As students left campus and warm weather moved in, construction workers labored over the summer months to complete a pair of large University projectsthe Gerald Ratner Athletic Center and a new water piping system under the quads.
Main construction on the Ratner Center will be completed by the start of fall quarter, at which time the facilities will be turned over to the athletics department to staff and operate, according to Robert Griffith, director of projects and facilities services. The only substantial delay will be on the two main gymnasiums, which will open in October in time for basketball season, Griffith said.
The new gymalready unofficially dubbed the Rat' by many studentswill improve on its predecessor Henry Crown in nearly every regard. An Olympic-sized swimming pool tops the list of many notable improvements, including a dance/martial arts studio, more temporary and permanent locker space, and a new fitness center filled with state-of-the-art equipment.
Henry Crown will remain open after the opening of the Ratner Center and, as of now, the University has no other plans for the older facility.
"With the addition of the Ratner Athletics Center, the University has substantially upgraded its capacity to address the burgeoning interest in fitness, recreation and competitive sports participation on this campus," said Tom Weingartner, chairman of the Department of Physical Education and Athletics.
Weingartner believes that the Ratner Center ranks among the best college athletic facilities built in the past decade, and he takes special pride in the swimming pool that measures 50 meters in length and 25 yards across.
"There are only about 8 other NCAA Division III swimming pools that are comparable to the Ratner pool," Weingartner said.
Many students had complained about the inadequacy of Henry Crown and the small swimming pool in the basement of Ida Noyes. Even University officials admitted that its athletic facilities could no longer meet the student body's interest in fitness and sports recreation.
As a result, the University added an athletic facility to its Master Plan, and was able to realize its goal thanks to a generous donation by alumnus Gerry Ratner.
Ratner will generally be open from 6 a.m. to midnighta slight improvement on Crown's hoursand can be accessed by all students, faculty, staff and alumni. Although varsity athletes will hold practices in Ratner much the same way as in old facilities, the new gym is also intended for physical education classes, club and intramural sports, and recreational use.
The University also is completing work on a far less glorious project: digging up the quads to install new centralized piping for chilled water.
The "Big Dig," as it is known, commenced immediately after the end of spring quarter when workers started to literally tear the quads apart. Large pipes were laid underneath the main quadrangle connecting University buildings to a main water-cooling plant in the basement of the Regenstein Library.
Until now, the University chilled water used for temperature control in several plants scattered around campus. The centralized piping system will provide the University with a more efficient and flexible means of climate control throughout its many buildings.
With the major motion picture Proof slated to start filming on campus in the fall, the University has made finishing the project a priority. Despite a lingering mess that persisted until early September, the project will be completed by September 29th in time for the movie production to begin, according to Griffith.
Griffith said that all heavy construction equipment along with any containers will be removed from campus soon, and the surfaces will be returned to road level. Returning the University's landscaping may take a little longer to complete, however.
"Things need time to grow," Griffith said.