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Zesiger Center Slated to Open on September 23

By Brian Loux


The Albert and Barrie Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center will officially open for business this Monday, Sept. 23. All MIT students will be able to use the facility free of charge.

The building will technically be run by the Health Fitness Corporation, a company that manages 160 similar sites across the nation. HFC does not work exclusively with universities.

MIT’s construction update Web site states that the building is still undergoing “water treatment” and “general interior finishes” as of yesterday. “Right now we are just touching up and making sure every paint chip is painted,” said Senior Project Manager of Construction Milan Pavlinic. “We call it post-natal care.”

Center opens more or less on time

Previous reports may have made the building appear behind schedule, but according to Pavlinic, everything has been going according to plan. Many expected the center to open in time for fall term, but this was never officiated. Based on information given by Assistant Department Head for Facilities and Operations Daniel Martin, The Tech reported the building would open on Sept. 7.

“There are many levels being discussed when talking about buildings being finished. One is of completion, one is certificate of completion, and one is of occupancy, and there are many others,” Pavlinic said referring to the report on the MIT Evolving Campus web site that the building would be “completed” in August 2002. The Zesiger Center was erected in its entirety this July. “The building was completed on time. There was no hold up on that,” Pavlinic said.

In an article in Tech Talk this July, it was reported that the Center would “open its doors” in September 2002.

The Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation staff was delayed, however, in moving into their new offices located on the second floor of the Zesiger Center. Martin said in the spring that the staff would move in between Aug. 23 and Sep. 7, but relocation did not begin until Sep. 10. Martin could not be reached for comment.

“I only had a rough idea of when they would move me in,” said Women’s Soccer Coach Melissa Hart. “I actually thought it was going to be October, so to me, they’re done early.”

The swim and water polo teams have not been significantly hurt by not being able to access the new 50-pool. “It’s definitely not affecting the swim team. Both the [water] polo and swim teams would still practice in the alumni pool,” said Men’s Swim Team Coach Josef Kurtz. “More than anything, [the larger and better pool is] teasing us ... giving us something to rally around and look forward to.”

Kurtz said that the goal of the department is to get the water polo and swim teams using the new pool as soon as it is complete, regardless if the rest of the facilities are open or not.

Work continues this weekend

HFC General Manager Tim Moore says that the Turner Construction staff will be working hard to be ready by the end of this weekend. “We can’t open with forklifts on our front doorstep,” he said. “Hopefully everything falls into place and contractors can finish their projects.”

While construction equipment still litters the areas around the Zesiger Center, the assignments that remain unfinished are what Turner Construction worker Tony Fredis and his colleagues call a punch list. “The architect comes by and tells us if he wants anything changed, such as moving this picture from this wall to that one,” he said, describing his current task.

The official dedication ceremony will take place on Oct. 4.

HFC will work with DAPER

HFC was contracted to open and manage the Zesiger Center and the programs it will offer. According to HFC Assistant Director of Marketing and Promotion Kristy Kemper, the HFC staff will be the management of the Zesiger Center, but Department of Athletics, Physical Education, and Recreation will still assist in the responsibilities.

The staff of HFC plans to frequently work with the DAPER staff as time goes on. “We see ourselves as part of the DAPER team ... and every member of our team has responsibilities relative to the administration,” Moore said.

With the completion of the Zesiger Center, all of the MIT athletic buildings on west campus will now be connected, making the separation of responsibilities a bit more vague. “We will work with DAPER to administer all athletic facilities in the complex,” Moore said.

It is still not known how the $1.4 million allocated to maintain the Zesiger Center each year will be divided up. Most likely, a portion of it will be used by HFC in order to pay for upkeep on the facility. Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict said that DAPER is given a bottom line budget for all its operations, including the Zesiger Center. “I would expect that HFC would get periodic payments from DAPER for its services and for running the building but [I] am not sure of the mechanics,” he said.

“The operational budget for this facility was developed in concert with MIT,” Moore said.

Athletics eager to use facility

DAPER and HFC staff members are very anxious to have the facility up and running. To many coaches, the Zesiger Center will help them train their teams.

“I’m very eager to use it. The squash coaches are ready to teach in the new center,” Alessi said, who also teaches the squash physical education class. “I think [the men’s soccer and lacrosse teams] will use the indoor hockey rink on the third floor ... in the off-season. It’ll quit interfering with the runners on the indoor track [in Johnson Athletic Center].”

“I think we’ll be able to use the fitness center in the off season,” said Hart. “It’s also nice to have an office for team meetings.”

“I think [the center is] a sign that MIT is making a commitment to its physical education department,” Moore said.

Alessi agreed with Moore’s sentiment. “I think it certainly is [a sign of MIT’s commitment to athletics]. We have a state of the art swimming facility, new squash courts and a second floor fitness center for the entire community,” he said.

Hart was more skeptical. “I think it’s a good sign, but it’s a long time coming,” she said. “I heard they were trying since the eighties for new facilities ... but I’m very happy it’s here.”