College Opens New Fitness Center
Published: Thursday, September 13, 2007
Updated: Sunday, January 31, 2010 12:01
It didn't take long for Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., president of Providence College, to summarize the campus reaction to the new Concannon Fitness Center.
"'Wow.' That's the one word I've heard the most," he said.
The new facility, which opened its doors on Tuesday, Sept. 4, has been warmly received throughout the PC community, with 1821 students signing in on the first day alone. By Sunday, Sept. 9, the total had swelled to 7650 student visits.
The building, which is connected to Slavin Center, Peterson Recreation Center, and Alumni Hall, is a marked improvement from the previous exercise facilities on campus. The Concannon Center, with its striking three-story glass atrium, boasts new lockers, more than 60 cardio machines with TV monitors and cable, extensive weight and strength training equipment, a varsity athletic training facility, and a press box overlooking the turf field.
"It's nicer, it's bigger, it's better," commented Peter Larkin '10. "The TVs are a real plus on the crowded machines. It's a good add-on for the school."
According to Father Shanley, preparations for a new fitness center had been in the works for some time.
"There was already a conceptual plan on the books," he said. "I got together with the Board of Trustees and put together a financial plan. For myself personally, it was glaringly obvious that our facilities were woefully inadequate and out of date."
When the project was finally completed, Father Shanley said he was immediately impressed by the result.
"I was blown away. I had been checking the progress of the new facility throughout the summer, and as summer went on and it got closer and closer to completion, I realized how beautiful it was going to be," he said.
He emphasized that as impressive as the fitness center is from a practical standpoint, it is equally as striking from a visual standpoint.
"Walking through the atrium for the first time was a 'wow' experience for me," he said. "This is going to change the look of the campus. You come up from the Huxley [Avenue] gate over the hill and see the cemetery overlooking a new glass building."
The groundbreaking for the center took place in June 2006, with work by Consigli Construction finishing shortly before the start of this school year.
"There was a great sense of pride, and relief too, in knowing we got it done in the nick of time," said Rev. Brendan Murphy, O.P., vice president for student affairs.
In its entirety, the project cost approximately $14 million. The building is named for William F. Concannon '77, whose $2 million leadership gift was the largest in the history of the College.
According to Father Shanley, several other major donors, including Board of Trustees chairman Mike Ruane, will eventually be honored with plaques at the facility. They will also be recognized at the official dedication of the building, scheduled for Oct. 5.
For Edward Laprey, director of recreational sports, watching the transition from idea to completed facility was especially rewarding.
"I was part of the process all along. I had seen it in blueprint all along, so to see it in completion was beyond even my expectations," he commented.
Laprey described the reaction so far as "incredibly positive" and added that "for whatever reason, a lot of students didn't expect it to be finished for the start of the year."
Now that the project is complete, expectations are high that usage and interest will remain steady.
"Physical fitness is very important and we want to encourage everyone - students and faculty alike - to make use of the facilities," said Father Murphy.
"I've been pleased to see the number of students in the early morning and late night hours, since we've dramatically expanded our hours," said Laprey. Overall, the fitness center will be available 27 hours per week more than last year.
Additionally, Laprey said he hopes to offer various programming activities as the year progresses, including pilates, yoga, kickboxing, and personal training.
In conjunction with the new facility, two new positions were added within the department. Jaclyn Fontaine is the new assistant director of recreational sports and fitness, and a new graduate assistant has been hired as well. These new additions join a staff of 42 work-study students and three graduate assistants
Erin Lanni '09 and Jenny Slom '08 were among the student employees giving tours at the fitness center's grand opening on Friday, Sept. 7. Tours were also given during move-in days, so many parents were able to visit the building as well.
"Pretty much everything here is amazing," said Lanni, who has worked in the recreation department since September 2006 and is now a supervisor. "Anything at this point would have been an improvement. I just hope everyone uses it to their full potential."
Slom has been with the recreation department since her freshman year in 2004.
"I remember when the cardio room was in this basement," she said. "Now, we have this unbelievable facility. There are no lines, no waiting 30 minutes to get on a machine."
Father Murphy said he hopes that easy access to the fitness center will lead to healthy lifestyle choices on campus.
"It gives [students] a very positive thing to do," he said. "We want to keep it open late in the hope that they have a healthy, positive activity to do instead of going out and doing something unhealthy."
Father Shanley agreed with the assessment, stressing the potential for the new facility "to enhance the health and well-being of the students."
"I believe in the old Greek adage of a healthy mind and healthy body going together," he said.
Both Laprey and Father Murphy did ask students for their patience while the staff and directors become acclimated to the new center.
"Its important for everyone to understand that this first year is a work in progress," said Father Murphy.