California School Converts Strip Mall Into Rec Center

When California Baptist University (CBU) decided it needed to expand its athletic and recreational facilities back in 2005, it could have set about demolishing nearby structures near its Riverside, Calif., campus and started from scratch. Instead, the private Christian college saved money and the use of raw materials by renovating an adjacent shopping center into a flexible multifunction facility.

This month, the university’s plans paid off with the grand re-opening of the more than 40,000-square-foot structure. Designed by KTGY Group, the two-story CBU Recreation Center represents Phase I of a major redevelopment of what used to be called Lancer Plaza, a former shopping center.

Image via California Baptist University

Image via California Baptist University

The chief environmental attribute of the refurbished facility will be its flexibility. In one building, CBU now now offer its 6,000 students a changeable court space that allows for two intramural basketball courts, a collegiate basketball court or three volleyball courts.

In addition, the space includes a rock-climbing wall, lounge areas, three racquetball courts, a weight room, fitness rooms, men’s and women’s locker rooms, and a cheerleading practice space. To further maximize the square footage of the converted building, the rec center includes a rooftop with soccer field and a running track.

Artist's drawing of the new CBU Recreation Center. Image via California Baptist University.

Artist’s drawing of the new CBU Recreation Center. Image via California Baptist University.

These rooftop fields can’t be considered a “green roof,” since the university is using artificial turf for the playing surfaces. However, because of the stormwater management systems and extra support needed to bear the weight of the athletes, the roof will have some similar thermal characteristics of a truly green roof, such as keeping the building cool and reducing its carbon footprint, said KTGY’s chairman Stan Braden.

CBU is not quite done with its renovation and expansion plans. Now that Phase I is finished, school officials will focus on Phase II, which will include the construction of a new 3,500-seat sports and events arena next to the rec center, as well as a student bookstore.

Randy Woods is a Seattle-based writer and editor with 20+ years of experience in the business publishing world. A former managing editor of Seattle Business, iSixSigma, Claims and Waste Age magazines, he has covered topics that include newspaper publishing, entrepreneurism, green businesses, insurance, environmental protection and garbage hauling (yes, really). He also contributes to the Career Center Blog for The Seattle Times and edits a photography magazine called PhotoMedia. When not working, he likes to hide out in Seattle movie theaters and attend film festivals—even on sunny days.