The changes are obvious from the parking lot, where the building includes a new glass façade, and continue at the door where a new, larger lobby allows direct access to all areas of the building, meaning those using the center no longer have to walk through the locker rooms to reach basketball courts or exercise equipment.
“We wanted to increase the space for weightlifting and cardio exercises,” said Bob Sheeran, associate vice president for facility management at the University. “So we really got all of the non-recreational sport functions out of the building to free up space. And I think the building’s going to be a lot easier for students to use because everything is now accessible right off the main lobby.”
Perhaps the most obvious renovation is the glass-walled weight room, complete with mirrors, dropped ceilings, new lighting and rubberized blue-tile floors. To make way for the weight room, the coaches' offices for the department of athletics were moved to Schmidt Fieldhouse. On the second-floor, two racquetball courts were eliminated to create space for spinning and aerobics classes. Treadmills, along with Nautilus and elliptical machines, round out the second floor. Changes there also open up the third basketball court on the first floor, which has long been used for aerobics, Sheeran said.
Planning for the project began in April, Sheeran said. Actual construction on the 30-year-old, 48,000-square-foot complex started immediately following the end of the spring semester in mid-May. Workers moved quickly to get the construction completed in time for students to return for the fall semester. That meant many busy weekends, and in one 11th-hour scenario, a driver was dispatched to Florida to pick up remaining flooring. Overall, Sheeran said, the project went smoothly—he credits up-front planning with compressing what would typically be a four- or five-month construction job into three months.
In the end, Sheeran said, the renovated facility should be much more user-friendly. “There’s more space and more equipment, so it can serve a lot more people,” he said. “And that means a lot more availability for the students.”