To accommodate a growing student body that has a desire to exercise, East Tennessee State University officials broke ground on a large addition to the school’s gymnasium Wednesday.
The expansion of the school’s Center for Physical Activity will add about 20,000 square feet of programming space to the 100,000-square-foot facility.
Included in the expansion project is an extended weight and cardio room with new strength and cardio machines; one enclosed multi-use court for basketball, volleyball and indoor soccer; two upstairs studio spaces for yoga/Pilates, martial arts and other uses; additional restrooms and water fountains on the second floor; and a family/private use shower and changing facility on the main floor. It will also allow for the conversion of the current yoga studio into an indoor cycling studio.
The $7 million expansion project was designed by Ken Ross Architects and will be built by Bur Wil Construction Co. It should be finished by fall 2013.
The CPA already includes a swimming pool, basketball courts, an indoor rock climbing wall, cardio machines and weightlifting equipment.
Lynn Nester, director of campus recreation, said the expansion has been needed for a few years due to an increase in the student population and the demand for the facility.
“They are utilizing it,” Nester said, adding faculty, staff and their dependents also are able to use the CPA. “Our peak weekdays are actually Monday through Thursday and we’re hitting around 2,000 (visitors), give or take.”
ETSU had just more than 11,000 students in 2002 when the facility opened. Today there are around 15,000 students. The number of visits to the CPA rose from 232,794 in 2010-11 to 241,466 in 2011-12, an increase of more than 8,500, according to figures from the school.
Included in the expansion project is the creation of a field complex a short distance from the main campus for intramural sports. This project will include a field house. This field complex, located at the corner of Ashley Road and Seminole Drive, is being constructed and will feature one multi-sport synthetic turf field with one softball field with a flag football field overlaid in the outfield, as well as a multi-sport, natural Bermuda grass field with one softball field with an overlaid 120-yard by 55-yard multi-use field.
This part of the project should be finished by this fall.
Nester said the extra space from the expansion will allow more classes to be offered, which is something students want, even on the weekends now.
“The numbers (of visits) obviously drop off Friday, Saturday and Sunday but over the years we’ve seen this campus has gone from more of a suitcase or a commuter campus to a lot of students staying in town on the weekends,” Nester said. “They live in the dorms, they work in Johnson City or on campus and they want ... the facility to be open and the recreational programs to participate in, so we have a lot of programs now on the weekends for students.”
Student Government Association President Iqra Ahmad was present for the groundbreaking and said a good workout facility is important for students in many ways, including providing an escape from being a student for a while.
“Nothing feels better than getting on a treadmill, taking a yoga class or playing a game of intramural soccer to re-energize the mind and get back to our school work,” Ahmad said.
A $6 increase was added to the student campus recreation fee to staff and operate the expansion.