Student recreation, fitness center construction continues

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Student recreation, fitness center construction continues

Tori Flick

Tori Flick

Tori Flick

Gage Goulding

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Robert Morris University is a school known for its growing and competitive athletic programs. With the plans for a new arena to replace the current Sewall Center, there is more construction that is taking place under the $50 million budget: the new Student Recreation and Fitness Center.

The North Athletic Complex that is currently being torn down featured basketball courts, deck hockey, tennis and other multi-purpose courts. The facility, which is now under construction, has been flagged as part of the project that is going to cost the university $50 million. The new center is expected to open in the fall of 2017.

“The new student recreation building is a 44,000-square foot building, a big building,” said Bill Joyce who is the lead architect at RMU. Joyce has overseen the construction of projects such as Wheatley Hall, Scaife Hall, Lexington Hall and even the Colonial Lot.

A concern students had was the cost of the building and how it could possibly raise tuition for the next term. However, Joyce has a different take on the project from a financial standpoint.

“The student recreation building is a cost-effective building,” said Joyce. “Much of it is a pre-engineered building.”

The building itself is a box, similar to the layout of a storage container, and the expansions or other parts of the building are essentially other boxes attached on, according to Joyce. The building is expected to host two basketball courts, soccer locker rooms, softball locker rooms, visitors locker rooms, free weights and cardio equipment all on the first floor. The second floor will feature student locker rooms and excess fitness rooms for pilates, yoga and other organized classes.

“The new recreation and fitness center will be a vast improvement on the Jefferson Center,” said Armand Buzzelli, the director of campus recreation at Robert Morris. “Jefferson was never truly designed to serve as a fitness or recreation center. In the new building, we will be able to eventually house all of the indoor fitness and recreational sports activity at the university in one state of the art centralized building.”

The new building comes with new equipment, according to Buzzelli. The university will transfer much of the equipment in the Jefferson Center as well as add five new weightlifting racks, four platforms for Olympic lifts as well as various weights and machines.

“We will be using some of our current equipment but also getting a significant amount of new equipment,” said Buzzelli.

“The building is being built so fast for two reasons,” explained Joyce. “So the students can enjoy it and Sewall is going to close, basketball needs to practice.”

While men’s basketball head coach Andy Toole and the Colonials will play their games at PPG Paints Arena in the meantime, the team will use the student recreation center to host practices. The women’s basketball and volleyball teams will both practice and play games at the new recreation and fitness center.

Joyce really takes charge of the project after the building is physically built, working mainly on the style and appearance of the building.

“RMU has a unique architectural vocabulary,” says Joyce. “We like red or buffed brick, stainless steel roofs, lots of glass and cutting-edge looks.”

The building will have a similar look but not identical to the university’s last two major projects: Wheatley Center and Scaife Hall.

The student recreation and fitness complex is projected to cost the university $7 million. While some of the bill will be fronted by students in the form of their gym memberships fee, the rest of the funds have been fund-raised by donors.

“The student elected representatives within SGA passed a referendum in November of 2016 that full-time traditional undergraduate students will pay a $125 recreation and fitness fee each semester starting this upcoming fall,” said Buzzelli. “Tuition itself will not be impacted.”

“It’s nice to hit a home run when you guys come back and say, ‘Wow! Cool! Look at what happened to the building,’” said Joyce when talking about the opening of the building.

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