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MIT Maps Out Plan For Athletic Center

By Stacey E. Blau
Editor in Chief

President Charles M. Vest announced yesterday that MIT will move ahead with an $18-million plan to construct an new athletic facility that will open in the fall of 2000.

The new facility, which will be located in the space between the Student Center and the Johnson Athletics Center where the barbecue pits currently stand, will include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a health fitness center, a sports medicine facility, and recreation and team locker rooms.

The center will tie together many of the resources of the surrounding athletic facilities in Johnson, the Du Pont Gymnasium, and the Du Pont Athletic Center. Briggs Field House will be demolished as part of the plan, said Associate Planning Officer Michael K. Owu '86. Rockwell Cage will also be demolished but not until after the first phase of the project is completed and the pool opens in 2000.

The construction of the Olympic-sized pool, which will begin in 1998, is being made possible by an $8 million donation that MIT received from Albert L. Zesiger '51 and his wife Barrie.

Plan underwent several iterations

The plan for the new facility has existed in some form for a number of years, and its start and completion dates have been pushed back several times. A 1992 plan stated that the pool would likely be completed in June 1995.

There has been a growing need for a new facility over the years, Sports Information Director Roger F. Crosley said.

"The student population has grown, and our facilities have stayed the same," Crosley said. "Our athletes go to other schools and find places that have more new and modern facilities than we have and wonder why we can't have them. Now we can," he said.

"For MIT students, both undergraduates and graduates, athletics and recreation are such an important part of their lives," said Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams. The new facility "is a terrific investment for community life."

Maintenance of MIT's current facilities has become increasingly difficult as they grow older. The Alumni Pool, MIT's only pool, which is located in East Campus, is over five decades old and in need of a great deal of repair, Crosley said. It will likely be renovated once the new facility is completed in 2000 so that MIT will have two pools, one on each side of campus.

The new pool will have 17 lanes, each 25 yards long, and two moveable bulkheads that will allow the pool's length and width to be changed to suit various needs. The facility will also provide seating for 450 spectators.

The new facility will be a part the larger residential community that is being built around west campus that will eventually include a group of dormitories planned for Vassar Street, Owu said.

MIT searches for additional funds

With the $8 million gift, sufficient finances are finally in place to move ahead with construction of the facility, said George Ramonat, director of individual giving in the Office of Resource Development.

As the facility is built, the search will continue for more donors to finance the construction of additional sections of the building. "We have a group of MIT alumni who we feel have the capacity to make gifts of $100,000," Ramonat said.

The previous plan to build the facility was estimated at about $55.7 million in 1992. This time, at $18 million, "the cost is reasonable for the facility to do the job it needs to," Ramonat said.