UCR considers 8,000 seat arena to replace Bannockburn Village

Taken by Bryan Tuttle
UC Riverside’s plans for a multi-purpose event center are currently in their conceptual phase, as the university’s search for qualified consultants has ended. The 8,000 seat “C-Center,” however, has already drawn concerns due to the fact that the site being considered is occupied by Bannockburn Village—which consists of student apartments and popular destinations such as Getaway Café and Substation.

“UCR’s enrollment now stands at approximately 21,000 students. In the context of this growth, UCR presently lacks a facility to host a variety of events (i.e. athletic, cultural, recreational) on a scale appropriate to the campus or the surrounding Riverside community,” stated the proposal request. UC Riverside Director of Media Relations Kris Lovekin expanded on the list of events, stating that the center would be used for “concerts and athletic contests…commencement, conferences and community activities.”

The search for applicants concluded on the week of April 13, when final interviews and a selection took place. The selected agency, which has not been announced, will be responsible for conducting an evaluation of the site, providing conceptual renderings of the C-Center and creating a timetable for construction (if feasible). A memo by UC Riverside’s capital resource management office explained that the study itself began on the week of April 16 and will be completed by July 31 of this year.

If the study affirms that the 6.88 acres of Bannockburn Village are suitable for the C-Center, then the next phase would be to invite third-party developers to determine how best to develop the site. The proposal request does not specify alternative sites in the case that the Bannockburn Village location is rejected.

The C-Center plans have prompted a variety of responses ranging from intrigue to outright opposition. Third-year art and art history double major Jinyoung Ko welcomed the idea of an arena that could boost student interest in athletics. “The arena has potential to build school spirit which is something that most students complain that UCR lacks,” stated Ko in an interview with the Highlander. However, Ko pointed out that the loss of Getaway and Substation would be felt by students and that the businesses should be able to relocate somewhere nearby. Ko further noted that the Bannockburn Village apartments would not be a significant loss considering the availability of several other housing options for students.

Another ardent supporter of the C-Center is UC Riverside Athletic Director Brian Wickstrom. “[The C-Center is] what’s best for our students…It will bring people from the community to the campus who have never been here before. It will be convenient for our students and faculty and it will be a great thing for the city of Riverside,” stated Wickstrom in an interview with the Press Enterprise. “This is an exciting time. For 12 years people have talked about it and nothing has been done … and now this is moving forward and now we have a lot of believers.”

Wickstrom’s views stand in contrast to those who have a vested interest in the businesses that occupy Bannockburn Village. Shawn Sabbadh, who has been the owner of Getaway Café for 16 years, expressed his discontent with the university’s approach toward the dislocation of numerous businesses. “[University administrators] haven’t given us the option to renew our lease once the time comes. Me and Richard [Munio]–the owner of Substation–both are sweating bullets because we don’t know what the future holds for us,” stated Sabbadh in an interview with the Highlander.

Sabbadh noted that current negotiations have yet to decide on the possibility of re-locating to another site near campus. Sabbadh’s concerns also touched upon the sentimental value of his business and its impact on the campus community. “We’re part of this campus. I have a calendar in the back and everyday is filled with fundraisers for the students. If it’s not a Greek organization, it’s something else in the campus. We are kind of like the anchor space for them to get together,” stated Sabbadh.

Sabbadh’s views were shared by members of the campus community such as student Kenneth Fan. “[Getaway Café is a] UCR landmark, a place where students and staff can hang out. I don’t think tearing it out would be a good idea,” stated Fan. Others, such as local resident and UC Riverside alumnus Kevin Dawson (1987), held a similar attitude toward Substation. “I would [be] heartbroken about the loss of the Substation. It would be another loss of a touchstone of my past. The campus has already torn down or remodeled many major features of my time as a student on campus,” stated Dawson in an interview with the Highlander.

The proposal indicated that input from students and local residents would not be a part of the initial site assessment process; this process would be limited to meetings with “UCR stakeholders, UCR leadership, and potential meetings with City of Riverside officials.” Student input would only occur in the scenario where student fees would be necessary to pay for the construction. “Students vote on construction projects that are student-fee funded and we just don’t know at this point if that will be the case,” stated Lovekin in an interview with the Highlander.

If the current site were approved, an amendment to UC Riverside’s Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) would likely ensue. The current outline of land use currently designates the Bannockburn Village area under the category of “family, apartment housing and related-support (including child-care).” An amendment would require the land to be re-designated as “athletics and recreation.”

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