Western, Whatcom to share new Pavilion

By Alex George

With Western Washington University’s Carver Gymnasium currently under renovation, the Vikings men’s and women’s basketball and volleyball teams will temporarily make their home at Whatcom Community College’s newly reopened Pavilion.

Over the next six months, Western will have 33 athletic events in the Pavilion gym. This relationship isn’t entirely new, as the Western soccer teams played at Whatcom’s Orca Field until Harrington Field was completed in 2014.

The Carver gym has just begun a $70 million state-funded renovation set to be completed by fall 2017. The renovations are aimed at upgrading the building’s seismic stability, fixing aging elements of its structure, and improving access for disabled people to the facility.

While the Pavilion was being renovated, Whatcom’s basketball and volleyball teams played home games at nearby Meridian High School, but for Western this is not an option.

“Western has to play on a collegiate court,” said Brian Keeley, Whatcom’s Senior Director of Facilities and Operations.

Western's Women's volleyball team playing in the Pavilion. Photo by Meg Jackson.
Western’s Women’s volleyball team playing in the Pavilion. Photo by Meg Jackson.

“NCAA rules don’t allow them to play in a high school building the way we did.”

Because Whatcom is a member of NWAC (Northwest Athletic Conference) and not the NCAA, Whatcom was permitted to play on
a high school court.

A few Western dates conflicted with Whatcom athletic events so they will be played elsewhere. One women’s and two men’s basketball games will be played at Skagit Valley Community College, and one volleyball game will be played at Squalicum Highschool.

Steve Card, Western’s Athletic Director said, “The folks at Whatcom have been great partners. This is a relationship that has been built up over years.”

The current contract has Western using the Pavilion for games through fall and winter quarter and preliminary discussions are underway regarding a possible extension into next year depending on the Carver building’s construction schedule.

Western is renting the Pavilion for about $55,000 or roughly $1,667 per event. All Western practices, weight and cardio training, and film study will continue to take place in the Wade King Recreation Center at Western.

The Pavilion, a $13 million project with $11 million of that being borrowed from the state, was approved and paid for by Whatcom students. Students pay $6.32 a credit or $94.80 per 15 credit quarter. Whatcom students will continue to pay this fee for the next 20 years when the building is expected to be fully paid off.

Some students may have noticed that the Orca Café has moved from the lower level of the Heiner Building to the Pavilion and now includes a Jamba Juice.

“The smoothie idea was on the table from the very beginning,” said Luca Lewis, the Vice President of Student Services, “students said they wanted healthier options.”

Nate Langstraat, Whatcom’s Vice President of Administrative Services says that proceeds from the rental will go towards the general operating budget and towards funding athletic scholarships at Whatcom.

At the time the fee was decided on Whatcom enrollment was down, so students and faculty involved decided to go with a higher fee to ensure payments would be met. Whatcom faculty have to pay a fee of $45 per quarter to use the fitness center after a trial period of the 2015 fall quarter.

Langstraat says that many factors were taken into account when deciding on that fee, including costs for comparable fitness centers, the average number of credits taken per student, and how much the school would need to cover its regular payments for the Pavilion.

Since Whatcom has first right of refusal, a contractual right that gives Whatcom the right to be given the first chance at a business transaction instead of a third party, all concessions sold at the game will go to Whatcom. All ticket revenue will go to Western.

Because the Pavilion’s seats about 1,400 fewer people than the Carver gym did, Card suggests that those people looking to attend a Western basketball or volleyball game get tickets as early as possible since many games may sell out.

Students interested in attending a Vikings basketball or volleyball game can get tickets at www.wwuvikings.com.




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