May 29, 2024

New Varsity Weight Room To Open Soon in Bennett

Anne Shearer 24', McKenna Gregg 27'

When students return from winter break, the Bennett Athletic and Recreation Center will open the new Varsity Weight Room. For coaches and many students, this is an exciting, long-awaited change. The current Fitness Center becomes overcrowded at times, making group lifts for athletic teams difficult. This new weight room creates a place for varsity level teams and higher level training, and will replace the current Aerobics Studio. While some groups who use the Aerobics Studio have concerns about this change, athletic coaches are enthusiastic for what it means for the future of team training.  

Interim Athletics Director and Men’s Lacrosse Coach Brian Lane cited significant decreases in group fitness classes since the pandemic, stating the Athletics Department saw the current Aerobics Studio as underutilized. Meanwhile, growing athletic rosters meant that “there were some needs for us to grow into that space eventually.” The past two years, says Lane, “we’ve had a lot of different conversations, and it really wasn’t until this summer that we cast a strong vision for the project and then were able to get a generous anonymous family to support that.” 

Most coaches have their teams hit the gym three to four times a week in the off-season, and twice per week when in season. With Gordon’s 22 athletic teams, this creates a lot of traffic in the weight room. Recreational lifters like Simon Rubin ‘26 sometimes find their workouts interrupted by large groups of varsity players lifting together. Rubin says if an athletic team is lifting, “it’s just overcrowded.” 

Soccer player Eowyn Lapp ‘27 agrees that the main fitness center can become too full. She thinks the varsity weight room will be helpful, and is excited to use it at least four times per week to prepare for her next season. Lacrosse player Jacob Brown ‘26 feels similarly, but worries how the new space will be managed. He heard it may be open to non-Varsity athletes as well, and said “if it’s just going to be an extended version of this [current fitness center] I think it’s just going to become crowded.” 

Various coaches noted the new room may be open to non-Varsity athletes, but it’s unconfirmed how scheduling and access to the space will work— both between teams and with other students. Though the room is primarily for Varsity athletics, Lane noted, “we’re trying to be careful about our wording on that, because we do want it to be open for the general student body as well as teams to be able to go in there and lift, and student athletes to lift by themselves.” 

Regardless of exact scheduling details, Gordon’s coaches are excited. According to Coach Maddie Hopkins (Rowing), varsity coaches are not allowed to plan team lifts except during certain hours, because it limits access to the Fitness Center machines for others. Coach Carter Shaw (Women’s Basketball) has his team lift in small pods “to accommodate the space that’s in the current weight room.” He finds it difficult to coordinate these groups around class schedules and busy times of day in the Fitness Center. 

Coach Todd Murphy (Men’s Basketball) feels the varsity space is needed because, “in today’s athletic world, student athletes need to be physically stronger.” He also hopes the attention to strength training will create opportunity for Gordon Athletics to hire a strength and conditioning coach. Murphy explained such a coach will “definitely help us minimize the competitive advantage that other teams might have.” Volleyball Coach Sue Kelly does not anticipate changing her team’s weight routine, but says “I’m looking forward to having a nicer experience for my team . . . where they don’t have to wait in a line.”  

Gordon Dance Team Coach Kelsey Corazzini is concerned about how the change affects her team. They practice and prepare for games using the Aerobics Studio. Its space includes mirrors covering the walls and a high quality sound system. It is unclear to Corazzini if those features will be available in their new location. The Heart of David Dance Ministry also uses the Aerobics Studio. Heart of David Co-leader Mariah Misarski ‘24 said via email that her group has not been informed of the room change. 

The Tavilla Hall lounge is the new accommodation for the two dance groups’ practice space. Tavilla Resident Director Ethan Mignard said, “not as many students use that space because they have their own apartments.” He explained some lounge furniture and seating will remain for resident use when no one is using the aerobics room. Mignard noted that Chris Imming, Senior Director of Campus Planning, was involved in reassigning the room. Imming did not respond to requests for comment. 

Concerns of how the lounge will work as a new practice space are the main issue for the Dance Team. Lane says the room will get “brand new flooring that is going to be tailored more specifically to a dance flooring . . . and mirrors and a sound system.” Corazzini noted Gordon Athletics has been receptive to feedback, but “the new space doesn’t really sound like it’s going to be up to par with what our current space is.” She states, “we’re going to think about if we need to fundraise to get mirrors in there.” The Dance Team plans on being optimistic and as flexible as possible, and will do what they need to ensure they have a productive space.  

With the renovation taking place soon, students can look forward to top-of-the-line equipment in the Varsity Weight Room. The new weight room will host eight matrix power racks that have full sets of bands and weights, a rope attachment, 0-90 bench, and a men’s and women’s bar for benching. These racks can have 16-24 people use them at a time. The space will also consist of platforms for olympic lifting, four adjusted cable pulleys, dumbbells, and kettlebells. A racquetball court across the hall will be transformed into a functional training room at the suggestion of Bennett Center Manager, Greg Scruton. Scruton was involved in planning the new spaces, but declined requests for comment. The functional training room will be an area for more generalized movements. Equipment in that space will include TRX bands, medicine balls, kettlebells, and a monkey rig system. “I think it’s been a long time coming, and I’m really excited that we had some donors who saw that as a great need for the school,” says Coach Chuck Bretton (Women’s Soccer), “I’m super excited to have something that is a higher level of fitness equipment that our athletes can use.” 

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