The University’s athletics program has undergone many transitional, sometimes trying moments in recent years. Today, less than two weeks after Jack Hayes was announced as the new director of athletics, the department continues its transition to a new era with the unveiling of the long-awaited fitness and aquatics center.
The building has three parts: the Jonathan Nelson ’77 Fitness Center, the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center and the David J. Zucconi ’55 Varsity Strength and Conditioning Center. Outside sits the new Ittleson Quadrangle, which replaces a parking lot.
Though men’s and women’s water polo and swimming and diving teams have had access to the pool for over a week now, today marks the opening of the entire facility for the community. All this week, the physical education department will be offering visitors a series of activities, parties and giveaways to celebrate the opening and test the waters before its official Corporation dedication May 25, the Friday of commencement weekend.
“We’re trying to create excitement without an official dedication,” said Matthew Tsimikas, assistant director of athletics and physical education. The events – in addition to serving as incentives for drawing students to the facility in its opening week – were set up to “recognize and honor” all of the effort put into the building, he said.
The fitness center will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight on weekdays, the current hours of the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center and the three campus satellite gyms.
Visitors this week will have the chance to win several prizes including a Schwinn road bicycle, an Amazon Kindle Fire, free entry for the May 8 Brown University 12th Annual Intramural Golf Tournament, a free summer physical education pass and a free personal training voucher.
In preparation for today’s official opening at 6 a.m., athletics and facilities staff were hard at work all last week delivering the final pieces of equipment, setting up key card access and making other last-minute adjustments before the big day.
“We’ve done this before,” Tsimikas said, “but the spotlight is here.”
This week will also be an opportunity for athletics staff to collect the first wave of feedback from students and other facility users.
Tsimikas is confident that the opening will receive positive feedback. “We have the finest collection that money can buy,” he said of the machines and other recourses the new fitness center has to offer.
Tonight, the fitness center will play host to the first event scheduled for this week. Students will have the chance to try out the brand new fitness equipment, with music played by a live DJ. The cost of all exercise equipment in the building is $1.15 million, according to Project Manager John Cooke.
“People will give it a look and probably be really impressed,” said Tom Bold, associate athletic director for facilities, of the new fitness loft.
“I think people are excited to work out in a place that actually has windows,” said Jocelyn West ’13. The OMAC has no windows in its main exercise area.
West said she is also excited for the building’s grab-and-go eatery, Poppy’s, part of the lobby located on the first floor. “It’s going to be really nice to have a campus eatery on that end of campus,” she said.
Tuesday night, students will have a chance to take a swim in the new million-gallon pool with a “Dive In” movie screening. Students who do not swim can watch the movie from bleachers that seat around 400 people. The pool will be able to accommodate approximately 25-50 people depending on the availability of lifeguards, Tsimikas said, and priority will be given to graduating students during the event.
“The idea is to reward the seniors – get them in the water,” he said, adding that students in the class of 2012 have awaited the pool’s opening the longest and will have the least amount of time to use the facility.
Seniors will also receive first priority to register for Professional Association of Diving Instructors open water SCUBA certification classes to be taught in the new pool later this spring – an activity the temporary aquatics bubble, officially decommissioned Friday, could not accommodate. The course will be offered for a fee of $300 and will conclude with an open water dive at Fort Wetherill State Park in Jamestown, R.I., he said.
Hannah Duncan ’15 said she currently swims recreationally and is looking forward to the new pool, predicting she might use it once a week.
A ‘fusion of fitness’
The temporary aquatics bubble will be removed this summer to make space for a new parking lot.
The pool deconstruction will be accompanied by a host of other athletic facility renovations, including the replacement of both the tennis courts on the roof of the Pizzitola Center and the indoor track in the OMAC. “Track replacement is long overdue,” Bold said.
The new track will remain the same size, but the floor will be refurbished with state-of-the-art Mondo track surface, Tsimikas said. The current cardio equipment around the perimeter of the track will be redistributed to campus satellite gyms to make way for additional storage space and sports medicine rehabilitation equipment.
Before the end of the semester, the aquatics center will also host the Collegiate Water Polo Association’s women’s Eastern Championships April 27-29, the building’s inaugural varsity competition event.
“This certainly will be a leader within the (Ivy) League,” Tsimikas said of the facility, adding that it will serve as a great new destination for visiting athletic recruits.
But Tsimikas stressed that above all else, the building’s primary purpose is to serve the entire community, not just varsity athletes.
“It’s a perfect fusion of fitness,” he said of the fitness center, pool and strength and conditioning center as a collective unit. “We have everything in here to excel, to take care of body and mind.”