Damaged Gym Slowly Heals
With ten months of renovations racked up after a fire burned a hole in the Philips Physical Education Center, construction advances toward an estimated mid-December finish date. Because the blaze, which began in the gym sauna over last year’s Thanksgiving break, damaged first-floor locker rooms and the second-floor weight room, the necessary repairs are extensive.
“The biggest challenge thus far has been the timeline,” said Delta Lodge Director of Athletics and Physical Education Joe Karlgaard.
The weight room reopened in mid-July with new floors and a fresh coat of paint. New fire alarms have recently been installed and there are plans for a new sprinkler system and fireproof coating on the exterior locker room walls.
“The ongoing construction itself is not a disruption,” said College junior and cross-country and track runner Nicole Ouellet, “although it is quite noisy nearly all the time.”
Head Women’s Soccer Coach Kristen Hayden is confident that the facilities will be back to normal soon, but admitted that she is also looking forward to “the decrease in loud noises in the building.”
Even though drywall has been hung in the locker rooms, further demolition is planned on the first floor. “[This] will nearly double the locker room space available to women on campus,” explained Karlgaard.
Despite these planned improvements, teams have been frustrated by temporary solutions.
Ouellet, who is at Philips every day, expressed similar sentiments. With no team locker rooms after the fire last year, she said she felt “cut off from [her] teammates.”
Teams have regained their locker rooms this season, though the varsity showers are still shut.
Swaim’s teammate and College senior Marie Barnett, who uses Phillips’ facilities six days a week, asserted, “They have had ample time to complete it.” While Barnett was abroad during the spring, she was confident construction would be finished by the start of the next season but returned disappointed to see the delays.
Ouellet sees the wait as just part of the process: “Construction in general on this campus irks me because it is slower than a game of Scrabble with George W.”
The ten-month process has caught the attention of some students who have compared the renovations to those completed in Mudd’s Academic Commons over the summer.
“I’m not going to pretend to be surprised that the library is more important than the locker room,” said College junior and basketball team member Maggie Casey.
Despite doubts and criticisms, Karlgaard remains optimistic: “I do think that our students, faculty, staff and patrons will be pleased with the renovated space.”