Long Beach Landmark: The Pyramid of Long Beach
THE WALTER PYRAMID
By Lindsey Goodrow
It’s difficult to go anywhere in Long Beach without noticing a tall cobalt structure pointing into the clear blue sky. You can be walking down the sidewalk at the far end of town or flying thousands of miles up in the air—peaking out a tiny airplane window—and see the familiar edifice. Built nearly 30 years ago, the Walter Pyramid (formerly known as the Long Beach Pyramid) remains one of the most notable and noticeable architectural features in Long Beach.
Located on California State University of Long Beach’s campus, this magnificent building functions as a sports and entertainment complex, seeing nearly 200,000 visitors pass through its grand entrance annually.
Rising eighteen stories above sea level, you can spot the pyramid for miles in all directions. According to its webpage, “It has provided a quantum leap in both the image and effectiveness of the Long Beach State athletics programs, with an immediate impact on fan base, scholarship fundraising, recruiting and revenue generation.”
The remarkable blue pyramid is a 30-year landmark and collegiate sports facility that holds the structural integrity of hot-tip galvanized steel. In other words, it’s not anywhere anytime soon.
Painting by Jamie Tablason
The Long Beach Pyramid broke ground on November 30, 1994, when it opened its doors to its first game, with Long Beach men's basketball facing off against the Detroit Titans. The match even aired live on ESPN. Long Beach came out victorious with a final score of 71-64, launching an excellent start for the new sports arena.
Although the familiar blue pyramid is now a popular logo used for the university, it was built nearly fifty years after CSULB was founded in 1949. The pyramid has become a symbol of the achievements, future possibilities, and the invaluable role that the university plays in the community.
The pyramid was designed by Long Beach architect Don Gibbs, of Gibbs and Gibbs, a father-son architectural firm. The firm has left an enduring mark in Long Beach, including several buildings for the CSULB campus, the VA Hospital, and the Long Beach Civic Center.
In 2005, the Long Beach Pyramid was renamed the Walter Pyramid due to the generous donations from Dr. Mike and Arline Walter. This donation, in particular, was the most significant single gift in CSULB Athletics history at the time.
The Walter Pyramid is impressive for many reasons, starting with the fact that it is considered to be one of the only ‘true’ pyramids that exist in the United States.
A true pyramid is one where the four corners of the base ascend into smooth, unbroken lines to the building's tip, unlike step pyramids which are often flat at the top and composed of several stacked steps.
Each side of the Walter Pyramid perimeter measures 345 feet, making it a mathematically true pyramid.
The Walter Pyramid is also known for being the largest space-frame structure in North America, which is defined as a rigid, lightweight, truss-like structure constructed from interlocking struts in a geometric pattern. Space-frame designs are light, durable, and quick to install.
Inside, the facility features Cantilevered seating which is mounted on moveable platforms. That’s right, the 81-ton seating platforms can be raised using a hydraulic system to expose over 39,000 square feet of beech hardwood flooring. This leaves much more space for activities.
When Gibbs was designing this facility, he took into account a multitude of factors including sustainability, aesthetics, and cost. The result was a blueprint of a pyramid design that required 500 tons of galvanized steel. The interlocking steel struts are intricately bolted to form an impressive true pyramid.
If you were to lay out the 18,000 steel tubes that make up the pyramid side-by-side, it would span twenty-six miles (nearly the distance of a full marathon).
Speaking of marathons, thousands of long-distance runners pass by the Walter Pyramid every year during the Long Beach Marathon.
The complex is home to CSULB’s basketball and volleyball teams and a strength and conditioning center. Apart from athletics, the pyramid features a state-of-the-art conference center, the Pointe, which hosts academic lectures, seminars, and banquets.
The Walter Pyramid has hosted the World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championships, a Japanese Pro-Wrestling show, and the WNBA Playoffs semifinals, to name a few.
Even if you haven’t stood up close to the Walter Pyramid or enjoyed a game inside the intricate walls, you can spot the structure on a clear day from miles away. The cobalt blue exterior has forever changed the Long Beach skyline.
Special thanks to @csulongbeach for images!