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New Facility Includes Pool, Fitness Center

By Sanjay Basu

Plans for a major, two-part addition to MIT's athletic facilities are now in a detailed design phase.

The first phase of the project will involve the construction of a new $40 million building situated between Johnson Athletic Center and the Student Center where the barbeque pits now stand, said Michael K. Owu '86, a senior planning officer.

The “MIT Sports and Fitness Facility” will include an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a smaller training pool, a 12,000-square foot fitness center, a medical treatment area, locker rooms, laundry facilities, a multi-purpose room, international sized squash courts, and administrative offices.

Currently, MIT has only one pool, the Alumni Pool, which was built in 1940. It is 25 meters long, compared with 50 meters in an Olympic-sized pool.

According to Daniel Martin, assistant athletic department head for facilities and operations, the Alumni Pool will remain in operation after the new complex is open.

“The first phase should take about two years, beginning after commencement next year and ending in May 2001,” Owu said.

“The second part, which is still in an early planning stage, will involve the demolition and replacement of Rockwell Cage,” he added.

A building containing four new basketball courts, six racquetball courts, and a multi-purpose room will replace Rockwell Cage.

Current facilities inadequate

“There’s a definite need for these new facilities,” said Martin. “We have nearly 10,000 students and 8,000 [faculty and staff] using a 2,000-square-foot facility.”

“Why we need these new facilities is a no-brainer,” he said. “The current fitness center is heavily utilized and totally inadequate.”

“When we put in the first pool, our facility was state of the art,” Martin said. “Now the population has grown, and there’s less water per person.”

That inadequacy brought support for the plan from administrators and planning officials, he said.

Funds are guaranteed for the project, he said.

“The administration and planning committees are also fundraising as much as possible,” said Martin. “The plan will go through,” he added.

The original financial impetus for the construction of the new pool complex came from an $8 million donation by Albert L. Zesiger ’51 and his wife Barrie in December 1996.

At the time, the total cost of the building was estimated at $18 million. An earlier $55.7 million plan was shelved in 1992 for lack of funds.

New addition to old plan

The expansion plan is an addition to the 1975 athletic master plan -- a proposal created by athletic directors and administrators to improve athletic facilities at the Institute.

“Back in 1980, the plan first took effect, and we created the Johnson Athletic Center,” Martin said. “Now, we are faced with a greater student population and old facilities.”

“This effort is to bring MIT to a new standard. Students here are interested in a variety of things, but they’re sometimes restricted by the athletic facilities available to them,” he said.

“We’re very excited about this new plan.” Martin said. “It gives students the opportunity to have a more positive out of the classroom experience.”

Susan Buchman contributed to the re-porting of this article.