Gym could be built on Hill

When the University undertakes the five-year, $291 million renovation of Sterling and Kline chemistry laboratories, administrators may add in an extra treat: a gym. And after working out, toned researchers may even be able to enjoy a fresh smoothie from an on-site juice bar.

Although a chemistry laboratory is an unorthodox location for a fitness center, the distance from Payne Whitney Gymanasium to Science Hill and the crowds at the 75-year-old gym during peak hours could make the proposed exercise facility a major attraction, Yale officials said last week.

A number of buildings on Science Hill are currently undergoing facelifts. A comprehensive renovation of Sterling Chemistry Laboratory beginning in 2009 may include a fitness center.
Ben Beitler
A number of buildings on Science Hill are currently undergoing facelifts. A comprehensive renovation of Sterling Chemistry Laboratory beginning in 2009 may include a fitness center.

The officials asked not to be named because they are not yet authorized to speak publicly on the matter. Bruce Carmichael, the associate provost for science and technology who is overseeing the planning for the renovations, did not return telephone messages this week.

The new exercise facility, which is tentatively planned for the Sterling Chemistry Lab, would supplement the often-crowded Ace Israel Fitness Center in Payne Whitney and would become the University’s first major fitness center outside of Payne Whitney or the residential colleges, all of which feature small-scale workout rooms.

The gym would fit in with plans to make Science Hill more student-friendly in coming years in order to integrate the proposed site of two additional residential colleges — on Prospect Street adjacent to the Grove Street Cemetery — with the rest of the central campus, the officials said. In the recent open forums on the topic of expansion and in interviews with the News over the last week, several members of the two committees charged with examining the expansion proposal have stressed the need for the University to find a way to make Science Hill a more popular destination for students outside of merely trekking to science classes on weekday afternoons.

The chemistry lab-turned-gymnasium could do exactly that.

For students on Science Hill, it “would be another congregating place,” a committee member said in an interview last week. “I think it probably would draw a lot of people who are there and a lot of people who wanted to use it at times when the other fitness center [at Payne Whitney] is crazy.”

The 20,000-square-foot Ace Israel Fitness Center was hailed at its opening in 1998 as one of the largest exercise rooms on any university campus in the country. Today, it receives very heavy use, Senior Associate Director of Athletics Barbara Chesler said.

“In those 10 years, we learned that if you build it, they will come,” she said.

And that’s why committee members said they believe the new fitness center on Science Hill would go a long way toward drawing students to the area. Chesler said the athletics department would welcome it, too.

“If a new fitness center is built in another location, I think that’s fabulous because we can always use more space,” she said in an interview. “I think that both spaces would be utilized and it wouldn’t take away from what we do here. From the demand that we currently have, there’s always room for expansion.”

Sterling Chemistry Lab is located at 225 Prospect Street, northwest of Ingalls Rink and about one-quarter of a mile north of the proposed colleges. The 140,000-square-foot laboratory was built in the 1920s and today is home to the Department of Chemistry and the Chemistry Library.

The Sterling renovations will largely gut the building and completely overhaul its teaching laboratories, Deputy Provost for Undergraduate and Graduate Programs Lloyd Suttle said Wednesday. Suttle added that there could be more space left over in the laboratory for other uses after the new labs are built.

“If that does not require the entire building,” he said, “it’s quite possible we could put a lot more in [Sterling].”

The University already has a new facility for many of the Chemistry department’s research programs, the class of 1954 Chemistry Research Building, which opened two years ago.

Officials said they are still unclear what the size or amenities of the fitness center could be, though they said it likely would include the juice bar or some sort of cafe. The Kline and Sterling renovation and addition are set to begin in September 2009 and will continue through 2014, according to projections by the Yale Facilities Office.

The Sterling gym would be one of several initiatives to make the Science Hill area more appealing to students. Another plan calls for the construction of a mystery “third building” adjacent to the new residential colleges, which would become a de facto student center with classrooms, performance space, offices for student organizations and some type of food service, said William Sledge, a former Calhoun College master and the chairman of the student life committee.

The Yale Corporation will vote in February on whether to build the new colleges.

Comments