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New Fitness and Athletic Center Next on CMC Renovation Agenda

February 23, 2011

Sam Kahr
New Fitness and Athletic Center Next on CMC Renovation Agenda

For the better part of a decade, CMS athletes and students have been hearing rumors of a major renovation of Ducey Gymnasium.  The proposed Fitness and Athletic Center, as it is referred to now, will become the administration’s next top building priority after the completion of the Kravis Center. Deciding which course of action CMC will take and when, however, depends on securing the financial resources needed for the building.

The Board of Trustees will not begin such a large project until 100 percent of the cost of building has been secured through gifts or renewal and replacement reserves. “Our board does not do wishful thinking,” said Claremont McKenna President Pamela Gann.

Currently President Gann and the Development Office are seeking to secure a lead gift for the project.

“In the short to medium term… actively moving this project forward will require a significant fund-raising component,” explained CMC Vice President for Administration & Planning, General Counsel and Secretary of the College, Matthew Bibbens.

Once a lead gift is secured, there will be a two to three year timeline before the building will go online. “We are balancing the optimism that it is a priority with the fact that it is a significant project.” said Bibbens.

While in need of renovations since the 1980s, Ducey has continually been placed at or near the bottom of CMC’s building priorities since the construction of Axelrood Pool in 1993. While in the advanced design stages since 2008, the proposed FAC project has been delayed due to the construction of the Kravis Center and the progress towards new campus Master Plan.  The Master Plan was released last year and the Kravis Center will be completed this summer.

“Around [CMC], recreation in a building was always given short shrift because we have this great weather,” explains CMS Athletic Director Mike Sutton.  “I notice now, however, that organized activity is crowding out play [in Ducey Gym] and there is an increase of interest towards lifting weights and exercising in Ducey.”

The current building, constructed in 1957, was originally designed for ten varsity sports and an all-male student body of 800. Inadequate office space for coaches and administration and not meeting various state and federal building codes are only a few of the problems that the administration currently faces with the building.

The continuing increase of afternoon classes has  impacted the limited gym and fitness facilities between the times of 4 to 7 p.m., said Sutton.

The plan to improve CMC’s athletic facilities began in 2000, when the bulldozing and replacing of Ducey with a new building in the same location was proposed. With a price tag of nearly $25 million, however, the Board of Trustees deemed the project beyond its budget. “For the past ten years we have been making the case,” said Sutton.

Going back to the drawing boards, plans to renovate rather than rebuild Ducey were presented to the board in 2008. Due to numerous ADA code demands, earthquake retrofitting costs and infrastructure upgrades needed, the costs of the renovation were nearly equal with those of building a brand new facility.

“The proposed renovations were a compromise that didn't satisfy our needs,” said Sutton. “It didn’t really create any more square footage or add additional spaces.”

In the summer of 2008 the administration once again began a study to determine the feasibility of building a brand new facility. While the details are not yet finalized, preliminary designs were created for a new 120,000 square foot facility, an increase of 109 percent over the existing 55,000 square foot building, at an estimated cost of $50 million.

Some of the proposed features of the new facility include additional support offices, a climbing wall, larger fitness areas, an additional full size gym, and a competition gym capable of seating 1600, which would also serve as a convocation space for the college, capable of seating 2000.

“This [increase in space] was due to the desire to increase our fitness and recreational components for all students; not just to have a facility perceived for athletes,” said Bibbens.

While fitness and recreation facilities for students will improve considerably, the FAC will also help recruit and train better student-athletes.

“When we renovated Axelrood pool our buzz words were, ‘it’s not the pool, it’s who you put in it,’” said Sutton. “[For athletes touring the facilities], at some point, however, the facility becomes so below the norm they question how committed the school is to its athletic program.”

With the great effort that the administration has already put into the project, students’ impatient desires for a new facility will, hopefully, soon be fulfilled.

“In the history of CMC, competition has always been paramount,” said Sutton. “When the Rains Center was built at Pomona in the mid-eighties, President Stark said [in reference to renovation plans for Ducey], ‘Well, we aren’t doing it first, we aren’t doing it bigger, I guess we will just have to do it better.’”

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