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Curl Gym next on college’s renovation list

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Antioch College is unveiling this week a preliminary design for its new Health and Wellness Center on campus. The center will be located in Curl Gym, which is scheduled for major renovation beginning late spring. College leaders view the wellness center as much a resource for the Yellow Springs community as it will be for the campus, Project Lead Dorothy Roosevelt said this week.

“We’re really excited about it — I think it will be great for the community.”

The college will host a dinner to announce further updates on the plans for Curl Gym tonight. The seating for the event is full.

According to the facilities master plan, Curl gym is next on the list of campus buildings to be renovated, after North Hall was completed last summer and a portion of the science building laboratories were reopened in the fall. Along with the rehabbing of the wellness center, the college expects to start the construction of another geothermal heating and cooling system (second to the one that serves North Hall and the Vernet Ecological Center) that will serve the gym and the science building.

“Everything is being done in a sequenced, thoughtful way with environmental and economic sustainability in mind,” Roosevelt said.

Roosevelt, who is the wife of Antioch College President Mark Roosevelt, came on as Project Lead in February to research best practices and manage a local survey about the wellness needs on campus and in the wider community. Formerly a child development researcher at Harvard Project Zero, Roosevelt owned a yoga studio in Pittsburgh and taught rehabilitative yoga to those with cancer and heart disease. Her interest in the wellness center stems from her experience and connection to a village community she has heard clearly say that it would like a wellness/fitness/recreation facility in the village.

“In my conversations with people, everyone, the first thing they say is, ‘Is the pool going to be back?’” Roosevelt said.

The survey the college conducted reflected that sentiment. Since February, the college has received about 500 survey responses, including 135 from campus and over 350 from the community. Close to 95 percent said they were very likely or likely to join the center, which is expected to be competitive in fees to area YMCAs. Most said they wanted the cardio/strength building equipmement and fitness aspects of a gym. And many people said they wanted the pool back.

So the plan that architects MacLachlan, Cornelius and Filoni are creating for the college wellness center includes everything the community said it wanted. According to Roosevelt, the front doors will open into an open lounge area with comfortable chairs, where people can gather, have a juice and plan a bike ride or coordinate a club team.

To the left, will be east gym’s basketball court, and to the right will be west gym’s fitness center/weight room. The college plans to keep two of the racketball courts behind west gym and turn two more into multi-purpose studios for things like dance, tai chi or martial arts. South gym, which was in fairly good shape, will remain a multi-purpose room able to accommodate both a campus dinner as well as a sporting competition or dance performance, Roosevelt said.

And at the heart of the gym, the pool will be completely rebuilt, at official competition length of 25 yards. The current pool is seven inches short of that, which Roosevelt suspects may be related to Antioch Archivist Scott Sanders’ story that the pool was planned and built at least in part by former Antioch students.

In a future facilities renovation phase, the second floor could accommodate a partnership with a physical therapy rehabilitation/massage practice.

In all, the 44,000 square foot fitness building will maintain its current footprint but be better integrated on the inside and get all new HVAC, electrical and plumbing infrastructure, as well as roofing, concrete patching, windows and doors. The renovation is expected to be completed sometime in the fall.

For the total cost of the project, the College is currently working with a rough “conceptual estimate” of $8 million, according to Antioch College Finance Director Valerie Webster. The number can vary due to a variety of alternate scenarios being considered in the bidding, which is expected to be finalized in a few weeks, Webster said.

While the renovation of the gym is part of Antioch’s master plan budget, the college is still in need of funds for the current year’s capital projects, Roosevelt said. With the second class of students finishing their first year, and a new crop of students applying for the fall, all tuition-free, the college is still dependent on ongoing fundraising. But Antioch’s leaders are taking a carefully planned course toward remaking the school into one that is sustainable for the long-term, Roosevelt said.

“Going forward, we’re doing things well and right, without being extravagant,” she said. “A fitness center is a real need — all colleges have some kind of fitness center, and if we want to attract students down the road, it’s something we’ll need.”

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