Talk of new field house sparks excitement

TEMP ORARY February 9, 2012 0

Elizabethtown College has been putting in plans to build a field house in the most recent draft of the 2012-17 Elizabethtown College Strategic Plan. For the less sports-inclined who don’t know what a field house is, it is a large facility that hosts a variety of sports and fitness programs. The Strategic Plan lists the expansion of athletic and wellness facilities as one of the goals to improve campus infrastructure.

Currently, if a student were to go to all of the E-Fit programs that are offered throughout the week they’d find themselves going to a variety of venues. Spinning is offered at the E-Town Fitness Club on Market Street and yoga is in the M&M Mars Room in Leffler Chapel. Students can release pent up frustration in Royer basement doing kickboxing and dance away to Zumba in the Koons Activity Venue (KĀV). For a workout involving ellipticals and treadmills, head to the Body Shop. Want to lift weights or swim some laps? Go to Thompson Gymnasium. Obviously, Etown’s current fitness facilities sprawl the campus and the town.

Nancy Latimore, director of athletics and physical education department chair, wrote in an email, “We’ll know more once the strategic plan is approved by the Board of Trustees. The College clearly needs additional indoor recreational space, as well as an expanded and improved fitness center, for the campus community.” As Etown’s fitness programs have expanded, the facilities that contain them have not. Dean of Students Marianne Calenda is aware of the problem and said, “We’ve augmented E-Fit, we have new equipment in the Body Shop, but we recognize that this is not enough … We obviously need more indoor facilities for athletics.”
Latimore wrote that such a building would either be an addition built onto Thompson Gym, or a separate building elsewhere on campus. She described the vision for the field house in detail, writing, “If the College builds a new recreation center, we would like it to include an indoor running track; court space for basketball, volleyball, and tennis; and an enlarged fitness center (a.k.a. Body Shop). We would also be interested in spaces for activities such as aerobics, spinning, and yoga; racquetball and squash court; and gathering spaces for students and members of the campus community.”

Reaching the finished product will prove to be a challenge, however. “Absent is the multi-million dollar cash stream,” Calenda said, citing money as the big issue. “If we had $25 million right now we could go straight to the endpoint, but we don’t have $25-plus million.”

Calenda jokingly added that if anyone knows a multi-millionaire, to send them in Etown’s direction. “There’s a balance,” she continued. “The best possible scenario would be if we had a big gift from a donor.” She continued that if the College took out a loan for construction, it could affect tuition costs. “We’re trying to be sensitive. Every increase in the budget is a consequence for the students.” Latimore agreed that financing the project would be difficult.

Because drumming up so much money is an issue, there are two possible courses of action in attaining better fitness facilities. Calenda mentioned that the first course of action could be an “interim step” before building the field house. The College could build a facility bigger than the Body Shop with more space for equipment and fitness classes, yet still pursue the goal of building the field house at the same time. It would cost several million dollars for this incremental step, and Calenda is unsure whether it would be worth it or not.

The other course of action would be to simply wait and build the field house only when the College has substantial funds for it. Latimore wrote that the College’s strategic planning committee and the Board of Trustees will need to make this decision.

While there will be financial difficulties, Latimore believes that the field house would be very beneficial. She wrote, “Improved recreational facilities would lead to a happier and healthier campus community … New recreational facilities would also greatly enhance the College’s efforts to recruit new students.” Until then, students will just have to console themselves with the thought that walking to all the various fitness facilities should at least be healthy for them.

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