Thursday, June 19, 2008

Gym showcases local architecture

BY COLBY FRAZIER
DAILY SOUND STAFF WRITER

Where fruit was once processed and packaged on the asphalt floors of the Johnston Fruit Company, athletes young and old are now diagnosed, healed and rehabilitated beneath the hulking 16-by-16-inch wooden beams that house The Training Room.
Opened two weeks ago by Dr. Mark Brisby, The Training Room is a 6,400 square foot Mecca to sports and fitness training, but it’s also a throwback to Santa Barbara’s architectural history.
Located at 1 N. Calle Caesar Chavez in a neighborhood dominated by industrial buildings, the fa├žade, a massive square building with new, brown stucco and burgundy awnings, doesn’t look more than a decade old.
Step inside The Training Room, however, and the woody smell and solid, lofty ceilings show the true face of the 225,000-square-foot building, which was erected in 1923 and is now partitioned into a number of smaller spaces.
The ground level of The Training Room is dotted with treadmills, weights and other exercise equipment. But look up and the space opens to a terraced ceiling lined with three levels of five-foot-high windows backed by a small forest worth of ancient timber beams.
When Brisby first laid eyes on the space four months ago, he said he didn’t believe it could work. The building was filthy, he said, and all of the wood, on the floor and in the air, was painted white. The dull asphalt floors that are now in the lobby were carpeted over.
After a couple of days convincing himself of the space’s potential, Brisby, a self-described “Santa Barbara architecture buff,” said he decided to take on the project.
“It’s an amazing building so we tried to keep as much original as possible,” he said. “It’s a fun place.”
A $150,000, hundreds of hours and 20,000 pounds of sand blasted material later, Brisby managed to resurrect the ancient wood beams that are marked with iron plates and bolts for reinforcement.
In order to keep the ceilings visible, he left the walls of the office space, which consists of a number of treatment rooms and a Pilates studio, open at the top. The result is walls that stop a foot short from the ceiling, which is made from 2-by-12-inch slabs of wood stacked on end.
The abundant natural light that pours in through the three-tiers of windows is ample enough to render most of the artificial lighting obsolete during daytime.
It’s a huge improvement over Brisby’s former place of work in Goleta, which was a much smaller 2,400 square feet.
Brisby, who is the athletic team physician for San Marcos and Dos Pueblos High Schools and is also the strength and conditioning coach for the UC Santa Barbara men’s basketball team, said aside from the building’s unique architectural history, the business it houses is also one of a kind.
He said few sports medicine clinics offer facilities where one can be diagnosed, treated and rehabilitated all under the same roof.
“You don’t see this [often],” he said. “The conventional 1923 where house turned into one of the best sports medicine facilities in the country.”
Brisby said his clientele consists of an even split of high school, professional and college athletes and those seeking to simply stay in shape.
As Brisby trained one of his clients yesterday, he looked to the ceilings and recalled how every inch of the place was either sand blasted, repainted or gone over in some way. He pointed to the massive bolts dotting the wood beams, some of which are the size of a small fist, and noted that he painted each and every one.
In a neighborhood commonly referred to as Santa Barbara’s “funk zone,” Brisby’s effort to uncover an aging gem, which is just blocks from the beach and 50 yards from Highway 101, may be a sign of brighter times for the Eastside neighborhood.
And at times its difficult to know what Brisby’s more proud of, his successful business, or the space it’s located in.
“When you kind of peel away all the layers of this building and get it to the way it was,” he said. “[You realize] they don’t build things like this anymore. It’s a historical building.”

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