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Antioch leaders propose a community-friendly gym

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Working together, the Yellow Springs community and Antioch College can create a state-of-the-art wellness center at the college’s Curl Gymnasium, college leaders told about 50 people at a meeting last Tuesday, Oct. 26, on the Antioch College campus.

“We’re talking about a greatly enhanced resource,” said John Feinberg, the preservation specialist and Antioch alum who is leading efforts to restore the facilities of the revived college.

Curl gym, for many decades a site for community physical recreation and fitness activities, has been shuttered since the college was closed down in 2008. But college leaders have been working to renovate the building since the college reopened a year ago, with the intention of creating a wellness center that benefits both the college and the village, according to Antioch College Interim President Matthew Derr in opening remarks. And the gym is only the first of many potential collaborative efforts, he said.

“We have a vision for a campus that is much more thoroughly integrated into the Yellow Springs community than it was before, and more integrated than at most communities with liberal arts colleges,” Derr said. “We’re talking about a building, but really about something more profound and only beginning.”

The facility envisioned by college leaders at the Oct. 26 gathering, and shown in a floor plan (see page 5), followed interviews with village stakeholders about their needs and desires, according to Dean Brookie, the architect for the project. Brookie said he had spoken with many community members, including seniors, school officials and fitness enthusiasts, to gather suggestions. Both Brookie and Feinberg emphasized that they want to ensure that they are heading in the right direction regarding the facility.

“We’re trying to determine that the community wants what we believe we’ve heard,” Feinberg said.

Most participants who spoke seemed favorable to the project.

“This project hits the needs other facilities are not addressing,” said Village Council member Karen Wintrow. “Everything I’ve heard indicates you’ve done a pretty good job identifying community needs.”

If the facility described at the meeting moves ahead, it will include several new features, including a climbing wall, enhanced cardio equipment, a day care facility, a senior fitness room, a splash pool for small children, a birthday room and possibly some food service. The current swimming pool would be upgraded, as would the gym on the west side, which suffered water damage during the campus closure, Brookie said. The south gym space would also be upgraded to function as a multipurpose space for dance and performances, and locker rooms would be made smaller and more up to date.

“This gym would be a center of community activity,” Feinberg said.

College leaders also intend that the new gym will be as environmentally sustainable as possible, with geothermal heating for the pool and solar panels on top of the building providing at least a portion of electrical needs.

The cost of renovating and creating new facilities would be about $3.5 million overall, not including the price of gym equipment, Feinberg said. The college is including the Curl gym renovation as part of its capital campaign of raising $50 million for renovating college facilities, Feinberg said. The college has already invested about $120,000 in fixing the most immediate problems, including repairing the west gym roof, putting in a new drainage system and performing a structural condition assessment.

While college leaders have aimed their fundraising efforts at alumni, “We imagine Curl as a resource for the entire Yellow Springs community and welcome support from individuals within that broader community,” Derr said in an e-mail this week.

For the gym to be fiscally viable, the Yellow Springs community needs to be willing to pay membership fees that, while higher than fees for the previous use of the gym, would be lower than those for comparable facilities, Feinberg said. A family membership would cost about $900 per year, an individual membership would cost $540 and a senior membership would be $420 annually. Individual non-member daily visits would cost $15 each, or $10 for youth. While basic fitness classes would be included in the annual membership fee, extra classes would not, he said.

The membership price seemed too high to Shirley Kristensen, who at the meeting stated that, “If you’re trying to be all things for all people, you’re pricing some people out.”

Community members should be aware that the renovated facility will provide high-end service, and that if it were being built from the ground up, it would cost considerably more, Feinberg said.

“For $3.5 million, the community gets a $20 million facility,” he said.

In an e-mail following the meeting, Brookie said that the project “will be commenced upon commitment of donations and community support,” although he was not specific about the level of community support sought. The project could be completed in stages depending on the level of donor support, he wrote.

During questions, several audience members expressed concern that the proposed pool would have a depth that is too deep for children and for some of the senior fitness activities that have been popular in recent years, several pool users said.

Brookie said the planners will reconsider the pool plans. Refurbishing and maintaining a pool are the biggest expenses in the project, according to Feinberg, who said that planners need to be sure the community wants one.

The gym planners are still seeking feedback from the community. To provide comments, write Brookie at .

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