October 17, 2003

Henry Crown Field House awaits renovation

The athletics department hopes that the nearly completed Gerald Ratner Athletic Center will entice the student body into getting fit.

While the University expects that the more appealing facility will attract more students than the Henry Crown Field House, administrators have not forsaken its older counterpart and even have plans to renovate the facility in coming months.

Jennifer Coleman, assistant director of athletics for facilities management, said that the University is still interested in Henry Crown and plans to refocus attention on the facility in the near future. Intended renovations include beginning maintenance on the roof, resurfacing the basketball courts and track, and upgrading the locker rooms.

But the expense of the new facility leaves some students wondering whether future work on the fieldhouse is a good investment.

"I'm not sure the majority of students will actually benefit from such a big investment," said Dave Ignacio, a third-year in the College. "It might be smarter to put the money for Henry Crown's renovation into something more students will appreciate, like making Max Palevsky look nice."

The University has estimated its new $51 million facility—complete with extended hours—will cause student use of athletic facilities to rise 33 percent. Second-year Bryan Singer, energized by the new facilities, plans to "get his swell on," at the new fitness center.

This projected increase in use is not limited to the new Ratner Center. John Carey, facilities manager for the University, said that the new facility will not overshadow Henry Crown.

The athletics department, meanwhile, insists that Henry Crown is worth renovating, saying that the University intended for Ratner to complement HCFH, not to replace it.

Some students who have used Henry Crown for years say that Ratner is far superior to the older, outdated facility.

"Ratner is a big improvement," said Goh Siew Tan, a fourth-year in the College. "It's like having a personal health club."

When planning the new center the athletics department tried to duplicate the most popular parts of Henry Crown while adding a few extras, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool; a classroom for dance, yoga, and martial arts; a 1,500-seat competition gym; and a grand total of 93 weight platforms and 40 cardio machines.

Still, Coleman said Henry Crown will provide needed space and also house important facilities, such as squash courts and an indoor track.

Carey said that Ratner's new cardio machines have been packed at times since its opening on September 29 but maintains that Henry Crown has seen the same flow of energetic folk—about 2,000 students, faculty, and staff each day—as before the opening.

The University is also considering membership policies for people not affiliated with the University but plans first to calculate the number of students, faculty, and staff using the facility.

Carey expressed concern that a "Bartlett phenomenon" might occur with Ratner, referring to the great demand that the Bartlett dining hall faced after its opening. The department hopes that renovations to Henry Crown will preserve its faithful following in the community.