Ceremony preludes new AC renovation

| News Editor

Students, alumni and faculty gathered near the Athletic Complex Friday to celebrate the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Gary and Rachel Sumers Recreation Center, set to open in the fall of 2016.

The $54 million addition to the Athletic Complex, which has not been updated since 1985, will add more than 60,000 square feet to the building and is intended to create a recreation space open to all students.

The groundbreaking, however, was purely symbolic as construction on the new facilities will not begin until after commencement.

“The ground will officially be broken with the bulldozers, etc., after commencement,” James Kolker, assistant vice chancellor of campus planning and director of capital projects, said. “[This was] really a ceremonial significance.”

The AC will remain open during construction. Events or practices happening in Francis Gym and the offices located in the area where renovations are to take place will be relocated when necessary. The Field House will see no changes.

“It’s going to be an inconvenience for the next two years from a student and student-athlete perspective,” Associate Director of Athletics Joe Worlund said. “We’re going to lose essentially half of the facility…[but] two years from now, we’ll be much better off. Everybody’s going to have to work together to get through the construction phase.”

The construction will still have an impact on campus, however, as the walkway between Seigle Hall and the front of campus will be closed for part of the summer. Additionally, the main entrance to the AC will be shifted to the doors on its right side. Although convocation will remain in the Field House, other major events such as Dance Marathon and the career fairs will likely be relocated during construction.

In addition to a new recreation center, the renovations will include an elevated jogging track, a large fitness space, a three-basketball-court gym and a studio for fitness classes such as strength training, yoga and spinning.

“I think the focus of the donors’ gift was…a recreation and fitness facility, but as part of that, the project itself needed to address athletics as well,” Kolker said. “It just puts us very much on part with our peers in terms of square footage per person, in terms of just the impression of arriving at this space and seeing this amazing view.”

Worlund also added that the changes will hopefully be helpful to the University’s athletics.

“We just haven’t had a good fitness and recreation space…we were aware that we were lacking in some of these things,” he said. “It’s going to provide a space and facility that currently doesn’t exist on this campus, so we’re catching up with our competitors and also moving ahead of them in some ways because of the amount of space we’re going to have.”

Kolker said that another purpose of the new building is to create a greater sense of community.

“It’s very much meant to be a community [space]. The west end of campus could really use some…gathering space,” he said.

Junior Sandya Muchimilli believes the center will be a good addition to campus.

“There’s the gym in Bear’s Den that already provides some of those [fitness] classes, but it’s kind of a far walk for people that don’t live on the 40,” she said. “It seems like the AC is mostly for athletes right now, but hopefully these changes will make it more appealing to other students.”

With additional reporting by Dylan Bassett and Michael Tabb.