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A rendering of an indoor basketball court.

A Dream Comes True for Father & Daughter

Spero Valavanis died on January 7, 2024. Spero was a visionary leader who left an indelible impact on the projects and communities he touched.

The Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance Comes to Life

Alisha Valavanis is the President and CEO of the Seattle Storm and the architect behind their last two WNBA championships, starting with a rebuild that led to a 2018 and 2020 Championship.

Love of the Game

“Alisha’s love for the game began at the age of five years old when she and her twin sister, Alexa, played basketball at the Valparaiso Boys and Girls Club,” said Spero Valavanis. “They watched the movie ‘Hoosiers’ almost daily and wore out our VHS tape!”

Spero is a Senior Architect/Business Development on the South Shore Corridor – Valparaiso team. He’s also the proud father of Alisha and Alexa.

Alisha Valavanis, Spero Valavanis and Alexa Benson-Valavanis, circa 1987
Alisha Valavanis, Spero Valavanis and Alexa Benson-Valavanis, circa 1987

Alisha and Alexa went on to play together for four years at California State University, Chico (Chico State University). Alisha finished her playing career as the program’s all-time leader in three-pointers.

Afterwards, Alexa’s career path took her into the non-profit sector where she is currently the President/CEO of the North Valley Community Foundation.

Alisha stayed focus on women’s basketball and coached at Chico State University for four years where the program made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including the Final Four.

She later went on to coach at the University of the Pacific then became the Assistant Athletic Director at the University of California, Berkeley. Alisha then made the move to Seattle where she helped bring in two of their four WNBA championships.

Seattle Storm Leads the Way in WNBA Practice Facilities

The team held their practices at Seattle Pacific University in a shared facility. Seattle Storm owners Ginny Gilder and Lisa Brummel wanted to change that. They wanted a quality, professional franchise practice facility for their team. In 2020, they were ready to create a state-of-the-art, first-of-its-kind facility to provide their WNBA players with everything needed to excel and enhance their performance.

Alisha reached out to her architect dad, Spero, to walk through the process with ownership.

Spero Valavanis and daughter, Alisha Valavanis, break ground on the new Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance.
Spero Valavanis and daughter, Alisha Valavanis, break ground on the new Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance.

“When we met, we talked about the design process, aspirations and goals for our facility, and the importance of our Seattle Storm culture centered in diversity, equity and inclusion,” Alisha shared. “Our values were aligned.”

Shive-Hattery was selected for pre-design services to develop a preliminary program/scope and assess site alternatives.

“We assessed several sites and the one in the Seattle Interbay Neighborhood had the greatest potential,” Spero said. “The sloping urban site had limited area. By the numbers, the program fit on the site, but with the site challenges, it required a test fit to be sure.”

Shive-Hattery worked with Alisha and the owners on a test fit to validate site suitability and a conceptual design to create energy and interest in the project.

“All of us could see the potential and we understood the magnitude of this project,” said Alisha. “Not just for the Seattle Storm but for professional women’s sports teams in this country.”

Once Shive-Hattery completed the conceptual design, the owners went to work to build community and political support, and funding.

The support and success of their efforts was a testament to the love of the Storm in Seattle.

“Ownership wanted to keep working together, but I felt our expertise needed to be enhanced and reached out to longtime partner ZGF, who we partnered with for the Children’s Memorial Hospital South Bend, Ind. & UIC Ambulatory Care Center Chicago, Ill.,” Spero said of the partnership with ZGF. “Sometimes the stars align.”

ZGF’s sports specialty division, located in Portland, Ore., was working on multiple NBA practice centers and had an office in Seattle. Shive-Hattery went to ownership and ZGF was added the team.

“We were co-design leads in a truly collaborative process. Unique to this project and supporting Seattle Storm values, the design and construction team is 85% female-led,” said Spero. “This is one of the most talented and committed teams I have ever had the opportunity to work with.”

Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance

Over the next two years, the collaborative design process resulted in the 50,000-square-foot Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance, including:

A first floor practice center with:

  • Two indoor and two outdoor courts
  • Locker rooms
  • Athletic training and performance area
  • Strength and conditioning
  • Hydrotherapy including pools, sauna and steam room
  • Players’ lounge and dining area with a focus on recovery and nutrition

And, a second floor corporate and coaches’ offices.

Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance exterior rendering
Mid-level Lobby entrance rendering
Indoor Basketball Court rendering at Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance
Athletic Training and Performance Area
Players' lounge and dining area rendering

The extremely tight and sloped site presented both opportunities and challenges.

  • Players have their own private and secure first level entrance, parking, and flow on the north.
  • The community, patrons and business partners are greeted on a mid-level lobby on the south.
  • To address the tight site, the practice center eliminated dedicated circulation which improved efficiency/flow and increased program areas.

The project has been designed to receive USGBC LEED Gold+ certification based on additional sustainability requirements from the City of Seattle.

The groundbreaking ceremony was held on March 27, 2023 and everyone is looking forward to its completion which is scheduled for spring of 2024.

“Our entire lives my father’s message was to be intentional, to spend time and energy with people and with work that would make a positive impact. This project, and what it will mean for the Storm and Seattle is just that,” said Alisha. “And personally, the opportunity to do this project with him is something I will cherish for the rest of my life.”

“To be able to work with my daughter on a project was a dream for me and Alisha said the same,” Spero said. “If this was the last project of my career, I couldn’t be happier!”

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