gym to debut new addition
Photo by Tom Cogill
sports director Mark Fletcher shows off the new 500,000-square-foot
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.
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-
As you might expect for a $10 million project, the amenities
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
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
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 architects who designed the AFC, drew up the addition.
Construction, managed by Nielsen Construction of Harrisonburg,
began in September
The project was financed with a combination of student fees,
faculty and staff memberships, and bonds approved in a
November 2002 statewide
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,
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,
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,
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.