Colgate Approves New Gym Project

Natalie Gaugh

The Colgate community was notified last November that the university was looking into the process of constructing a new fitness center. The project was officially approved two weeks ago by both the Board of Trustees and the Lynch Planning Board, and the next step will be the completion of building designs and construction drawings, which are expected to be available on a project website in the next week. Colgate also needed the approval of the Department of Transportation, as the new center’s parking lot will feed into Route 12B, a state road. Excavation is scheduled to begin this spring, potentially in March or April, depending on the weather.

According to both the Vice President for Finance and Administration David Hale and Director of Division of Physical Education, Recreation and Athletics and Associate Professor of Physical Education David Roach, discussions about a new fitness center began in fall 2005, when Colgate formed a conceptual plan to look at the school’s athletic facilities based on a plan formed in 2003. According to the plan, there were roughly five areas of concern, including Reid Athletic Center, which is over 50 years old, and the William Bryan Little Fitness Center, which opened in 1994.

“[The opening of the Little Fitness Center] really transformed the community”, Hale said. “Before, we did not have much in the way of a dedicated fitness space. It was really an incredible step forward. However, that facility no longer seems to meet the needs and demands of the students of the Colgate Community, and even of our broader Hamilton community.”

Roach admitted that when he now goes to the Center in the early evening, there are roughly 20 students waiting, and he felt that the new building “will, even during peak time, handle students so much better.”

The new Colgate fitness center will be two stories, with aerobic equipment upstairs and free weights and weight machines on the first floor. Director Roach estimated that it will be “slightly less than twice as big as the one we have now, with at least twice as many cardio machines.” He also commented that the new building will be brighter and have more windows. It will be constructed in the area adjacent to Huntington Gymnasium and Lineberry Natatorium, and the plans aim to “utilize all locker rooms as part of the facility,” according to Roach. A new parking lot will also be built behind the center and pool. Due to the location of the construction, access to the pool will be limited to the main entrance of Huntington Gym.

This fitness center, meant to fulfill the needs of the students, faculty, staff and community, will also fulfill the needs of the Colgate NCAA athletic teams. The current varsity weight room, located upstairs in the Huntington Gym, is experiencing issues, as the heavy weight are leading to the “long term structural degradation of Huntington,” according to Hale. With the construction of the new fitness center, the varsity equipment will be moved into the newly available Little Fitness Center, and the space vacated by the varsity teams will be used for dance and aerobics.

Hale related that after they “identified the need,” they engaged architects late last spring to form a conceptual design of the facility. By the end of the summer, tentative plans were complete, and Colgate contacted a select number of donors who had either expressed interest in the past or who they felt would hold great interest in the project. The donor responses were collected to “see if this [project] was even feasible, because we did not…want the fundraising from this project to cannibalize the other needs of the university,” Hale said.

The project was able to meet its goals of between 15 to 20 donors, and the Board of Trustees approved up to 7.8 million dollars in costs, for which Colgate has full gift commitments.

“We are hopeful that the project will actually cost less,” Hale said.

The estimated cost also includes the changes that will be made to Huntington concerning the shifting of the varsity weight training room.

When asked about the current economic situation, Hale commented that they are “obviously very concerned about the timing,” which was why the planning process “was taken one step at a time.”

Nonetheless, according to Hale, there is going to be “a very aggressive construction schedule,” and the facility is estimated to be open to the community by January 2011.