Sections of the Goergen Athletic Center (GAC) are closed this month for renovations to the upstairs weight room. The “Fitness Center Improvement Project” is scheduled to take place from Sept. 8 to Sept. 22 and will involve UR Facilities workers installing a new floor in the Bloch Fitness Center.
It became necessary to repair cracks in the concrete underneath the Fitness Center in the fall of 2013. A flyer available at the GAC front desk states that the damage was caused by “a combination of an 80-year-old ceiling with large aggregate in the concrete, steam from the showers, and wear and tear from usage above the locker room ceilings, i.e. people dropping weights.” The men’s and women’s locker rooms in the GAC are located directly beneath the Fitness Center.
GAC Associate Director Kristine Shanley said that the damage had become more obvious last fall when large pieces of concrete started falling from the locker room ceiling. A light fixture previously anchored in the ceiling had also fallen down. As a result, repairs to the concrete were made this past spring. Shanley said of the repairs, “[UR Facilities] tapped out all of the loose pieces, patched it, and painted it overnight so we didn’t have to close the locker rooms.”
This fall’s renovations have been in the planning stages since last November. When asked why the gym couldn’t have been renovated over the summer, Shanley explained that it took a long time to plan the project, design the new layout, organize the necessary funds, and have the new composite floor sections manufactured.
A new, thicker composite floor is being installed on top of the old one. Assistant Director of Facilities Operations Barry McHugh said that this will help pad the concrete under the weight room, an important consideration in a second-story gym. McHugh stated that the new floor weighs 36,000 pounds in total, so it will have to be installed in sections, but that he hopes to be finished before the projected completion date of Sept 22.
In the meantime, the gym closure has displaced some student athletes. Sophomore softball player and GAC employee Ix Chel Mendieta de la Torre said, “For practice, we can’t do lift, which is a part of our schedule.” Mendieta de la Torre explained that she and the other members of the softball team have had to change their workout schedule while the gym is closed, focusing on cardio and body weight exercises instead of weight lifting.
Other teams who use the weight rooms will be affected as well, even those who use the adjacent varsity weight room instead of the Fitness Center. Although no renovations are being made to the varsity weight room, it will be rendered inaccessible by the closure of the Fitness Center.
“This is a disruption, no doubt about it,” Shanley said, but added that she has tried to help athletes work around the gym’s hiatus. “One of the things I tried to do was get out and talk to students whom I know […] get out to our coaches and […] explain what was happening.”
Mendieta de la Torre said that as a student employee of the GAC, she has encountered some negative feedback about the project from gym patrons. Most are upset that the weight room will be closed, she said, but “[she thinks] they’ll be happy once it’s renovated”.
The layout of the Fitness Center was changed once before, in November 2013, to alleviate the damage caused by dropping weights. Those changes included the addition of a core and stretching area, as well as the removal of some of the dumbbells and barbell racks. When the renovations are completed later this month, those items will be returned to the weight room, in addition to some new equipment.
“We are replacing the existing six half-racks with eight new half-racks and benches; new storage for the plates and bars between the new racks; two straight bars for chin ups; two dip bars … we will also be adding new stretching mats, exercise balls, etc. for the core area,” Shanley said. She added that the new layout should correct the overcrowding issues that resulted from the November layout change.
While the gym is closed, students who want to continue with a fitness program have utilized other options. The GAC staff has put together a suggested bodyweight exercise regimen, as well as a list of alternative gyms in the Rochester area. Students can also use all the other athletic facilities in the Fitness Center, including the indoor track, aquatic center, and basketball courts.
However, some students feel that these alternatives are unsatisfactory. Sophomore Kyle Ryan said that since he does not have a car, the off-campus gyms are inaccessible, and pointed out that he expects to be able to lift weights on campus.
“I specifically scheduled my classes to be after twelve so I can go to the gym in the morning,” Ryan said.
Senior Alex Neary was able to join an off-campus gym, but said that he thought students should be reimbursed for the temporary loss of their on-campus facilities. “Just as Residential Life is reimbursing residents of Brooks Crossing, I believe that the Athletics should compensate students that have chosen to purchase membership to other fitness centers during the period in which ours is being renovated,” Neary said in an interview. He continued by saying how he goes to the Fitness Center five or six days out of the week and that the closure will interfere with his workout routine, but added, “I am looking forward to a new floor plan.”
Shanley stressed that the inconvenience is temporary, saying, “Everything that can possibly be done to reduce this window is being done. When we reopen, the pain we’re feeling now … will be well worth it.”
Passanisi is a member of the class of 2017.