On the same site where beloved Harmon Gym stood for more than 60 years, the Walter A. Haas Jr. Pavilion has risen as a state-of-the-art sports facility that retains the old building's famous spirit.
The current basketball arena, the centerpiece of the $57.5 million project, opened in the fall of 1999 and has 11,877 seats - almost twice the capacity of its predecessor. And although the structure is 37 feet taller and 28 feet wider than Harmon, it continues to keep fans close to the action.
Haas Pavilion is very much an assertion of Cal's commitment to athletics - from the administration and faculty, down through the alumni who made the entire project possible.
When the construction of Haas was first proposed, alumni and fans wanted to ensure that the intimidating homecourt advantage Harmon provided could be maintained in a building twice its size. Haas was created specifically with this in mind.
Consequently, sound-baffling devices were omitted intentionally, and student seating has doubled from 1,300 seats in Harmon to 2,600 seats in Haas, with about 900 courtside. In an attempt to keep Haas as intimate as Harmon, designers built the arena with the last row of seats just 88 feet from the floor. Nearly 2,000 club seats with chair backs have been installed in the arena. Fans also enjoy wider corridors and a quadrupling of the number of restrooms and concession areas. The arena features two high-resolution video boards, more than 50 television monitors throughout the building and a team store. The elegant Haas Club Room, which overlooks Evans Baseball Diamond, provides a spacious banquet area.
Cal student-athletes are also able to take advantage of new and expanded locker rooms, as well as the pavilion's weight room and athletic training facility. In addition, the facility houses Athletic Department administrative and coaches offices.
The idea of a new building to replace the aging Harmon Gym, which was built in 1933, first surfaced in the mid-1970s under then-Athletic Director Dave Maggard. During the next 20 years, a number of studies were done to determine the feasibility of a multitude of options.
Most people pushed for a renovation of Harmon, considering all the tradition already rooted there. Former Athletic Director John Kasser, who served from 1994-2000, strongly agreed that this was the proper course of action and he set about drumming up support from the administration, faculty and alumni.
When Walter A. Haas Jr. and his wife, Evelyn, generously donated the lead gift of $11 million, the project suddenly became a reality. Cal alumni supported the renovation in an unprecedented manner. Of the $57.5 million final price tag, $41 million came from private gifts, with $16.5 million coming from a combination of revenues from the Athletic Department, a campus seismic safety fund and miscellaneous income funds.
Construction on Haas Pavilion began just after the final game at Harmon in March 1997 and finished in time for the start of the 1999-2000 basketball season.