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News & Events: October 13, 2006

Calvin College Announces a New Physical Education and Athletic Complex

Calvin College is planning a major expansion of its physical education and athletic facilities, the biggest building project in school history.

The expansion, which has been a topic of discussion at Calvin for the past several years, was approved this past weekend by the college's 31-member Board of Trustees. Calvin hopes to break ground on these projects in spring 2007 (assuming the necessary zoning approvals are granted) and anticipates beginning to use the facilities in fall 2008.

Calvin professor Glen VanAndel is the former chair of the HPERDS department (health, physical education, recreation, dance and sport) at Calvin and co-chaired the committee that planned the $35 million expansion project.

He says the new buildings and renovations will come not a moment too soon for the department, which has grown to almost 200 students who are HPERDS majors and minors (in such areas as exercise science, sports management, therapeutic recreation, dance and more).

In addition, the department runs a very popular intramurals program which last year saw 2,644 participants and an extensive athletic program which last year was home to 461 athletes who competed in 17 varsity sports, five junior varsity sports and three club sports.

"The present building was not designed to accommodate the number of students, faculty and academic programs we currently support," he says. "The new and renovated facilities will provide a quality educational environment where students and faculty can develop their knowledge and skills in health education, exercise science, teacher education, sports management and recreation leadership."

In addition, Henry DeVries, Calvin vice president for administration and finance, says Calvin students, faculty and staff are hungry for more health and recreation options.

"Our fitness space is undersized and overused," he says. "Our Healthy Habits program for faculty and staff is growing by leaps and bounds. Across the campus students, faculty and staff are looking for ways to pay attention to their health. That will be a major focus of this new expansion as well."

Calvin president Gaylen Byker agrees. In a summer 2004 interview with Spark, the Calvin alumni magazine, he talked about the tremendous change over the last 40 years in the number of students who, while not student-athletes, want recreational opportunities on campus.

He also talked about Calvin's desire to train students for a holistic approach to life.

"This means," he said, "they acquire good knowledge and habits about both academic subjects and lifestyle, including recreation and exercise and eating habits—everything that goes into a healthy lifestyle."

To meet the needs of the entire Calvin community the upcoming expansion features a five-pronged plan, including:

  1. an arena
  2. an indoor track and tennis center
  3. an aquatic center, featuring a 50-meter by 25-yard pool
  4. a health center
  5. a significant renovation of the current Calvin Fieldhouse, resulting in a new health and recreation center

Much of the money has been raised already to fund the entire complex, but Calvin officials declined to name donors at this date, noting that some of the donors are not yet ready for their names to be made public. Calvin plans to release the names of the major donors to the project later in the year.

The centerpiece of the newly approved project will be a new arena, tentatively set for a seating capacity of 5,000. It will measure some 175,000 square feet and will replace the Calvin Fieldhouse, which was built in 1965, as the homecourt for the school's Division III men's and women's basketball teams and women's volleyball team. That arena will be located almost directly east of the current fieldhouse on what is currently a small, multi-use athletic field (the location was chosen to minimize intrusion into a diverse woodlot that sits north and east of the current Calvin Fieldhouse).

The new arena will include four full-sized basketball and volleyball courts, a new fitness facility, new locker rooms for athletic teams and general use, a new athletic training room more than double the size of the current room, a hospitality suite, a spacious lobby area, concessions stands and even a climbing wall! The arena will host a wide array of events, everything from opening convocation, which begins the Calvin school year each September, to commencement, which ends the school year each May.

Says DeVries: "It will be a jewel as a homecourt for our teams, but it also will become a central hub our student body, faculty and staff. And for those who have suffered through hot commencements in the past, yes, the new arena—as well as the existing Fieldhouse—will be air conditioned!"

DeVries notes that the old fitness facility at Calvin is about 3,000 square feet and closes much of the day for scheduled Calvin classes. The new fitness facility will total almost 15,000 square feet and will have significantly higher ceilings, creating a much bigger sense of space, and also allowing access to natural light (the current Calvin fitness room is essentially underground).

The old Calvin Fieldhouse, meanwhile, will be converted into a multipurpose facility. All of the upper bleachers will be removed, creating an open space with a multitude of playing courts. New offices and several new classrooms will be added to the facility and a currently cramped human performance laboratory, a critical part of the college's exercise science program, will be greatly expanded. The fieldhouse also will feature new space for dance activities (Calvin offers a dance minor), including the 300 students who last year were part of Dance Guild.

Says VanAndel: "Currently we have 18 faculty, several adjunct faculty, including three head coaches, several part-time faculty and about 12 to 15 assistant coaches. Although we are keeping our current office suite we will expand the suite across the lobby into the new arena to accommodate everyone in the same location. Currently we are spread all over this building in multiple locations. This will be a huge improvement."

In addition the current on-campus health center at Calvin for students, which now is housed in the basement of a residence hall, will be significantly expanded and find a new home in the renovated fieldhouse. It will increase from an approximately 2,000 square foot facility currently to an approximately 6,000 square foot center complete with numerous exam rooms, lab offices, a diet counsel room and various health center employee offices.

That too is a long overdue change says Nancy VerMerris, director of health services at Calvin.

"We are bursting at the seams with two full-time primary care clinicians, a busy travel health and immunization department, a dedicated support staff, and over 6,000 student visits per year," she says. "Handicapped accessibility is poor and staff members are constantly running into each other. Over the years, we have spilled out into the hall of the dorm. We have no more room for medical records, much less new health promotion programming. Needless to say, we are thrilled to be planning new space."

The renovated Calvin Fieldhouse will be connected to the new arena which in turn will be connected to the new indoor tennis center, creating a complex of some 350,000 square feet. The lobby space between the old Fieldhouse and the new arena will be an integral part of the complex as it will feature space for studying, lounging, eating and even fitness.

The indoor tennis center alone will measure approximately 62,000 square feet and will include four competition tennis courts and a 200-meter indoor running track. The facility will be crafted as a multi-purpose center with the space able to be used for recreational running, competition track and field, baseball, softball, lacrosse and soccer as well as basketball and volleyball.

The new aquatic center will also be a multi-use facility. It will feature a pool that will be 50 meters long and 25 yards wide. That size will give Calvin significant flexibility as a moveable bulkhead in the water will be used to create areas that can be used for a wide variety of simultaneous activities, everything from college, high school and age-group swim meets, including diving, to water polo matches, water aerobics classes, swim lessons and more.

"This exciting new facility will be a boon not only for our emerging national class swimming and diving programs, but at the same time, we'll be able to provide for continuous recreational and work-out space for our Calvin students, faculty and staff," says Calvin vice president for advancement Dirk Pruis, a former All-American diver for Calvin. "In addition, we'll be able to expand our strong summer programs, team offerings and more. We recognize that there has been limited access to our current natatorium, and we believe that with a new aquatic center use will increase exponentially."

Calvin architect Frank Gorman is designing all of the portions of the project with an eye to sustainability, energy efficiency and environmental quality. Gorman is working with two architectural firms: Holland-based GMB and Iowa-based RDG, both of which specialize in athletic complexes.

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