SGA finalizing proposal to expand fitness spaces

Students complain that the current gym is too small and outdated. Photo by Mari Lundin.

A proposal to install a satellite gym in Henley Hall basement is going forward, despite expressed student preference that the on-campus Julianne Argyros Fitness Center be expanded.

“Students prefer they expand on main campus, and the answer is so do I,” said the Student Government Association (SGA) president Mitchell Rosenberg  

But because additional fitness facilities were not included in the next phase of Chapman’s five-year strategic plan (which will begin next fall) there was no possibility to get additional fitness space on campus for at least that long, Rosenberg said. After two-years of scouting potential locations for expansion SGA decided in concert with the school administration that the best way to alleviate the overcrowding of the current fitness center to give the Henley basement a million dollar fitness makeover.

“Although it’s outwardly not our first option, either we expand into Henley basement or we wait five to seven years,” Rosenberg said.

The money for the estimated $1-1.2 million project has not yet been obtained but will likely come from a donor, said Rosenberg, who noted the project will not hike tuition.

The addition would more than double the 4,000 square foot space students currently have dedicated to exercise.  

Student’s illustrated their concerns for lack of gym space in a survey sent to 2,500 students in the fall of 2016, concurrent with feedback Rosenberg is receiving from student’s now. Students are showing a desire for immediate additional physical spaces, he said.

The proposal and student feedback data was sent to administration last week. If the president of Chapman, Daniele C. Struppa, and the senior leaders of Campus Planning, Student Affairs, and Facilities Management decide to press forward with it renovations should be completed by fall 2019.

“Having a bigger gym on-campus would be nice, but if it wouldn’t be built for that long I wouldn’t even care,” said junior business administration major Jason Weigel. “I’ll be graduated by then and it wouldn’t affect me at all.”

Other options considered by Chapman administration and the SGA included Hutton 212 (the gymnastics room) on the second floor of the fitness center. But a a section of the gymnasium bleachers would have to be removed in order to make a Hutton expansion viable.

Chapman administrators vetoed that option in the desire to retain the large capacity space on campus, according to Rosenberg.

Henley basement was found to have the most available physical space that didn’t compromise classrooms or study space and didn’t diminish seating options in the Hutton auditorium.

“Overall, we’ve evaluated many options and this truly is the best option now that we have,” Rosenberg said. “We’re doing our best to answer student concerns.”

Some students fear the Henley gym will become a resident gym and the fitness center will become a commuter gym, failing to benefit upperclassmen who don’t want to workout at the dorms. Others fear the Henley basement will become totally overrun.

“A gym in Henley will be nice for students who live on campus but I don’t think students living off campus would really use it,” said Cody Paresa, a freshman biochemistry major who lives in South Morlan.

Paresa said he wouldn’t use it anyway because he’s on the football team and has access to the athlete’s gym.

Henley basement proposed gym layout: yellow outlined area is the proposed expansion area. Photo courtesy of Mitchell Rosenberg

The renovation won’t overtake the whole basement, Rosenberg said. Entering from outside, the left door will lead to the fitness center and the right side will remain exactly the same, he explained.

“We still want that community space,” Rosenberg said. “It’s important.”

Residence life offices, Chapman Radio, the laundry room, music rooms, and computer labs won’t be sacrificed with the new layout.

The project will repurpose the current 24-hour exercise room in Henley basement into a club meeting space and the John Briggs Conference Room will become a group fitness room, providing space for union fit classes that are now held in Argyros Forum.

The greatest expense arising from the renovation will be new equipment that will replace the pool tables and couches that are there now, according to Rosenberg.

Unbroken and well-kept exercise equipment in the current Henley fitness room will be salvaged and upgraded. Residence life will no longer be responsible for maintaining the space as Fitness and Recreation services will take over.

“We don’t want to make it a temporary fitness space, we want it to be permanent a fitness center,” Rosenberg said.

The Henley gym will total about 4,000 square feet, roughly bigger than the current facilities students currently have access to at the Julianne Argyros Fitness Center.

The last renovation to Julianne Argyros Fitness Center was in 2013, and since then Chapman’s total student enrollment has increased by over 1,500 students since then, according to the university’s student headcount.  

There were 115,098 guest check-ins at the Argyros Fitness Center from June 2017-May 2018 and 417,685 total visits over the past four years, according to Michael Keyser, the Assistant Director of the Department of Student Engagement.

The gym is open seven days a week but closed for a week during fall and springs breaks, and two weeks for winter break, he said.

Skyfactor, a program that assess and compares education institutions of similar sizes and locations, provided SGA with information that showed Chapman is falling behind on physical fitness spaces in regards to how many students we have and how big our campus is, as well as an inadequate amount of exercise equipment.

“That reflects on our departments and it reflects on our students,” Rosenberg said. “Looking at it from a holistic standpoint of health, wellness, and recreation, fitness is very much so tied into your health and mental health so it’s really important.”

While the Julianne Argyros Fitness Center will remain open to all students, staff, and faculty, Rosenberg is pushing for the Henley space to be open to all students but not staff or faculty.

Chapman University Ombudsperson, Dr. Frank Frisch, didn’t respond to three requests for a comment on how faculty and staff would be affected by this decision.

“We want to remember that it’s a students living space so [students] might feel less comfortable running into [their] professor in the building [they] live in,” Rosenberg said.

Still, some students love the SGA plans for reasons that have nothing to do with design or location.

Kristyna Otto a junior public relations and advertising major, said she’d be more likely to use a gym in the Henley basement than she would the current facility.  

“I’d go to the gym at the dorms so I can avoid my exes since only freshman will be there,” Otto said.

Mari Lundin

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