Gym Dandy : Sports Is Name of the Game at a Newport Coast House Where Fun and Fitness Rule


Jeffrey and Heidi Berkley have jumped through hoops to make their new home sports-friendly. They even installed an indoor basketball court.

"We wanted to give the kids an area they can play in and throw balls around," says Heidi Berkley, whose custom, year-old residence sits high on a ridge in the Newport Coast development. "We have a sports pool outdoors, but we wanted something indoors. . . . And we didn't have enough room to do soccer."

True enough: Even 13,000 square feet only go so far.

The Berkleys have three sons: a 5-year-old and 7-year-old twins. There's no doubt there's a big kid in the family too. Jeffrey, 43, allows that the basketball court "is also for myself, to have friends over for some competitive games."

To accommodate any-size kids, the couple had a custom-designed adjustable backboard installed on the half court. It can be raised or lowered by remote control, up to regulation height and down "low enough for me to dunk, and I'm pretty short," Jeffrey says, who's 5-foot-6.

Jeffrey located an electrician to design the movable backboard. Builder Dennis Gage of Concord Development in Newport Beach is also a huge basketball fan, and though he'd not done such a room before, according to Heidi, he chose the wood and made most of the other design decisions. No special permits were necessary.

Heidi and Jeffrey also had a graphic designer submit several logos and color schemes for the center of the court's hardwood maple floor. The boys made the final decision, "Berkley Gardens," incorporating gold and purple Laker colors. Shirts were made to match.

A huge photo of a professional basketball game in progress overlooks the court. Look closely and you'll notice that the Berkley family is sitting in the front-row bleachers, and the logos around the court in the photo are those of Jeffrey's companies, including Berkley Medical Industries and Berkley Packaging Industries.

The room features extremely lively acoustics for that perfect basketball ambience. "When the kids are in here running and screaming, it's unbelievable," Heidi, 41, reports. With the windows and door to the outside open, "we can let a little air in and get a little sweat out."

When not in use, a half-dozen basketballs of various sizes and colors lie in a corner of the room.

Four gym lockers and a drinking fountain just outside the door to the court add a touch of authenticity. A urinal and a steam shower in a nearby bathroom complete the effect. The lockers and drinking fountain were Heidi's idea.

The sound system and a television--with a plexiglass screen--built into the wall of the court were likely Jeffrey's idea: "If we're playing a game and there's a game on TV, we can watch while we play," he explains. "We don't have to miss anything."

In fact, you don't have to miss anything anywhere in the home. It's got seven bedrooms, 11 bathrooms and . . . 25 televisions.

There are TVs everywhere.

"They're above; they're underneath; they're inside," Heidi says.

Indeed, the master bath/hot tub rotunda--which has four light settings including purple neon--has a TV. There's a TV at the very foot of the master bed. Dominating the central living room are three TVs, one huge (90-inch) screen flanked by two smaller ones. "You can watch three different things," Heidi points out, then corrects herself: "Three games."

The Berkleys also own a season box for all events at the Pond of Anaheim.

Back on the subterranean level (the lowest of three), between the basketball court and a wine cellar for apres sports, is a room devoted to sports memorabilia. Jeffrey, who's from Ohio, was a ball boy for the Cleveland Browns in his youth. "I have artifacts going way back," he says. He wrestled in high school.

He's also bought memorabilia at various charity events. On display are the tennis shoes Michael Chang wore when he won the French Open in 1994, basketball shoes autographed by Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and an autographed photograph of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Then there's the sports car. While the more mundane family vehicles are parked in an upstairs garage, an additional downstairs garage houses a Ferrari and other sports vehicles including a gaggle of bicycles.

Sports touches aren't limited to this level.

As you approach the home--which might be described as modern Moorish, with varying roof heights suggesting the skyline of a Moroccan village--the first hint might be the ball shapes incorporated into the front gate, and "Fountain of Balls" (a metal sculpture by Ramey Designs of Santa Ana) in the entry beyond. In fact, any relation between the spherical shapes and athletic activities was purely subconscious.

Choices out back were deliberate: There's a putting green (both parents golf, and the twins attended golf camp this summer) and a pool outfitted for water basketball and water volleyball.

Upstairs, an exercise room features several multi-stations, a shower and an adjacent patio for resting between sets. On the wall hangs a picture of Ebbets Field.

In the children's wing of the upper level, miniature balls from various sports are used as markers on tick-tack-toe boards. The wallpaper in one bedroom sports soccer balls, footballs and tennis rackets.

"It's really a kid-friendly house," Heidi notes. "You can touch everything. And the kids' wing is indestructible."

So the kids can't get hurt, the textured wallpaper in their rooms is rubber. And the large balcony off the boys' three bedrooms (it features a log cabin playhouse) uses rubber flooring made from recycled tires.

The kids' wing and the parents' wing are joined by a bridge that bisects the house and passes over the living area. You can take one of two staircases (one from each wing) or an elevator down to the basketball court, where the Berkleys often spend time together.

"At the end of the day we come in here with the kids and play," Heidi says. "It's a family thing."

Space and finances allowing, would she recommend a basketball court for every home?

Heidi chuckles. "At the boys' birthday party last year, we had 27 little boys here," she recalls. "Every single kid who was here has asked for a basketball court for their birthday. All the parents are saying, 'We don't know whether to love you or hate you.' "

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