University celebrates re-opening of renovated East Gym
By Christine McKeown
The Binghamton University campus community is excited about the opening of the newly renovated Recreation Center, and Janice Bennett, associate director of Campus Recreational Services, believes that the new facility has exceeded everyone's expectations.
"There has been a lot of positive feedback so far," she said. "People are amazed that it was possible for the inside to look so different."
The Recreation Center at the East Gym reopened its doors Jan. 28, following an extensive 18-month renovation. Plans for the revitalization, which have been in the works since 2005, called for a full-blown internal transformation. The plans aimed to create an all-inclusive facility that would provide improved quality of fitness and wellness services.
Membership fees were waived during the first week, allowing attendees a trial run of the offerings.
"In our grand opening week, we've had about 1,000 visitors each day," Bennett said. "It's been a real melting pot of people so far. Students, faculty, staff and community members have shown up. Everyone is excited to come in and try it out."
The $14 million project transformed the facility into a contemporary fitness center, with enough space to meet the needs of both the campus and the community.
"We were overcrowded before," Bennett said, "but now we're more capable of serving everyone."
The FitSpace area, which sees the most foot traffic, was expanded from 4,000 to 10,000 square feet.
"Seeing FitSpace more than twice the size it used to be is mind-blowing," said
Zach Nersinger, a second-year graduate student. As a member of the Campus Recreation Advisory Board, he has been able to observe this project evolve from the beginning.
"Watching it all come together has been huge for me," Nersinger said. "The transformation is just incredible."
The expansion of FitSpace has provided room for double the amount of cardio- and strength-training equipment.
"The amount of equipment in here now is great, especially in the cardio section," said Robert Vermilye, a sophomore accounting major who works at the front desk. "From what I've seen, it's definitely been able to draw many more students."
The Cardio Theater technology implemented in FitSpace encourages a high-energy workout environment, with each machine containing a personal screen. The Expresso bikes offer an interactive workout experience, allowing you to challenge your friends to a virtual race and to post your results to Internet outlets such as Twitter.
In addition to FitSpace, there are now more than 100 group exercise classes offered every week, three times the amount provided in the past. The most popular classes, such as yoga, spinning or zumba, are offered about 25 times per week.
"We set up extra classes on peak hours so we can accommodate more people," Bennett said. "Now instead of just one class, we have three classes going on at once. There is something that's convenient for everyone."
The pool and gymnasium were also given major updates, revamped and modernized in ways that will significantly improve their everyday use. The locker rooms off of the pool area offer more individual storage lockers, and the physical design caters to personal privacy. The removal of the bleachers in the gym makes the most of the space, providing more room to move around.
"The gymnasium looks amazing," Nersinger said. "It's never empty - there's basketball going on almost nonstop. With a gym like this, we'll be able to offer more club sports."
The aesthetic changes in particular have managed to make an immediate impact on visitors. People are surprised at the extent of the visual differences. There is a clear attention to detail that people find impressive.
"I like the overall look of the place," said Christine Willock, a sophomore majoring in biology. "I didn't think it would look so nice. Having FitSpace overlook the pool is a cool feature, too."
The new facility now also has the resources to offer high-quality wellness and fitness services to the community.
"We've caught the attention of the community," Bennett said. "It will be interesting to see if we get more memberships from people outside of the campus."
Nersinger believes that the new center has the potential to become a staple of the community.
"I definitely think that community members will come here," he said. "This place rivals anything else available. There isn't anything else like it."