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The Jonathan Nelson '77 Fitness Center and a new aquatics center may be combined under one roof rather than being constructed as separate facilities, top administrators said recently.

A combined and somewhat scaled-back  facility would cost approximately $40 million, about $25 million less than the combined price tag for two buildings, said Richard Spies, executive vice president for planning and senior adviser to the president. Built separately, the fitness center could cost $40 million and the swim center another $25 million.

The University is in conversations with the lead donors for each project, and the buildings remain in the initial stages of planning, Spies said. Donors for both projects have been "receptive about the idea," he said, but want to see more detailed plans before moving forward.

Administrators will present a detailed proposal to the Corporation at its October meeting next weekend. If the University's highest governing body approves the proposal, construction could begin in about a year, said Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for facilities management. It would take approximately 18 months to complete, he said.

But combining the facilities would require scaling back some ambitions for the fitness center. The biggest change in the unified project is that plans to include three indoor basketball courts would be scrapped, Maiorisi said.

"We will have to compromise a bit on the program," Spies said, emphasizing that the core plans for each project would remain intact.

At its February meeting, the Corporation recommended that the University look to complete its capital projects within the limits of funds already raised, Spies said.

"It's not quite true to say we've already got the $40 million" to pay for a combined building, Spies said. But if the current lead donors maintain their relationship with the effort, "we assume we can get there pretty quickly."

That the number of donors for each project "is not huge" makes compromise easier to achieve, he added.

The new aquatics center, whether built as a separate project or as part of a combined fitness center, will house Brown's first permanent pool since structural deficiencies unexpectedly forced the Smith Swim Center to close in December 2006. The structure was demolished a year later.

Peter Brown, head coach of the men's swimming and diving team, said he thought the developments in plans for a new building were a positive sign.

"There's no question it's great for Brown," he said. "It's great for athletics. It's great for the aquatics program."

Since January 2008, Brown's swimming, diving and water polo teams have been competing off campus and practicing in a temporary indoor pool built behind the Olney-Margolies Athletics Center.

"You don't really have a true home until you have your own pool," Brown said. "You're in a little bit of (a) vagabond mode."

The new fitness center — which has been in the works since 2004 but was officially put on hold by the Corporation in February — was originally to feature a gymnasium, five dance and fitness studios and a 11,900-square-foot space for cardiovascular and weight-training equipment.




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