Gerald Ratner Athletics Center, University of Chicago

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Chicago, Illinois, USA
136,000 square feet / 13,000 square meters

Located on the northwest corner of the Hyde Park campus, the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center creates an inviting entrance to the University of Chicago. With its soaring 120-foot masts and distinctive shapes, this athletics complex is a landmark for the Hyde Park campus.

The complex is composed of four volumes, each with a different form. At the center of the complex is an asymmetrical red brick rotunda with a curved wall extending above the adjacent rooflines. This skylight-topped volume is the main entrance. The University of Chicago Athletics Hall of Fame encircles the lobby on the ground floor and the Bernard DelGiorno Fitness Center overlooks the lobby from the mezzanine. The fitness center continues on two levels of the adjacent yellow brick wing, which also contains the auxiliary gymnasium.

At each end of the complex is a wing with an S-shaped roof — a gymnasium to the south and a natatorium to the north. Mast-and-cable supports that recall the flying buttresses of the university’s Gothic buildings suspend the s-shaped roofs over the structures, allowing for open, column-free interiors. The two end wings are clad in brick along Stagg Field and glass along Ellis Avenue, making the activity inside visible to pedestrians.

The gymnasium wing steps back from the street along Ellis Avenue to create a small green plaza. Inside, the 1,658-seat competition gymnasium is used for varsity basketball, volleyball, and wrestling. The gym also converts into two recreational courts. In the natatorium at the opposite end of the complex is the Olympic-sized Myers-McLoraine Swimming Pool, which can be configured for up to 20 lanes and includes a moveable bulkhead and two one-meter diving boards.

The complex also contains multipurpose dance studio, classrooms, meeting rooms, locker rooms, and the athletic department offices. As part of the project, Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects also designed a parking structure across the street.

The Gerald Ratner Athletics Center has won awards from the American Institute of Steel Construction, and the Consulting Engineers Council of Illinois.