged the parking situation around the stadium area.

“New parking spaces are needed … the number of lost spaces has been totaled at 546,” Guest said. “And it will be impossible to recover all the South Plaza spaces because of the large utility building in the plaza.”

In response to the criticisms, Christine Shaff, communications manager for the campus’s Facilities Services, said she was “glad that people came out.”

“There was not really anything new,” Shaff said. “We will continue working with all the neighbors.”