Campus & community, Campus news

New visitor center takes shape at Memorial Stadium

Interactive digital exhibits will tell the Berkeley story to 175,000 visitors a year — prospective students, parents and fans of the campus

Despite playing host to 175,000 visitors per year, UC Berkeley has never had a permanent location to welcome guests and prospective students. That will change on Sept. 1 with the opening of the Koret Visitor Center at California Memorial Stadium.

Featuring themed alcoves, video boards, timelines chronicling the university’s illustrious history and an interactive world map that showcases Berkeley’s global impact, the Koret Visitor Center will be a place that champions the campus’s accomplishments while also welcoming in future generations of Berkeley students, their families and the general public.

“It’s a place where guests and visitors from around the world will come to hear the Berkeley story,” says La Dawn Duvall, executive director of visitor and parent services.

Made possible by a gift from the Koret Foundation, the visitor center will be dynamic and experiential. Guests will be able to see videos of some of the cutting-edge research being done by Berkeley’s alumni and faculty. They will also be able to select from videos of some of Berkeley’s most distinguished alumni and professors — including Michael Pollan, Randy Schekman, Jennifer Doudna and Tamara Keith — and hear them talk about their unique experiences at one of the leading universities in the world. Campus tours will begin at the new visitor center, and patrons will be able to use stadium parking when they visit.

Part of a campuswide renaissance, the center will also help anchor the university’s push to activate Memorial Stadium as a multi-use space that will serve as an academic hub as well as the home of the football Golden Bears on Saturdays in the fall.

“We’re trying to give a truer sense of campus — one that shows the full and rich history of Berkeley,” says Duvall. “We’ll get to offer an experience that we’ve never really been able to do before.”

The first visitor center at Berkeley in 1965 was little more than a handful of staff behind a desk in the student union. Over time, the visitor center has called a number of campus buildings home, including University Hall and its most recent location in Sproul Hall.

“It has been a rewarding experience to work with a team that collaborates well together and has been able to meet challenges with a positive approach,” says Dan Ardzrooni, project manager of UC Berkeley construction and design.  “As evidenced by the success of the project, it is clear that each individual has taken great pride in their contribution toward making the visitor center a campus destination.”

While the visitor center will certainly be a highlight for admitted and prospective students, the facility is also intended to serve current faculty and students, alumni and the public.

“Berkeley is a public institution,” says Duvall. “It belongs to the state of California and is part of the fabric of our community. We want the public to engage with it.”

Following the Sept. 1 opening, visitor center hours will be 8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. on weekends. Campus tours will depart from the center.

(UC Berkeley video by Melani King)