Mere days after Dartmouth College's new Fitness Center opened in Alumni Gym on April 19, the ceremonial cut ribbon was replaced with a scene of weightlifters and the cardio hard-core already looking at home and in the zone in the largest and arguably most gorgeous centralized fitness area in the Ivy League.
Spanning a heady 14,000 square feet on the top floor of the 97-year-old gym building, the Fitness Center is a cathedral of health consciousness pared down to brick walls, metal ductwork, and light wood awash in daylight from huge, arched windows and lines of skylights across the roof. New equipment stretches end to end.
“Having the brand-new equipment technology in this building, with its almost century-old brick walls, is a neat symbolism of how old gives way to new, but we don't forget where we've come from,” says Ryan Payne, a student staffer who works at the front desk.
Most of the equipment was purchased from Gym Source, a New York City–based fitness equipment supply company of which Bill Kemnitzer '73 is vice president. Weight training equipment features 42 Cybex selectorized strength machines, organized in two teaching circuits on different levels of the center, and all new free weights, modular cable stations, and dumbbells. Among the 64 new cardio machines are the Cybex Arc Trainer, named the best product of 2005 by Fitness Management magazine and the most popular cardio equipment in NFL training facilities; the Nautilus Tread Climber, which burns the same number of calories a treadmill burns in half the time; and Star Trac bikes, considered the smoothest in the industry and equipped with built-in fans.
A mezzanine overlooking the Fitness Center provides space for Fitness and Life Improvement Program classes and a quiet area for free weights. Beneath the mezzanine is the spinning station, fronted by a wall of windows looking onto Wheelock Street.
“The students were instrumental in identifying the need for the College to have fuller, more extensive fitness options,” President James Wright said during the ribbon-cutting ceremony. Already almost every piece of equipment is in use during the primetime hours of 3:30 to 7:30 pm each day.
“I've felt such a sense of pride in the new place,” says Payne. Although he typically works 15 hours a week, he's put in extra time during the opening weeks, and also works out there every day. “I'm here more than I expected to be. I'm thinking of putting a sleeping bag and alarm clock under the front desk,” he jokes.
“When patrons walk in for the first time, their faces really do light up,” he says. “There's just this great, new, lively energy in the air that's indescribable, but it's there, and everyone feels it.”
Behind the new Fitness Center, construction has begun on a new varsity athletics training house between the baseball and football fields. These projects are part of a comprehensive program to improve Dartmouth's athletic facilities that also includes the new Corey Ford Rugby Clubhouse, replacement of Memorial Field track with artificial turf, and an NCAA-approved intercollegiate soccer field named for former soccer coach Alden "Whitey" Burnham.
With the completion of the current projects, most of the athletic facilities at Dartmouth College will have been renovated or constructed since President Wright took office in 1998.