By 2009, students may be able to visit a nurse, an acupuncturist, and an athletic trainer all in the same building.
The College has merged plans for a new fitness center, a health center renovation, and a wellness center proposed by the Counseling Service into a single project. Under the new plan, all three facilities would be located between Smith Union and Morrell Gymnasium.
Construction of the new fitness, health and wellness center could be completed by August 2009, according to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster.
The proposed glass-paned, four-floor facility would be erected on the current site of the athletic offices and squash courts that connect Morrell Gymnasium and Smith Union.
The basement and first floor would feature fitness areas, the second floor would house the new athletic offices, and the health and wellness centers would occupy the top floor.
The College had originally considered simply renovating the office area around Morrell Gym into a new fitness facility. But after consulting with architects, college officials decided it would be more cost-effective to tear down the whole area and build from scratch.
"Obviously, we've looked at the amount of space needed, where it's located, and what facilities to offer. But in the end, what you try to do is something in keeping with the culture and community of the College... I think we're going to really get a top-notch facility that students, faculty, and staff will really appreciate," said Foster.
Director of Capital Projects Don Borkowski said the need for a larger fitness center became evident not long after the opening of the Watson Fitness Center in 1995. Director of Athletics Jeff Ward also noted the lack of space for aerobics, Tai Chi, and yoga in the current facility.
Ward said the new project is "not just building more space, it's more diverse space."
Current plans dictate that the basement will have machine and free weights, with multipurpose space for rowing ergometers and other equipment. The first floor will primarily house aerobic training machines, with more room available for stretching or other exercises.
The second floor will be dedicated to coaches' offices, and a rock-climbing wall, encased in glass, will run up through the building to the third floor.
Ward said the planning committee wants to "make things feel as open, comfortable, and exciting as possible" to encourage use. He estimated that the facilities will be roughly triple the gross size of Watson, but four times larger in actual functional space, with about double the number of aerobic machines and room to expand if demand grows.
"I haven't talked to anybody who didn't think it was a good idea. I think it really does touch a lot of people on campus," Ward said.
In his proposal for the Wellness Center, Director of Counseling Services Bernie Hershberger explained that today's generation of college students is increasingly focused on maintaining personal well-being and a healthy lifestyle. Approximately 250 students and faculty are actively engaged in wellness programs on campus, but that the College lacks dedicated space for the growing demand.
While Counseling Services will remain at 32 College St., the third-floor of the wellness center will feature a large lobby, rooms for acupuncture, massage, meditation, relaxation, and bio feedback?a scientific treatment technique where subjects become aware of, and learn to control, their body's signals. A large multipurpose room will allow for wellness programming, such as yoga, Tai Chi, Pilates, and more. Licensed practitioners will use the space to offer acupuncture and massage, though payment options have yet to be determined.
Hershberger stressed that the center can benefit all students, athletes, faculty, and staff through its services, including expanded classes, programs, new forms of meditation, mindfulness-based stress reduction, and wellness-oriented speakers. A wellness advisory committee will make plans for programming and events, placing an emphasis on lifelong skills.
"I am absolutely thrilled that Bowdoin has seen a way to create a space like this," said Hershberger. "We don't pause very much to take stock of ourselves, we're very busy with constant multitasking, and this is an effort to make more space for contemplation, reflection, and enjoying life as it is."
The health center will share the third floor with the wellness center, an idea that Student Health Program Administrator Caitlin Gutheil and Clinical Care Coordinator Wendy Sansone said is "much better" than a Dudley Coe renovation. While space will not dramatically increase, the facility will feature exam rooms and offices, a new treatment room, and greatly improved flow and privacy.
Gutheil said that the "collaboration with wellness is great," and that there's a "natural synergy" between the two, which makes sharing a floor practical.
"People think of health as acute-type care, but we do so much education, maintenance, and counseling that, as a nurse, it just makes so much sense with the idea of keeping healthy and fit," said Sansone. "It's a very positive concept about health that I think is really cutting edge."
Project architects Cambridge 7, also responsible for Kanbar Hall and the Searles Hall renovations, envisioned the new, well-lit, open facility as a lantern, meant to attract students and light the campus. Foster said he was pleased that Bowdoin has "made space decisions that reinforce community" to keep it central.
Hershberger agreed, adding, "A lot of colleges are moving their fitness centers out with other athletic facilities, on the periphery of campus. We made a really conscious decision to keep it right in the center and we made more of a commitment to remain a community by doing so."
Katie Wells '08, a student member of the planning committee, said, "it's a good time to be a polar bear." She observed that, with the renovation, Bowdoin is "not only achieving square footage, but accommodating more interest."
Borkowski said that based on committee research, the facility is "comparable in size and scope to other recently completed collegiate fitness centers," and that, "at a place like Bowdoin, we pride ourselves in offering first rate facilities of all types."
But Foster said kinks in transition need to be worked out, such as where to temporarily relocate coaches' offices.
The planning committee will continue to develop and refine the project, budget, and a schedule to propose to the Trustees around February. Once authorized, the project will seek regulatory requirements and permits such as LEED certification, begin work, and perhaps be done as soon as August 2009.
"This is the kind of project that I think lots of people can get enthusiastic about, because it meets so many needs," Foster said. "We're not trying to build a space that we'll outgrow in a year, we're looking at 15 or 20 years."