Centre Is Changing
With the Times
Centre revamps facilities, introduces new programs
to meet the needs of the University community
class participants (including fitness and lifestyle director
Pat Richards, second from left) are reflected in the mirror
of newly renovated Room 300 over the squash courts in the
Mitchell Athletics Centre.
Photo by Rachelle Cooper
Anyone who's been to the Mitchell Athletics Centre
this fall to catch a varsity game, take a fitness class
or go for a swim will have noticed it's been constantly
changing. The lower weight room has relocated to the upper
east balcony, the cardio machines are now all grouped together
in one room, and a hallway has been re-established in the
back of the building on the east side.
These changes only scratch the surface of the renovations
and new facilities and programs being added to U of G's
Athletics director Richard Freeman says buying more equipment
and revamping programs are necessary to keep the University
community fit and healthy.
"Our philosophy of healthier bodies, stronger minds
is a proven fact that applies in the workplace, in the study
room and in residences," he says. "We will explore
any opportunity we have to increase the fitness level of
our campus community."
In anticipation of the increased number of students arriving
in the double cohort year, Freeman began a review of all
facilities and programs almost two years ago.
"We wanted to make sure we had the necessary facilities,
and we wanted to make sure our programs were consistent
with the needs and wants of our clients," he says.
He notes that campus fitness programs used to be highly
structured, which could make it difficult to accommodate
the varying schedules of students and employees.
"We've now expanded the number and the timing of activities
to better suit people's schedules," he says.
The growth in the number of people using the Athletics
Centre's facilities this fall is evidence that Freeman's
assessment of client needs is paying off. As of Sept. 30,
2,211 people were registered in more than 100 interest classes
- including personal training, pilates, yoga, kayaking,
rock climbing, belly dancing, kickboxing, water running,
tai chi and spinning - offered outside of the 74 weekly
fitness classes available at the centre. This semester,
169 faculty and 219 staff members bought memberships, bringing
to more than 15,000 the number of students and employees
who have access to the facilities. About 7,000 people participate
in the dozen intramural sports offered every semester.
To accommodate all these programs, Freeman says optimizing
available space, improving customer service and hiring more
staff have been critical.
When it comes to hiring staff, fitness and lifestyle director
Pat Richards has long believed there's no need to look outside
the University to recruit new instructors. In the early
1990s, she began offering courses to certify people as fitness
instructors, personal trainers and weight trainers. A decade
later, U of G employs more than 90 instructors qualified
to provide these services.
"We have a solid group of trainers who can help people
get back into activity or achieve their fitness goals,"
Finding instructors is simpler than finding space in the
Athletics Centre to accommodate new programs. But where
there's a will, there's a way. To introduce spinning classes
this year, for example, Freeman had the space above the
squash courts renovated and bought 13 "spinning"
stationary bicycles to install there.
Now, Athletics Centre members can sign up for any of 22
weekly spinning classes, where instructors lead participants
through hill climbs, sprints and flat surface riding.
"The addition of spin classes provides a welcome change
for those of us who enjoy a new challenge," says Margaret
Timmins, an administrative assistant in the Department of
Food Science who is registered in two weekly classes.
People can try a spinning class for free once exams begin
or take a drop-in class anytime for $5.
The decision to move the weight room to the east gallery
was largely to lighten traffic flow in the main lobby, says
Freeman. More than 90 per cent of the people using the weight
room are men, and in the old location, they had to walk
through the lobby from the men's locker room to reach it.
The relocation has allowed Freeman to dedicate the old
space to a new martial arts centre. "The weight room
doesn't require the quietness that some of the martial arts
do. Now, people participating in martial arts will have
the ability to concentrate and focus on their activity."
Grouping the stationary bikes, rowing machines, stair climbers
and elliptical training machines together in one room to
create separate cardio and circuit training/light weight
rooms was a response to client feedback, says Freeman. He
says the next step will be to buy more mirrors and more
equipment to increase weight training in that area.
Before this fall, the only indoor access to the Gryphon
Dome from the Athletics Centre was through the men's locker
room. A former hallway on the east side of the building
has been rebuilt to give women easier access to the Dome.
Freeman also plans to dedicate a supervisor to let people
re-enter the Athletics Centre from the Dome through the
back door to enhance safety.
He and Richards agree they will keep looking ahead at future
fitness trends to keep their members happy.
"I think we'll see more of a blend between yoga and
pilates and fitness or yoga," says Richards. "I
also think stretching classes with balance work will return
to help participants improve their balance and flexibility,
and water training, especially water running, will continue
Other planned changes for the Athletics Centre itself over
the next two years include improved signage, the purchase
of more weight training equipment and mirrors for the circuit
area, additional cardio equipment for the cardio theatre,
renovation of the business office in the main lobby and
renovations to the red pool.