Carnegie Mellon University

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May 13, 2013

University Center Addition To Expand Fitness, Recreation Space

New Entrance To Face Forbes Avenue

By Bruce Gerson

Build it and they will come.

That's the recent history Carnegie Mellon is banking on as it enters the design phase for a $22 million, 45,000 square-foot University Center addition that will include enhanced fitness and recreation space, a black box theater for student performance groups and a new front door and lobby area facing Forbes Avenue.

"The new soccer and intramural field is a microcosm of what is possible when we improve our facilities," said Director of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation Susan Bassett. "We doubled our inventory and quadrupled our activity."

Currently about 1,000 individuals swipe their ID cards daily to use the fitness and recreation spaces in the University Center and Skibo Gym despite the limited resources. Bassett said since she's arrived at CMU in 2005, she's seen an "exponential" increase in the amount of participation in recreational and instructional programs, physical education and group exercise classes, intramurals and free recreation.

She credits her staff with generating interest in fitness through various outreach efforts and exceptional teaching, but believes many more will become engaged with expanded facilities.

"I'm very confident that by increasing our space for activities and offering a bright, inviting environment, many more people will be encouraged to participate.

"The sky's the limit. We will transform campus life in terms of access to fitness in a way none of us can imagine," she said.

Project components include:
  • More than 8,000 square feet of fitness space, including free weights, weight machines and cardiovascular equipment;
  • Three exercise studios, including a dedicated spinning studio with a video screen to simulate biking trails;
  • Additional locker rooms;
  • A black box theater for student performance groups;
  • An administrative office suite;
  • An improved circulation and equipment desk area;
  • A pool balcony with HVAC improvements;
  • And a new entrance and lobby area off of Forbes Ave.

Leading the addition design is Cannon Design of Baltimore, an architectural firm that has designed more than 250 projects for more than 200 higher education institutions.

"Cannon had the most impressive combination of experience with athletics and recreation facilities and design concepts that really were exciting for this project," said Bassett who was on the selection committee. "They brought excellent creativity and an approach to design that blew everyone else out of the water. They were clearly head and shoulders above everyone else."

Senior Project Manager Andrew Reilly of Campus Design and Facility Development said Cannon, which was selected from a group of 17 firms, will be partnering with Lami Grubb Architects of nearby Swissvale, Pa. He said Lami Grubb has completed many projects at CMU, such as several dining facilities and Entropy+.

While the addition will improve fitness and health for the university community, Bassett believes it also will enhance campus life and help to recruit and retain students, faculty and staff.

"Athletics and recreation is a key component of campus life and a key ingredient that will help take CMU to a higher level. The addition will open up many new possibilities," she said.

The design phase of the project, which will include university focus groups, is slated to continue through 2013 with construction beginning in spring 2014.

Reilly said during construction the University Center turnaround may be temporarily relocated and the University Center entrance to the East Campus Garage will undergo periodic closures.

Editor's Note: Director of Athletics Susan Bassett left the university this past July to become director of athletics at Ithaca College, her alma mater. Josh Centor, formerly CMU's associate director of athletics, is now serving as interim director.