At its meeting on Saturday, Feb. 9, the Sweet Briar College board of directors authorized construction of the new Fitness and Athletics Center (FAC). The College plans a ceremonial groundbreaking on April 25. Construction will begin in earnest in May, and the approximately 53,000-square-foot building is estimated to be completed in fall 2009.
The new FAC, which will be attached to the recently renovated Williams Gymnasium, includes two racquetball courts, an elevated running track and climbing wall. A key feature is a state-of-the-art floor that provides multi-use space for regulation sports as well as College functions, concerts and events.
“It can be used either for three basketball, volleyball or tennis courts or some combination of the three,” said Paul Davies, SBC vice president for finance and administration. “The multipurpose surface is soft enough for sports, yet resilient enough to accommodate tables and chairs.”
The flexible surface creates opportunities that Sweet Briar previously did not have, such as room for indoor varsity matches, a place to host volleyball tournaments and practice space for all seven of the College’s varsity sports.
A dedicated hall of fame will be set aside to recognize the College’s excellence in athletics. The new construction also will allow expanded office and classroom space for athletics and wellness programs.
Sweet Briar community members universally welcomed Saturday’s news, but few were happier than longtime field hockey coach and associate professor Jennifer Crispen. She was quick to credit the alumnae, parents, faculty and other supporters who are making the project possible, but not before she spread the word in an e-mailed letter to her newest hockey players.
“I told my recruits that this is the single-most significant thing that has happened to Vixen athletics since the founding of the College in 1901,” said Crispen, who joined the faculty in 1977.
Athletics director Kelly Morrison was equally direct. “It absolutely gives our student athletes the same resources that our Division III peers have, many of whom built facilities in the past decade. The advantage to building now, is we’re meeting the needs of today’s student athletes,” she said.
“Our athletic department now has everything for the serious athlete — the commitment, the coaching staff and the building. The building was the missing piece.”
Morrison noted that athletes won’t be the only beneficiaries, however. “The FAC has been designed to meet the needs and expectations of the entire student body, not just the athletes.”
Davies made the same point, saying the project is much more than a gym, with amenities such as a restaurant, movie theater, sitting area, big-screen television, pool and ping pong tables and computers.
“It was designed to compliment our current facilities, providing our students with a place where they could work out, meet friends, grab something to eat, catch a movie or just hang out,” he said. “The new facility will be a wellness center that encompasses the needs of our student body, faculty, staff and visitors.”