By ARDEN IGLEHEART
This year, returning students might notice more changes to campus besides hordes of new freshmen. The new fitness and recreation center, located just north of the Ferman Music Center, is almost complete, and ResCom was demolished in May to clear the way for the second phase of the Palm apartments.
The Fitness Center will be complete sometime early this semester, according to Stephanie Russell Krebs, Dean of Students. It will include six group exercise rooms including a separate spinning room, exercise machines and free weights, as well as a room for recreation staff meetings, professional training sessions and other events.
McNiff Fitness Center was demolished in May after 20 years of operation to make room for new basketball and volleyball courts. These will open when the center opens or slightly after. The new center is two stories and about eight times bigger than McNiff, and according to Krebs, there is no comparison between it and McNiff.
“The new facility will better accommodate our growing population and will meet the exercise needs of students, faculty and staff,” Krebs said. “We are excited that students will have either no or a shorter waiting time for equipment, there will be more exercise classes and personal training opportunities, and easier access to intramurals, off-campus recreation, club sports and more.”
UT chose to institute a new fitness center because the school’s population has almost tripled since the opening of McNiff in 1993. The university also offers quite a few recreational programs, and administrators felt that it needed a bigger space to accommodate those.
“I strongly believe that this center will enrich students’ UT experience by helping them maintain a healthy lifestyle, which has very positive impacts on student learning,” Krebs said.
Jenna Manto, a sophomore journalism major, says she does think UT needs a new gym, but thinks the university should have first focused on building new dorms.
“I think the gym could’ve waited until we had more housing first. That should’ve been their main priority before they started building a gym,” Manto said.
ResCom was bulldozed in May after commencement, and there have been changes to campus roads. Spaulding drive, located off North Boulevard between Brevard Hall and Sykes Chapel, will remain narrowed to two lanes. North Brevard Street is and will remain closed.
Phase II of Palm Apartments will house approximately 600 students compared to ResCom’s 234. The units will be similar in style to the existing Palm apartments, suite-style with single rooms and a common kitchen, bathroom and living area.
“I personally prefer the apartment-style dorms,” Manto said, “and I know many students prefer living in their own bedroom… so I think it’s a positive in that aspect but at the same time it takes up a lot of space to have so many apartment-style dorms.” Manto said that traditional dorms might have been a better choice if more students could be housed in them.
Krebs said that the buildings will provide students with more modern amenities and a more comfortable space compared to ResCom.
“UT students largely prefer living on campus, so it was clear that we needed to continue building residence hall space that would meet the needs of current students,” Krebs said.