Four years later, Payne Whitney still covered in blue

Payne Whitney Gynmasium still sports the blue scaffolding of renovations paused in 2008.
Payne Whitney Gynmasium still sports the blue scaffolding of renovations paused in 2008. Photo by Andrew Stein.

When students returned to campus this August, they were greeted once again by the sight of Payne Whitney Gymnasium shrouded in blue scaffolding.

The University began renovations on Payne Whitney’s exterior in 2007, suspending the project in 2008 due to budget cuts in capital maintenance projects following the recession, said Stephen Brown, the director of administration and space planning at the University Planning Office, in a Wednesday email. The University cut over $1 billion in this area, of which the gym’s restoration was one of the most expensive projects, University President Richard Levin said. Though it remains unclear when work on the gym’s façade will come to a close, Brown said construction on Payne Whitney is included in the current five-year Capital Budget Plan that will go back into effect next summer.

Prior to the current project, Payne Whitney had undergone several minor external renovation, but in 2005, the University decided to take a more comprehensive approach to renovating the entire exterior of the both the gym and the adjacent Ray Tompkins house, Brown said.

After the results of an investigation in 2005, which included an analysis of the long-term viability of the structure’s stonework, roofs and windows, the University decided that the facility needed a major facelift. The repairs would focus on improving the building’s six acres of the façade and 105,000 square feet of roofing, along with replacing the building’s 2,560 windows, the News reported in 2008.

But when renovation was halted, the builders — New Haven-based Fusco Corporation — did not remove the scaffolding.

“The scaffolding was put up when the project was started four years ago,” Levin said. “We decided to postpone the project, but we need the scaffolding for safety purposes since it prevents the stonework from falling.”

Still, Levin said that since the building’s exterior has no functional effect on the athletic program, the University decided to put the renovation on hold.

Though Ed Mockus, the senior associate athletic director of facilities operations who previously served as the director of Payne Whitney, told the News in 2008 that he expected the project to take five to six years to complete, none of the administrators interviewed for this article could provide a definitive projection for the renovation’s completion.

Seven of 10 students interviewed said that although the scaffolding is an eyesore, the renovation has little effect on their ability to use the gym’s facilities or on their perception of Yale. But varsity swimmer Danny Clarke ’14 said he felt the decision to place Payne Whitney on the backburner was embarrassing for Yale’s athletic program.

“We’re a division one Ivy League university. We should have better facilities,” Clarke said. “Harvard and Princeton have much more modern facilities, and there is a direct correlation between the facilities and where varsity recruits choose to go.”

Hatem Alzahrani GRD ’14 said that though he was initially “turned off” by the scaffolding when he toured Yale, the pictures of the gym’s internal facilities on its website caused him to think that the functional part of the gym was in excellent condition.

Payne Whitney Director Anthony Diaz agreed with Levin that the state of the gym’s exterior renovation is unrelated to the quality of the internal facilities themselves, adding that the gym’s membership numbers and programs are “stronger than ever.”

Diaz said he believes that if the renovation were to be completed, the “magnificence” of the gym’s exterior would be impressive to potential recruits and physically convey the strength of Yale’s programs.

And despite the correlation Clarke noted between facilities and recruits, men’s varsity swimming and diving head coach Timothy Wise said in a Wednesday email that he does not think the renovation affects recruitment.

Payne Whitney was built in 1932 by John Russell Pope.


  • type_b

    Before doing any work to the exterior, restore weekend operating hours. Before hours were cut back in 2010-2011, the gym remained open until 10 PM on Fridays, and on the weekend, I think it stayed open until 6PM or 8PM. Also, weekend hours over the summer currently are ridiculous: 10am-2pm.

  • SAK7

    Nothing speaks of safety like 4 year old scaffolding left standing in a climate such as New Haven. I certainly hope a competent person is inspecting this scaffolding on a regular and frequent basis. Also wonder what the cash burn rate is for the rental because this stuff sure isn’t free, nor cheap.