Faculty, students respond to Wise Center renovations

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Students emerging from winter break with New Year’s resolutions and fitness goals will encounter some new changes to the Wise Sport and Fitness Center, including the establishment of a varsity weight room for student athletes and a new weight room for students, faculty and staff.

Two of the former racquetball courts have been converted into a two-story gym for the general population of the college, while the old weight room will be exclusive to student athletes.

The first floor of the recently converted two-story gym constitutes a weight room for students, faculty and staff, and the second floor houses the cardio equipment removed from the lobby.

Director of Recreation and Facilities Jared Luteran and Director of Peak Performance and Fitness Christopher Van Alstyne said the changes to the Wise Center have been positive for both athletes and the general student body.

“For the most part, we’ve been happy with the new space,” Luteran said. “It’s opened up more space for everybody. It’s opened up the lobby back to what it was originally intended to be. Now that has given students an open space to study or have meetings.”

The changes to the weight rooms came as a result of campus feedback and a desire to recruit new student athletes with a space of their own, according to Luteran.

“The campus as a whole decided that we needed this change,” Luteran said. “We needed to have a space for our varsity teams to be able to do their workouts and a space for students, staff and faculty to come work out and not be trying to compete with a varsity team while they’re lifting.”

According to Luteran, the changes to the Wise Center led to a doubling of the student staff to accommodate the new weight room.

Van Alstyne attributed the change to a desire to improve the Wise Center and positively impact the Allegheny community.

“Our goal is to outfit (the weight room) as best as we can,” Van Alstyne said. “Is there stuff in there? Is it being used? Can it be changed? Can we get more stuff in there or take things away? Can we make people happy? That’s our biggest goal in this facility.”

While Luteran and Van Alstyne praised the additions and changes, some student groups expressed dissatisfaction with the renovations. Taylor Marzouca, ’20, cofounder of the Women’s Lifting Club, said the changes have not been beneficial for the club.

“(The changes) have not impacted us as much as we were hoping,” Marzouca said. “We were hoping for more space for our sessions to be held in, but because everyone is crammed into the new facility that doesn’t have enough equipment, we’re kind of pushed out onto the blue courts.”

In response to criticisms of the space, Van Alstyne said that Allegheny made a change to meet a demand that it saw as necessary and that renovations could only operate within a limited scope.

“Everyone could always love more space, but at the end of the day, it’s just going to come down to what we have to work with,” Van Alstyne said. “There’s things that you could always think about changing, but at the end of the day, it’s what we have.”

Contractors will be returning to Allegheny soon to refurbish the remaining racquetball court and finish smaller projects like the addition of coat hanging racks, according to Luteran. The Wise Center will also feature new treadmills with decline running capabilities in early February. Industrial fans will be used to increase airflow in the new cardio room until Physical Plant can increase air ventilation to the space.

A continued feature that Luteran said is not well-known is the Fitness on Demand app on the iPad in the Dance Studio. Students can select numerous workouts led by personal trainers that will be displayed on the room’s TV.

For student athletes, the changes will allow them to have their own personalized space with fully scripted workouts as part of a new National Collegiate Athletic Association mandate, according to Van Alstyne.

“The whole reason my position came about was an NCAA mandate saying that a certified weight and conditioning specialist had to be in the weight room to monitor workouts,” Van Alstyne said. “Every workout that takes place in there I’ve either seen and approved or I’ve written myself. If a club team goes in there with no supervision and someone gets hurt, that’s on my job.”

Despite the new mandate, club sports and lifters have expressed annoyance when the varsity weight room is unoccupied and still unavailable to them. Marzouca said that the changes may not have been made with the general student body in mind and the empty varsity weight room indicates that.

“It’s not really surprising,” Marzouca said. “I don’t think they were super concerned with giving general students more space. It was definitely about propping up the privileges the athletes have, which I don’t think is inherently a bad thing. I think they’re doing the best they can, but clearly planning wasn’t as seamless as it needed to be and the outcomes are still not that great.”

According to Van Alstyne, the student athletes will see direct benefits from the changes as they progress through Allegheny, both athletically and studiously.

“(Student athletes) know they have a space where they won’t have to compete with other people doing their workouts,” Van Alstyne said. “They know they can get in, get their workouts done and also get to class and meet their academic demands.”

Aside from the unfinished racquetball court and additional projects, the Wise Center is fully operational for students, faculty and staff during the spring semester. The Wise Center is operational from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday.