A new day for Carver

Two-year, $81.5-million renovation and expansion creates a new home for Western’s academic and athletic hub


80,918 ft2 of renovation

25,019 ft2 of replacement

57,885 ft2 of new addition

163,822 ft2 of total building area

$81.5 million total

$77.4 million from the state of Washington

$4 million from WWU

24 months of construction

1,000-plus construction workers

About 267 jobs on the work site and in the community

$55.6 million in local economic impact

Leif Anderson, left, watches as Trevor Jasinsky leaps to dunk the ball during Viking Jam in November.
Funded by longtime donors to WWU Athletics, the Hall of Fame room features plaques commemorating all 140 members of the WWU Athletics Hall of Fame—with room for future hall of famers—along with two large-screen televisions for guests to watch WWU games.
A light-filled collaboration space overlooks a green roof, just one aspect of the building that is expected to earn LEED accreditation.

When LeaAnn Martin, a handball champion with a newly minted doctorate, was recruited to join Western’s physical education pedagogy faculty in 1991, Carver was already due for an upgrade.

The 1935 gymnasium had last been renovated in 1960, and clearly needed some work in order to keep up with the growing student body and replace the aging infrastructure systems.

Martin took the job at Western despite her misgivings about the building. “I fell in love with the people,” she says, “and it was just a matter of time before Carver would be rebuilt.” Over the next 26 years, Martin and others who worked, studied and played in Carver learned to live with leaky roofs, a fritzy electrical system and precious little space. She also rose through the academic ranks, became dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, and sat on many committees about the eventual rebuilding of Carver.

She vowed to do cartwheels in Red Square if funding ever came through. And she promised to teach a class in the new building, though she had to come out of retirement to do it. But the 2017 Carver was worth the wait.

Over the last two years, Carver’s 1935 and 1960 buildings were renovated down to the studs and are now surrounded by a modern, glass-skinned structure that adds nearly 58,000 square feet of space, mostly classrooms and labs, to the academic and athletic facility.

Carver is home to Western’s largest and fastest-growing department, Health and Human Development, which offers degree programs in kinesiology, physical and health education, community health education and recreation.

The gymnasium side of the building now includes much more space for Western’s 15 intercollegiate varsity teams, with new space for locker rooms for more than 300 student-athletes, training, conditioning and rehabilitation rooms, and team rooms for the basketball and volleyball teams. All head coaches and Athletics administrators are housed under one roof for the first time. And a new Hall of Fame Room offers space for game-time events.

It goes without saying that the electrical and other backbone systems have been brought up to date, too. Offices, labs and classrooms throughout the building now meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Finally, the new building comes with some urgently needed seismic reinforcement.

Mortenson Construction of Kirkland, Wash., was the general contractor and project construction manager. Diamond B Constructors, Bellingham, was the mechanical contractor/construction manager and VECA Electric, Bellingham, was the electrical contractor/construction manager. The design team included LMN Architects; Coughlin Porter Lundeen, structural; KPFF, civil; Murase Associates, landscape architects; and PAE, mechanical and electrical engineering. 

With its new glass exterior, Carver lights up the heart of campus at night. The expansion also created more space in the lobby with window seating and a sunny place to linger.
The refurbished basketball court has a new name, too: WECU Court in Carver Gym. And more space in smaller gymnasiums—Gym C was doubled in size—creates more room for classes, team practices and club sports.
The expanded lobby area of Carver is now used throughout the day as a space for studying and gathering. The light wood wall paneling here is reclaimed from the old Carver Gymnasium floor.
The Hall of Fame room also has one of Western’s best views of Red Square. Some of the room’s wood paneling was re-purposed from planks salvaged from Carver Gymnasium’s old floor.
The new exercise physiology labs now include a dedicated teaching lab, creating much more space for classes and student research exploring motor control, physical performance, injury prevention and more.

Rhys Logan