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Stephens Fitness Center to open; chapel to undergo renovations

As workers put the final touches on the Dillon Gym fitness facility, the University is beginning a new renovation project: a refurbishment of the University Chapel.

The new facility in Dillon, named the Stephens Fitness Center after the alumni – a father and his son – who gave the donation for the renovations, will open for full use to students Jan. 31, Assistant Director of Physical Planning George Olexa said.


The renovation, which began last summer with the gutting of the floor below the old fitness room, has ended with a brightly lit, double-level exercise space that has more equipment, handicapped access, air conditioning, televisions and a sound system.

According to health fitness coordinator Matt Brzycki, the first floor will feature 22 new pieces of strength-training equipment from Nautilus, Body Master and Cybex, and 52 top-of-the-line cardiovascular machines, 34 of which are new. The net hours of operation will increase by 42 percent, Brzycki said, but the classes and class schedule will remain roughly the same. And contrary to rumor, Brzycki said students will not be charged for use of the new fitness facility.


The front of the room will contain 72 cubbies, a lounge and reception area, a 12-by-15 foot mat for stretching and a stretching machine.

The second floor, connected to the first by a central stairwell, will contain free weights from wall to wall, as well as dumbbells, barbells, and plate-loading equipment.

"I still can't believe that it's been only one year since the USG, the University administration, under [Vice President and Secretary] Tom Wright '62's leadership, and the staff in Dillon started having conversations about how to improve the fitness center," said USG president-elect PJ Kim '01. "And now, only one year later, we'll have the best fitness center this campus has ever seen."


Starting Feb. 1, the day after the new fitness facility opens, the University will begin "a major, two-year restoration project" on the chapel, said Dean of Religious Life Joe Williamson.


The restoration will include repair of the stonework and masonry, and re-leading of the stained glass windows by a crew of stained-glass experts.

Scaffolding will be placed on the exterior and the interior of the building, and the pipe organ will be covered with plastic sheeting to prevent damage from dust to the organ chamber, Chapel Administrator Rick Parks said.

Certain adjustments in scheduling will be necessary during the renovation process to accommodate the construction workers and deal with the dust and dirt entering from the spaces where windows are being restored.

Minor schedule changes

A crew will clean each Friday afternoon so that worship services, weddings, and special concerts can still take place on weekends. Orange Key tour guides will still be allowed to bring people into the building, and the weekday Catholic Mass at noon will still take place, Williamson said.

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Only the weekly organ recitals have been cancelled, but as a result, "the choir will now become the cornerstone of Chapel music," said Director of Chapel Music Penna Rose.

The organ temporarily will be replaced by a electronic digital organ, but president of the chapel choir Paola Allais '01 is looking forward to experimenting with music that does not require accompaniment.

"The news was broken to us two days ago," said Allais of the renovation, "so we're still wondering about the different possibilities. But I think the change will add a new twist and give us an opportunity to become an even closer group."

The Baccalaureate ceremony has traditionally been held in the chapel, but Williamson said he does not know at this point whether all of the students and their guests will be able to fit in the chapel.

"I would hate to see Baccalaureate not be in the chapel," said senior class president Rob Anolik '00. "I think it's a very special tradition that happens year to year, and I'll do everything I can to make sure we have it there."