May 28-June 10, 2004
Vol. 34, Issue 10
Back Issues
Finals Weekend 2004
Miksad to leave deanship
Wadley named 2004 inventor of the year
Headlines @ U.Va.
General Assembly roundup
Smackdown your vote
College strikes a high-tech deal with Microsoft and Thomson Learning
A Childhood Dream Come True
A Day in the Life
University’s busiest gym to debut new addition
The Ultimate Guide to Getting the Career You Want
Ring CMC telethon phones for 20th year
Museum having 30th birthday party
University’s busiest gym to debut new addition
Mark Fletcher
Photo by Tom Cogill
IM-Rec sports director Mark Fletcher shows off the new 500,000-square-foot addition to the Aquatics and Fitness Center. The design hearkens back to Memorial Gymnasium, built in 1924, but with modern amenities — including air conditioning and massage rooms.

By Dan Heuchert

The University’s newest athletic facility has an old-school look.

The new gymnasium added to the Aquatics & Fitness Center, scheduled to open June 1, hearkens back to the oldest continually operated athletic facility on Grounds: 80-year-old Memorial Gymnasium.

Like its venerable ancestor, the centerpiece of the AFC’s new 50,000-square-foot addition features three basketball courts lined up side-by-side-by-side, ringed by an elevated track, with tall windows flooding the arena with natural light.

Unlike Mem Gym — or any other gym at U.Va., for that matter — the AFC is air-conditioned.

“On a 95-degree day in July, you won’t feel like everything you’re doing is just battling the heat,” said Mark E. Fletcher, director of Intramural-
Recreational Sports

As you might expect for a $10 million project, the amenities don’t stop there. The floor is marked for both basketball and volleyball, with scoreboards for each court (and the wiring all under the floor). The track — 10 laps to the mile — has a Mondo surface, the same used in the last several Olympics. It is not, however, banked in the corners. “The way the track is banked at Mem Gym would not meet [Americans With Disabilities Act] codes today,” Fletcher said.

There’s more. A room off the north end of the gym will feature free weights, with plenty of mirrors to allow lifters to study their form. There are also two massage rooms and another area for cardiovascular equipment.

That’s just the main floor. Upstairs there is a room for “spinning” (stationary cycling) classes, currently held only on a racquetball court at the North Grounds Recreation Center. There is also a multipurpose room — perhaps for yoga and aerobics — with views of a pine grove between the AFC and Gilmer Hall.

In the basement is another, larger multipurpose room, with a divider that can bisect it as needed. “At 5 p.m., we can hold four classes simultaneously,” Fletcher said. Behind the scenes is a storage-and-repair area, plus a huge space that will house chiller units to expand capacity in that region of Grounds.

The original, 100,000-square-foot AFC opened in June 1996 and instantly became the crown jewel of IM-Rec Sports (and home to the championship Cavalier swimming teams). In eight years, the identification card-swipe machines have logged 3.5 million visits, with the AFC’s totals roughly comparable to those posted by the other three recreational facilities (Mem Gym, North Grounds and Slaughter Recreational Center) combined. Ninety-four percent of undergraduates take advantage of IM-Rec facilities and programs, Fletcher said.

The original blueprints for the AFC included provisions for the addition, and planning for the expansion began in 2001. The Hughes Group of Northern Virginia, the architects who designed the AFC, drew up the addition. Construction, managed by Nielsen Construction of Harrisonburg, began in September 2002.

The project was financed with a combination of student fees, faculty and staff memberships, and bonds approved in a November 2002 statewide referendum, which covered the chiller-plant portion, Fletcher said.

The completion of the project should ease the parking crunch around the AFC. The 45-space lot on the Alderman Road side of the building, used as a construction staging area, will revert to public use once the contractor moves out. Though the AFC will have to yield some space in the T4 lot, it should net an additional 30 to 35 spaces, Fletcher said.
A formal grand opening will be held once the students return in the fall, probably on a home football weekend, Fletcher said. “This is a good time to open — it gives us time to walk through everything and make sure it’s in good shape.”

He expects that the facility’s new look will be well received.

“It really gives us one of the most comprehensive collegiate recreational facilities in the country,” Fletcher said.


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