By SEAN ROWLEY
With the facility closed and its equipment displaced for nearly a year, the Northeastern State University Fitness Center is undergoing the first phase of its renovation.
Many Tahlequah citizens anticipate the reopening of the Fitness Center for access to exercise equipment and a swimming pool. Weights, treadmills and other equipment were moved into the student lounge area in the basement of the University Center as a temporary measure.
“The demolition crew is on site,” said Tim Foutch, vice president for operations. “We have begun the initial phases of the demolition work. The second phase should start within a couple of weeks.”
Following the demolition phase, excavation and other earth-moving work will begin.
“People will begin to see the footprint of the building,” Foutch said. “Once the demolition and site work is complete, we anticipate asking for a second series of bids in March for concrete work and to add other building components in the spring and summer. We are not certain of a completion date at this time, but we do expect the work to end in the early fall.”
The pool has been closed since Sept. 17, 2012, when concerns arose during an assessment of the Fitness Center’s maintenance needs. Initially, NSU intended to delay closing the pool until the general renovation began, but a complaint from a patron prompted an inspection by the Oklahoma State Department of Health.
Though inspectors said the original complaint was without real basis, other findings necessitated an early closure and left Tahlequah minus a popular indoor pool.
Foutch said the new pool configuration will not change.
“It will look much as it did before,” he said. “However, the pool shell will be replaced, as will the pool surface, and there will be a new filtration system. It will also meet [Americans With Disabilities Act] requirements, and all deferred maintenance issues will be resolved.”
Foutch said among the new features of the Fitness Center are a second basketball court, an indoor walking track, and an expanded area for exercise equipment.
“The Department of Health and Kinesiology will also move its classes and labs into the facility from Jack Dobbins Field House,” he said.
“The Student Health Center will move there from the first floor of Wyly Hall. Of course, the Fitness Center staff offices will return, and there will be locker rooms and showers for those with membership.”
Membership to the new Fitness Center will be open to the public. Foutch said the new membership fees are not yet determined.
“The other component of membership is that, because a student fee is paying for this renovation, students will be allowed to use the Fitness Center free of charge,” Foutch said. “Once the renovation is completed, part of the fee will be used to fund continuing operation, so we believe there is no reason to further charge students for membership.”
Foutch said the Fitness Center renovation is a top priority for the Division of Operations.
“The pool is not available and all the equipment is in the UC,” he said.
“Obviously we want to get the work done quickly and give our students and the community a better fitness experience.”