Driving up Academy Street, looking out the window on the right to see a towering, two-story building with red brick, lots of glass, and “Kalamazoo College Fitness Center” written above the entrance of the building.
Students and staff at Kalamazoo College are excited about the commitment to build a new fitness and wellness center. Many have been waiting for the new building since they began at Kalamazoo, and now the time has finally come. The design process for the building is set to begin before the end of 2014, and then construction of the building will start in August 2015. The projected date of completion is currently set for July 2016.
Paul Manstrom, the Associate Vice President for Facilities Management, explained the process of the new project. He said that the design portion should be completed early in the summer of 2015, and then by July 1, 2015 they are looking to start taking bids from contractors for the new building. Mr. Manstrom was also able to provide some behind the scenes information. The new building has an estimated cost between $6 and $7 million. Mr. Manstrom explained that Kalamazoo College’s Master Plan was established in 2012, and it set out to accomplish adding three new buildings to the community. The three buildings consist of a fitness and wellness building, a new natatorium, and a new welcome center which were all decided on by members of the president’s staff as well as business managers, development managers, and Mr. Manstrom himself. Kalamazoo College is not interested in borrowing money and causing any debt, which is why the building is being funded by private donations. Whatever project raised enough money in order for it to be built would go up first, and because of all the attention that the fitness and wellness center had and will bring in, it raised funds the fastest.
The new fitness and wellness building will give a significant change to the Kalamazoo College community. K College is typically thought of as a high level education, with the main emphasis being on academics. The perception around K has been slowly changing over the past few years, and it is now raising the bar of athletics and fitness without lowering standards in academics. The new project will create a positive impact on all students and faculty by allowing them to have new opportunities that they haven’t had in the past.
Students and faculty who wish to workout currently do so in the Anderson facility which has a weight room that is 2,000 square feet. The space is small for the growing population of student athletes at Kalamazoo College. The new fitness and wellness building will have a weight room/cardio area between 8,000 and 9,000 square feet for users to enjoy. It will also have four multi-purpose rooms for dance, yoga, and other fitness needs. One of the four multi-purpose
rooms is going to be two-stories to accommodate the cheerleading team and Cirque-du-K.
The building will also feature a climbing wall as well as new tennis offices, and the United States Tennis Association (USTA) Hall of Fame.
The building is yet to be named, but the location of the new building has been determined. It will be located on the corner of Academy and Catherine Street. The plan is to take out the front section of the Markin Center, and add the fitness and wellness building in its place. The indoor tennis courts will remain behind it. Both men’s and women’s tennis coaches, Mark Riley and Mark Murphy will be without their current offices for about a year because of the demolition of part of the Markin Center. “I’ll be happy to sacrifice my office for a year because I know what kind of good this will do our program and this community. As a coach and alumni, it is important to do things in a first class and strong way” Coach Riley stated. He went on to say that “It’s a facility that can touch everybody in a real positive way.”
The community has an overall passion and excitement for the new project, but some are feeling like they’ve got the short end of the stick. When the athletic facility was upgraded a few years ago, teams such as baseball, football, soccer, and softball all got new playing fields. The swim team however, got nothing. The men’s swimming coach, Kathleen Milliken, said that she was told a new natatorium was coming soon when she was hired in. This is now her twelfth year at K and it doesn’t appear that a new natatorium is going to be built any time soon.
Having a natatorium that has a moldy ceiling, lost tiles, poor starting blocks, and has also blown circuits many times just in the past year can be frustrating, Coach Milliken explained. She also mentioned that it makes it hard to run practices when you simply don’t have an adequate amount of space for the entire team. Running a successful program can be hard enough, but when faced with the challenges of a run-down facility, it can make coaching, competing, and recruiting that much harder.
Even though Coach Milliken would like to see a new natatorium built, she is still happy about the new fitness and wellness building. “I understand that a new natatorium wouldn’t affect as many students, and it will be great to see such a healthy and active campus. When I started here, Anderson was usually pretty empty, and now it seems like more and more students are becoming interested in fitness. The student body is becoming more well-rounded, and that is great to see” she said.
Some of her swimmers, however, weren’t quite as happy to hear that they still weren’t getting a new facility. Cameron Beauregard, a first-year swimmer, said that “I think a new pool should be built because it would be utilized much more by the swim team as well as the community, and the swim team deserves an upgrade in facilities.” The men’s swimming and diving team has taken first place in the MIAA the past three years, and they’re doing it in a pool that is worse than most high school pools, according to Beauregard.
Though some are unhappy, the new addition of the building will allow the weight room in Anderson to be used exclusively for in-season athletes which will make all athletes happy. This will give teams plenty of space for workouts and allow them to have a more flexible schedule. K’18 student and baseball player Josh Reuter said that he is “more than excited” for the new fitness and wellness building. “The ability for varsity athletes to have their own weight room is huge” he said. Reuter also explained his overall opinion of the new addition by stating “You get the feeling here like we’re a small D1 school. This is like the final piece we’ve been missing, and now it’s just going to add to that type of atmosphere and enhance the overall attractiveness of the school.”
Kalamazoo College has always been known for its high prestige in academics, but now the school is rising to the challenge of creating the opportunity for athletics and fitness to reach to those same heights. Although it may be an uphill battle, the Kalamazoo College reputation is in the process of changing from a purely high academic school, to a high academic school that can also give students the chance to be more complete and well-rounded. Over the past decade the Kalamazoo community has seen additions to the library, renovated Hicks center, new athletic facilities, new social justice building, and now in 2016 they will see a new fitness and wellness building. Paul Manstrom talked about the changing of Kalamazoo throughout the past ten years, and how the students have fresh opportunities by saying that “The library improved academic, Hicks improved social, and this [fitness and wellness building] will enhance physical well-being. It really will be the third piece of the puzzle.”