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Connecticut College opens new $8 million fitness center

With a quick snip of the ribbon yesterday, Connecticut College President Leo I. Higdon Jr. officially opened the college's new 10,000-square-foot fitness center - the first new building on campus in 14 years.

"I am highly confident that this is one of the best fitness facilities among liberal arts colleges," Higdon said at the opening ceremony, which included an all-campus picnic. "Physical fitness is a high priority for students, and it is a critical component of a liberal arts education."

The $8 million facility, built entirely with gifts to the college, triples the workout and fitness space for students, faculty, staff and other members of the college community. Its two stories rise above the Lyn and David Silfen Track and Field with sweeping views of the Thames River. Inside, wooden beams complement the clean lines of the metal railings, dark gray floors and glass walls. Completed in less than one year, the new building is a stunning architectural achievement. The building's dramatic glass walls were constructed with 44,000 pounds of glass and are designed to withstand 120 mile-per-hour hurricane winds.

Nearly two dozen specialty contractors, including seven from New London County, spent an estimated 29,000 hours on the design and construction. Together, they used 200 gallons of paint, 7,000 masonry blocks and 18,000 pounds of steel. The lumber used to make the columns, beams, floor and roof decking would stretch 18 miles if laid out end-to-end, with the longest piece of lumber measuring an incredible 47 feet and 3.75 inches. The first building to be constructed since the college adopted a green building policy in 2005, the fitness center uses high efficiency HVAC equipment and lighting controls, making it 21 percent more energy efficient than standard design. Daylight sensors reduce energy consumption by taking advantage of the abundant natural light and an Energy Star rated roof and low flow plumbing fixtures also help conserve energy and resources. Low VOC paint sealants and adhesives were used in construction, and all wood panel products are free of added urea formaldehyde. Additionally, more than 85 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills. The college is currently applying to have the building LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified by the United States Green Building Council.

The college's former fitness center - the Jane Murchison Hamilton '42 Fitness-Wellness Center - was also renovated to provide space for stretching and group exercise, such as aerobics, Pilates, yoga and spinning, bringing the total amount of new and renovated space to nearly 15,000 square feet.

Erin Davey '10, a member of the women's soccer and ice hockey teams, also spoke at the opening ceremony. "By creating a space that can be utilized by everyone on campus, the college is showing its commitment to athletics and fitness," Davey said.

William Wuyke, director of the fitness center, is incredibly proud of the new facility. "I'm like a kid with candy," he says. "There wasn't enough room in the old facility for everyone who wanted to use it. This will make a big, big difference for everyone on campus - students, as well as faculty and staff."

Fran Shields, the Katherine Wenk Christoffers '45 Director of Athletics, said nearly 80 percent of students already use the fitness center, and he expects use to increase. "Connecticut College is raising the profile of its athletics and fitness programs, and this new facility will help us attract to quality students and student-athletes," Shields said.

About Connecticut College

Situated on the coast of southern New England, Connecticut College is a highly selective private liberal arts college with 1900 students from all across the country and throughout the world. On the college's 750-acre arboretum campus overlooking Long Island Sound, students and faculty create a vibrant social, cultural and intellectual community enriched by diverse perspectives. The college, founded in 1911, is known for its unique combination of interdisciplinary studies, international programs, funded internships, student-faculty research and service learning.

September 17, 2009