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New Shippensburg University student rec center draws oohs and aahs

March 18, 2008|By CHRIS CARTER / Staff Correspondent

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. - Like the transition from incoming freshman to graduating senior, the Shippensburg University student recreation building has been four years in the making.

University students, faculty and alumni finally joined to celebrate a commencement of sorts on Monday at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the 62,000-square-foot facility.

The two-story building is between Seth Grove Stadium and Heiges Field House on the north end of the Shippensburg campus. Its bottom floor features an 1,800-square-foot aerobics room, two racquetball courts and an arena that holds four multipurpose courts for basketball, volleyball and tennis.

An elevated running track overlooks the arena on the second floor, which also accommodates an 8,000-square-foot fitness center.

"It's so much better than what students had access to before," said Galen Piper, SU director of recreation. "Until today, there wasn't a place for a student to do the things they wanted, when they wanted."

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Heiges Field House and Henderson Gymnasium were the only indoor recreational facilities available to students prior to the completion of the new rec facility. The buildings were often closed or reserved for various campus sports teams and events. They will remain on campus to maintain those functions.

"Heiges and Henderson weren't really open that much. At Heiges, the basketball team needed it to practice at night," said SU sophomore Dylan Kelly, who shot hoops for the first time in the new rec building Monday. "Plus, the court floors are kind of old and the equipment is old. ... We needed this."

Many had begun using the new facility early Monday - even before the ribbon at the front steps had been sheered by university President Bill Ruud and Student Association President Joe Peltzer.

After the ribbon ceremony, the crowd re-entered the building to once again find the arena to the left of the hall, adjacent to the racquetball courts, the aerobic room, locker rooms and restrooms that lined to the right of the hall.

Upstairs is the three-lane elevated track, which stretches 188 meters in Lane 1, 192 meters in Lane 2 and 200 meters in Lane 3. Also upstairs is the fitness center, which contains 44 strength pieces and 39 cardio units.

"Everyone walks in with 'Oohs' and 'Aahs,'" said Peltzer, serving his last year as president. "People are excited to get in here, see everything, and start using it."

Adjustable strength machines are marked in yellow and free weights are also available in the fitness center. Cardio machines - treadmills, ellipticals, etc. - are equipped with small televisions that will broadcast basic cable stations, as well as iPod jacks.

The fitness center also offers a skybox-like view of Seth Grove Stadium, which could provide additional entertainment when the Red Raiders football team returns to the field in the fall.

SU junior Rachael Ulmer is one of the employees of the rec building and she spent Monday at the fitness center desk. She estimated the staff at 30 to 40 mostly part-time workers with rotating responsibilities - front desk, fitness center desk and a mobile staff.

"I'll probably be here six to seven hours a week just working out," Ulmer said. "Then I'll be here another 10 to 15 just working."

Currently, the building is open only to undergraduate students. As policies and procedures are worked out in the coming weeks and months, the center could also be opened to SU alumni and faculty.

The building remains in a construction zone as several more additions must still be made. The weight area is awaiting a rubber floor, vending machines are yet to be delivered and some areas still await cleanup.

Most students are just thankful that the building is finally open.

"The biggest part is that it's something students have been paying for for years. It's been a long-time coming," Peltzer said. "Just over four years ago, there was a referendum for students saying they wanted a rec center. We started polling students to see what they wanted.

"About two years ago we had some delays in construction, which was frustrating. But now that it's up, everyone is just excited."

The student recreation fee increased by more than $100 to pay for and maintain the student recreation building, according to Peltzer.

Photo by Chris Carter

Shippensburg (Pa.) University students test the cardio machines at the newly opened student recreation center. Shippensburg officials held ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the facility on Monday.

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