Marist Makes Strides in Expanding On-Campus Fitness Centers
By Alyssa Hurlbut
Fitness is flourishing at Marist College as the school sweeps in a series of expansion projects for its on-campus workout facilities.
The latest student gym attached to North Campus Housing Building D spearheaded the movement with its grand opening Monday, January 15. The facility, which abuts the building’s retail food court, boasts tile floors, windowed walls, 35 cardio machines, a dance room, an innovative sound system, and Marist’s signature arched doorways on either side.
As students flood North Campus’ workout area, many praise its modern appeal and accessibility as a viable alternative to the James A. McCann Recreation Center across campus.
“Everyone is excited to have a gym closer to where they live,” said Kat Fano, Jr., resident of Building A. “This gym is definitely beneficial because having one gym for 6,000 students is insane. Most students like to get a workout in once a day and it sucks when you go to a gym and there’s no machines open.”
The addition of North Campus’ gym advances Marist’s goal to expand the reach of its fitness centers as the number of undergraduate students increases. Tim Murray, Marist’s athletic director, describes the department’s intention to equip the rapidly growing campus with additional satellite facilities.
“We hope to do a small expansion in [the Marketplace gym] to provide more cardio equipment,” Murray said in regard to the fitness center in Upper West Cedar Housing.
But as Marist spurs growth in its smaller branch gyms, the most drastic changes are yet to come: expansion of the McCann Center scheduled to begin in June.
In December, Marist announced its $2 million grant from the James J. McCann Charitable Trust for “replacement and significant expansion of the auxiliary gym and fitness center in the James J. McCann Recreation Center.”
“We are honored the [McCann Foundation] Trustees elected to issue a leadership grant in support of this important initiative that will enhance the athletic and recreational opportunities available to both our Division I student-athletes and the entire student body,” said Chris DelGiorno, vice president of college advancement.
Discussion of renovating and expanding McCann has lingered for years. But after learning of the grey auxiliary gym’s settling foundation, an issue caused by gradual weathering and change in the soil upon which a building rests, administration decided to prioritize the project.
The administration has yet to reveal the specific changes included in the expansion project, but Murray suggests that the venture, once finished, will yield a gym that is three times the size of the current facility.
“The benefits will be incredible,” Murray said. “Current students will really have a first class workout space.”
The school anticipates construction will last a year, starting this June. The project involves demolishing the current weight room and grey gym and expanding it toward the parking area and river.
The additional space will allow for two 7000-square-foot rooms; one reserved for athletes during their practice times, and one located upstairs for general student use. The separation, Murray believes, will benefit both student athletes and non-athletes by clearing congestion during team lift sessions. While the specific schedule has not yet been finalized, the athletic department intends to open up the bottom-floor “athlete gym” to general students during the evenings after team practices have finished.
Additional construction will convert the grey auxiliary gym into two wooden-floor basketball courts and a multipurpose room intended for dance and exercises classes, special courses, and intramural sports. An elevated indoor track will circle the area above the courts.
“The gym will get us in line with the other beautiful buildings on campus like Hancock,” Murray said. “It’s very impactful in recruiting general students too.”
But with the extravagant operation in place, Murray does anticipate some growing pains as the project launches, specifically in terms of accommodating general students and athletic teams during the construction phase.
No specific accommodation plans have been confirmed. Murray hopes to use the tent on the team practice fields behind McCann to store equipment. The school will also rely heavily on the satellite facilities as well as practice fields to disperse teams and general students.
Many athletic team coaches welcome the changes to McCann with a mix of excitement and preparation in regard to their team’s plan of action while the building undergoes construction.
“With a new facility comes transition. The big picture is we will have an improved area to train in so that during the time it is being built, we will make adjustments and work with all the teams to make the most of it,” said James Parady, head coach of Marist football.
“My understanding is we will have a temporary weight room behind McCann but nothing officially has been told to me."
While the school is still in the design phase of the McCann project, Dr. Geoffrey Brackett, executive vice president, estimates the venture will cost close to $25 million--a number that is not uncharacteristic for Marist’s recent renovation endeavors.
The Marist gym expansion project comes amid the school’s continuous campus growth over the last five years, which includes the Steel Plant and walkway projects, North Campus Housing project, and two-year-old science building.
Brackett speaks to Marist’s significant growth as a “complete campus transformation.”
“Every piece of the campus has radically changed,” Brackett said. “We are a college that has the resources to be successful enough to do it--many colleges cannot afford to do this kind of reinvestment.”
“McCann is important because without a robust student support system for a residential college, you are missing a critical piece of what’s important to students, to parents, and even to the community.”
Brackett suggests the campus will continue to grow at a rapid pace, with a renovation and expansion project for the Dyson academic building on the horizon.
“As Marist is growing in stature, you have to have the facilities to support the academic mission and the student needs,” Brackett said. “When you have NCAA Division 1 athletes, you make commitment to them, and you also make a commitment to the wider student population that as a successful private institution, we are going to provide you with real value for tuition dollars that are being paid.”
Correction, January 30, 2018: An earlier version of the article stated the elevated indoor track will enable Marist's Division I Track and Cross Country teams to practice on campus. This line has been removed, as there is no confirmation that the track will allow for the team to practice on campus.