If you build it, they will come.
The construction of the new Intercollegiate Athletics (ICA) Building is approaching completion and the excitement and optimism that has proliferated among athletes, trainers, coaches and staff of its state-of-the-art new home can only serve as proof that Santa Barbara has diagramed plans for the future and shown a commitment to the long-term success of its athletics program.
“We are very excited about our new Intercollegiate Athletics Building,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang said. “Our campus takes great pride in the athletic and academic achievements of our talented Gauchos. We are so pleased that our outstanding intercollegiate athletics programs will now have a home to match.” Sandwiched between Robertson Gym and the UCSB track, the new ICA building exudes professionalism – an integral component to any organization. For decades, UCSB athletics has been hampered by limited resources and funding. Rob Gym, with its adjacent offices and training room, was constructed in 1959 to house a large portion of UCSB athletics. For some time now, Rob Gym has held up the no vacancy sign, sheltering the athletic director and his staff, each ICA coach and staff and the Media Relations Dept. But 46 years and countless rain leaks later, staffers think it’s finally time for a change.
“It’s going to make life unbelievably better. It’s going to fuse everyone with some spirit,” said Ken Preston, UCSB men’s volleyball head coach of 27 years. “In addition to giving our kids a feeling of importance, it will give us some privacy and we won’t have to fumble over each other anymore.” During the 1999-2000 school year, UCSB students approved a lock-in fee that financed the ICA building. On April 26, 2000, a majority of the over 5,000 students that participated in the Associated Student Election voted for lock-in fees that would pay for both the Recreation Center Expansion Project and the Intercollegiate Athletics Student Support Facility. Beginning Fall Quarter of 2003, students began paying $34.03 per quarter.
“It’s important to note that [the ICA building] doesn’t become a reality without the help of the students,” UCSB Athletic Director Gary Cunningham said. “Our goal as a department is to win conference championships, be recognized as a regional power and develop many of our programs nationally. I think that our new building is going to help us do that.”
Prior to the election, athletes campaigned vigorously for support, dawning yellow shirts that urged students to “Build It!” The campaign prompted a fierce opposition movement to both the ICA building and Rec Cen Expansion as organizers chalked sidewalks with the slogan, “Pay Your Own Way.” Although the controversy ended in the passage of the initiative, debate continues about where additional funding for athletics should come from and the extent to which the university should bear responsibility.
“I’m always asking for more money, but these are difficult times financially,” Cunningham said. “I think this building will help us in our private funding, however. I think we’ll get some more financial support in the future.” Throughout its illustrious history, UCSB athletics has consistently competed near the top of its team’s respective conferences. In recent years, Santa Barbara appears to be on the brink of expanded athletic achievement and notoriety – demonstrated by the accomplishments of the women’s basketball and men’s soccer teams. Hampered by a limited budget, modest facilities and narrow fan support, UCSB athletics has appealed to its strengths – academics and location – to attract recruits and manufacture winning seasons in the past.
“The building will certainly enhance our program for preparation and recruiting and I think all our sports will get better,” Cunningham said. “We think it can be a point of pride to help our program and make UCSB a better place.” The two-floor facility contains a weight room and training room for UCSB athletes to stay conditioned. It also includes a media room and student services wing where student-athletes can meet with advisers and tutors or study in a computer lab. Each sport is endowed with an individual quad, many of which overlook the UCSB track, with offices for each coach and their staffs. The athletic director’s administration, including the Media Relations Office, is also lodged in the facility.
“With this new building, our ICA program will, for the first time, be able to bring all of our campus teams together, and also provide a training room, a weight room, an auditorium and an academic resource room for our student athletes,” Yang said. “We expect that this new facility will also help in our recruitment and retention efforts, and allow UCSB to leverage its great success in athletics to achieve even greater heights in the future.” Sometime in the future administrators may, in retrospect, praise the opening of the ICA building as a beginning of a new era for Santa Barbara athletics. Either way, it’s safe to say that the UCSB Intercollegiate Athletics Dept. is on the verge of solidifying its identity on campus.