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The much-anticipated fitness and aquatics center's construction is near completion, with the planned relocation of some athletics staff slated to give the building its first wave of occupancy by the end of March. The building has been in the works for several years and will open to the public April 16.

The gradual opening of the facility to athletes, faculty members and eventually the general University community will give the building's project managers "a few weeks to get things in line," said Tom Bold, associate athletic director for facilities.

The now-filled pool at the Katherine Moran Coleman Aquatics Center would likely be available for early use by the women's water polo team, which hopes to host the Collegiate Water Polo Association's Eastern Championships there in late April, Bold said.

Though the final phases of construction in the aquatics center are ongoing, its state-of-the-art pool, nearly 400-seat stands and high-tech features will be more than adequately equipped to handle such an event when construction finishes, said Project Manager John Cooke.

"It's a very fast pool," Cooke said. The million-gallon pool — 56 meters long and 9 meters deep — is equipped with a high-definition LED scoreboard and a special edge that quickly funnels displaced water back into the pool. Faculty members, men's and women's swimming and diving and water polo teams, recreational users and coaches each have designated locker rooms on the ground floor of the center.

The pool is solar-powered, with 168 dual-technology solar panels located on the roof providing enough electric and thermal energy to power the pool lights and regulate water temperature. The panels generate a "pretty impressive" 100,000 watts, Cooke said.

 Also highly anticipated is the Nelson Fitness Center, which will house more than $700,000 worth of new exercise equipment, Bold said.

"(It's) nothing like anything we've ever had," he said, adding that users will be impressed by the amount of natural sunlight emitted from the center's second-floor windows, which offer exercisers a view of campus and the new Ittleson Quadrangle, which was previously a parking lot.

"Ruth gasped when she saw it," Cooke said of President Ruth Simmons' reaction to the fitness center on her tour of the facility.

Additional revenue will be needed for upkeep of the equipment, which on average has a life cycle of three to five years, Bold said. A proposed gym membership fee for faculty members is under consideration to help meet these costs.

"We don't want to move into a beautiful, state-of-the-art building and then years from now deal with stuff we have to deal with at (the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center) with not having money to replace broken machines," Bold said.

In addition to equipment maintenance, the whole facility will require about $1.7 million per year in upkeep costs and need an additional $500,000 to $600,000 per year to staff the building, said Stephen Maiorisi, vice president for facilities management.

The new facility would help justify a faculty membership fee should it be implemented, he said, adding that the proposal was not under consideration before, when the University's athletic facilities were not up-to-par with other gyms.

Three dance studios and a cafe are below the center's main exercise floor. The cafe will be comparable to the Friedman Cafe in the Sciences Library and will be in the building's main lobby, which has space allotted for tables, seating areas and a large trophy case.

"The lobby is just a really special place," Bold said, adding that delays in the building's opening were partially due to additional finishes and other aesthetic enhancements approved for the lobby after construction.

Many athletes said the facility's third section, the David J. Zucconi '55 Varsity Strength and Conditioning Center, is an improvement compared to the cramped OMAC and Pizzitola Center.

"The OMAC is really crowded," said Sasha Teninty '14, a member of the women's track team. She said the new center would allow for a "healthier exercise environment."

"I'm excited," said Heidi Caldwell '14, also on the track team, who said she is looking forward to using the new pool and weight room.

The strength and conditioning center provides triple the space athletes currently have in the Pizzitola Center and will be outfitted with 18 free weight racks. It also has a turf-floor section that can be used for certain conditioning exercises. "Everybody can probably work out in here without a problem," Cooke said.

The temporary aquatics bubble will be removed in the summer, as one of many athletic facilities projects taking place, Maiorisi said. The University also plans to refurbish some athletic turf space, as well replace the tennis courts on the roof of the Pizzitola Center and the track in the OMAC.

Check out BlogDailyHerald for more photos from The Herald's tour of the building.



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