Field house upgrades to begin in March 2014: Renovations aim to improve “antiquated and undersized” facilities

by Sammy Marrus '16 Assistant Photography Editor

By EMILY BARY ’14

Co-Editor in Chief

field house2The Keohane Sports Center (KSC) may not be getting the most money out of the Wellesley 2025 budget, but field house renovations are among the first to be tackled. The Dorothy Towne Field House will shut down at the beginning of spring break and is scheduled to remain closed until January 2015. During this time, workers will replace the roof and side walls of the field house—known as the envelope—as well as fix the flooring, which has been in place since the 1980s. The actual blueprint of the field house will remain as is.

Currently, members of the field house design team are in the schematic design phase of the renovations, looking at cost estimates from one of the project’s architectural firms and considering how to fit aspects of the renovation into the square footage of the field house. At the same time, the team is finalizing relocation plans to reassign spaces for physical education classes, recreation activities and varsity athletic practices and competitions from mid-March 2014 to January 2015.

Next fall, the basketball team will practice and play games off campus, and the tennis team will play matches on local indoor courts when there is inclement weather.

The fitness equipment that is currently housed in the field house will be moved to various other locations in the KSC. Director of Athletics and Chair of Physical Education and Athletics Bridget Belgiovine anticipates that the spinning bikes will be relocated to a vacant racquetball court, the varsity crew ergs will be moved to the lower level of the sports center and the cardio equipment will be moved into two of the glass-backed squash courts.

“We’ll have very limited flexibility to move around in term four and semester one of next year,” Belgiovine said. She is the co-chair of the field house design team.

While only $11.7 million of the $365.4 million Wellesley 2025 base plan budget is allocated to field house renovations, the design team is looking for ways to incorporate the programmatic needs of the PERA department into the field house renovation that has been approved by the Board of Trustees.

“We are considering whether we can do something more robust…more than equipment stuck in corners,” Assistant Vice President of Facilities Management and Planning Pete Zuraw said at a Wellesley 2025 town hall meeting on Nov. 18.

In October, the team presented to the Board of Trustees a few suggestions for “alternates” outside the scope of what was approved by the Board but within the budget. These include a fitness mezzanine that would extend off of the current erg loft and house all of the fitness equipment in one location. None of the design team’s alternatives have been approved and the team doesn’t have cost estimates for any of the alternates.

The design team needs to get support from the Board of Trustees for its project plans by the first week in February.

The team is considering putting a new surface on top of the existing field house floor instead of removing the floor altogether, in order to avoid contaminants and waste. The Board also approved a plan to retain the portable wood floor that is used for basketball games, though one of the design team’s alternates is a permanent basketball and volleyball floor that would take up one-third of the field house. This permanent wood floor has not been approved by the Board.

A satellite fitness facility on East Campus hasn’t been part of any of the field house design team’s discussion, according to Belgiovine. She said that any decisions to place cardio machines in the residence halls would likely be part of the residential life team’s plans for dorm renovations, but cautioned that putting equipment in the residence halls goes beyond simply purchasing machines since the exercise equipment frequently breaks and requires regular cleaning and maintenance to ensure appropriate working order.

Belgiovine stated that overall, she thought the field house renovations would increase programming options despite funding constraints. The design team is aiming to maximize space in the field house so that club teams, varsity teams and individual students can access spaces in the facilities during the peak 4 to 7 p.m. time period.

“I believe our design team conversations are resulting in the greatest impact for student programming and if we can manage to keep them within the reasonable budget, I think that the students will benefit immensely from the work that the design team has been engaged in,” Belgiovine said. “We are making the best decisions around this renovation plan even though it’s a small portion of this Wellesley 2025 plan.”

The Wellesley 2025 final report released last month quotes consulting firm Cannon Design as calling PERA’s facilities “antiquated and undersized.” Belgiovine said that she felt the renovations would change the state of the facilities slightly, but cited many aspects of the sports and wellness working group’s original proposal last semester that would have done more to improve the KSC. These plans included a new event gym and an addition to the front of the KSC to house a new fitness center as well as Health and Counseling Services. These plans were not approved by the Board.

“In all honesty, the students will benefit from [the renovations] but it’s not the Wellesley 2025 overall plan that was developed last spring,” Belgiovine stated. “The renovation of the field house is a very small part of it actually.”

Many students feel that renovations that will be made to the KSC as part of Wellesley 2025 don’t go far enough and won’t bring the College’s facilities up to par with those at peer institutions.

“I think it’s good that they’re doing renovations; however, the renovations that they’re doing are nowhere near what needs to be done,” said Zoe Sobel ’14, a member of the indoor and outdoor track teams. “Our pool is leaking out of the bottom, and we don’t have on-campus facilities for all of our varsity sports teams. It’s just kind of sad.”

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