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Newly hired Antioch College Wellness Center Director Monica Hasek, left, and Project Lead Dorothy Roosevelt beside the center’s almost-completed pool, in the natatorium that features a wall of windows on the south side, with a patio beyond. The center is scheduled to be completed in late summer or early fall. (Photo by Diane Chiddister)

Newly hired Antioch College Wellness Center Director Monica Hasek, left, and Project Lead Dorothy Roosevelt beside the center’s almost-completed pool, in the natatorium that features a wall of windows on the south side, with a patio beyond. The center is scheduled to be completed in late summer or early fall. (Photo by Diane Chiddister)

Wellness for body, mind, community

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In its former life, the Antioch College gym had lots of windows but most were covered with boards. Now, the boards have been removed and the windows upgraded. Light streams through the 26 large, newly-visible windows in the building’s east and west wings (formerly the east and west gyms) while more light cascades from the swimming pool’s south wall of glass, as well as from new windows added to the pool’s north side. And light pours from new windows into the multipurpose room where yoga and tai chi classes will be held, as well as in studios soon to be available for classes and other gatherings.

Nearing the end of its $8 million, yearlong renovation, the new Antioch College Wellness Center will have an abundance of light. And that light serves many purposes, according to project lead Dorothy Roosevelt. It illustrates the revived college’s goal, in restoring its aging facilities, to highlight the strengths of a building while upgrading for improved functionality and energy use. The light conveys naturalness, spaciousness and openness, the qualities that leaders seek in the new facility. And light can also be seen as a symbol for the revived college.

“It’s a metaphor for an opening up, an expanding,” Roosevelt said in a recent interview. “It’s the college expanding into the community.”

Hasek new director
Roosevelt and Monica Hasek, the newly hired director of the center, were clearly enthused to take a visitor on a recent tour of the facility, which is expected to open in late summer or early fall. Walking in from the front entrance, a visitor first sees the lobby, soon to have couches and chairs arranged into groupings that provide spaces for people to come together, or just to hang out. Healthy snacks will be available and unlike many fitness facilities, there will be no piped in music or TV. Rather, at best, there will be, along with the sounds of people jogging or playing ball, the low hum of human voices, sharing ideas.

“I’d like things to bubble up here around wellness in the broadest sense, not only physical but social and emotional, and the wellness of the community,” Roosevelt said.

It’s a place where students and villagers, the old, the young and all in between, will be welcome.
“We’re excited to strengthen the connection between the village and college, to provide a meaningful way for people to come together around wellness,” Roosevelt said.

The recent hiring of Hasek, for 10 years the owner/director of Yoga Springs, as the center’s director was a step toward strengthening that bond between college and community, Roosevelt believes.

“That Monica is a villager is fabulous,” Roosevelt said, citing also Hasek’s business experience, energy and expertise around wellness and enthusiasm as strengths she’ll bring to the job.
Hasek, who is married to Yellow Springs News co-owner Robert Hasek, is also a professional interior designer and realtor. She takes the place of Becky Harrison, who was hired in February to head the facility but left two weeks ago. Harrison was not a good fit for the job, according to Roosevelt, even though the college followed an extensive search process before hiring her. When Harrison left just two weeks ago, college leaders wanted to move quickly to find a new director to keep the project moving ahead. And Hasek, with whom Roosevelt had met several times to discuss visions for the facility, seemed the obvious choice.

Thinking big is one of her passions, Hasek said, and she brings to the job a vision of Yellow Springs as a wellness destination, which she has nurtured for many years in her capacity at Yoga Springs.

“I feel I’m a pioneer in the community in bringing wellness practitioners together,” she said. Having collaborated with local yoga teachers for the past 10 years at Yoga Springs, she’s ready to expand her vision to create beneath one roof a central location for a wide variety of wellness trainers, facilitators and educators.

Initially, though, Hasek will have a full plate keeping the center on track, with programming activities, scheduling, ordering equipment, hiring an assistant director and filling several part-time positions and developing policies and procedures. She and Roosevelt are also working to create a membership cost structure, which they hope to keep competitive with regional wellness facilities. And Hasek will also soon launch fund-raising activities for the center.

It’s a lot of work, but it didn’t take long for Hasek to say yes to the job offer.

“When I got the phone call, I couldn’t resist,” Hasek said of the opportunity to “expand what I was already doing and create a broader wellness community.”

Flexibility is key
What villagers care about most is the pool, Roosevelt and Hasek agree, and they believe Yellow Springers will be pleased with the result of the year-long renovation. The new pool is seven inches longer than the old, to meet standard Olympic length, and a therapeutic whirlpool has been added. The room has been upgraded in many ways, with new lighting, new windows and the new glass wall to the south, out of which swimmers can see an expansive view of the outdoors, including a patio with tables and chairs.

The former east gym, once home of local volleyball leagues, will be the new home for basketball, volleyball, pickleball and badminton games. Boards were removed from the 14 ceiling-height windows, and the windows upgraded, among other changes. New to the whole building is the open floor plan, which allows those in the lobby to watch what’s going on in the gym. As much as possible in the new center, walls were removed to provide open space.

“The idea is to create a community center where you come to see others, a way to draw people together,” Roosevelt said.

The former west gym, once home of basketball leagues, is now the fitness area, which will house fitness equipment along with a walking/running track around the perimeter.

In between the east and west wings, a multipurpose room with a sprung dance floor that can hold 40 people will be available for a variety of uses, including dance, yoga, tai chi and aerobics. Like many of the center spaces, it is designed to fit many possible uses.

“We’re trying to create spaces that have as much flexibility as possible, to meet the needs of both the college and the community,” Roosevelt said, stating that the center illustrates the philosophy behind the whole campus renovation, in which fewer buildings will be used, but uses will be multi­plied, “so that rooms don’t sit empty.”

The building’s locker rooms have been upgraded top to bottom, and the second floor also offers a multipurpose studio space, where classes in such wellness activities as yoga or zumba might be offered. Along with new windows, the floors were refinished and lighting upgraded.

In the whole building, project leaders aim for energy efficiency and hope to meet the standard for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, certification.

Roosevelt has a masters from Harvard Graduate School in Education in human development and psychology, and spent 10 years working as a researcher for Project Zero, a Harvard Education School program. Her research skills came in handy creating the new wellness center, as she gathered information to aid the planning and building process.

Married to College President Mark Roosevelt, Dorothy Roosevelt first worked in the college admissions office when her family moved to town. But she has practiced, and taught, yoga for years, and when the opportunity to help shape the wellness center presented itself, she immersed herself in the project.

Aside from the satisfaction of creating a new wellness center for the college and the community, Roosevelt is thrilled to help bring the old gym — built in 1929 — back to life.

“I think this building is beautiful,” she said. “I love bringing people together here.”

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