The blinding flash of the welder's torch has been replaced with the warm glow of early morning lights as staff members prepare to take their posts in the new Zesiger Sports and Fitness Center.
The new facility was designed to improve the quality of community life on campus with informal meeting spaces such as a juice bar and lounge areas in addition to the more traditional courts, pools and fitness areas, according to Candace Royer, director of athletics and head of the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation.
"The building is designed to be a beacon on campus. It's going to glow and make people want to come in. And once they get inside, they'll find one of the finest sports facilities in New England," said Royer.
The 13,000-square-foot facility sits between the Johnson Athletic Center and the Stratton Student Center. The glass front facing Kresge Auditorium will be illuminated between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m. most days, beckoning community members to initiate the new semester with a dive, racquetball game or bench press. The building is scheduled to open Sept. 23; grand opening ceremonies are set for Oct. 4.
The new building is the centerpiece of athletic facilities renovations that began about seven years ago when the tennis courts were rebuilt. Construction of the Z-Center began in October 2000 and has been overseen by Dan Martin, assistant department head for facilities and operations. It contains two swimming pools, 60 pieces of cardiovascular equipment, free-weights as well as Nautilus and Icarian weight machines, six squash courts and a multi-activity court for aerobics, basketball and even inline skating.
"With the renovation of the Alumni Pool building next summer, we'll have a mini Z-Center on east campus with new lockers, cardio machines in a small health and fitness center, and two multipurpose activity rooms for dance, martial arts, and theater arts and dance groups," said Royer.
"We've essentially left nothing untouched in the past seven years. But this isn't just about the Department of Athletics, Physical Education and Recreation; this is testimony to MIT's commitment to making student life really vibrant on this campus," said Royer.
Students aren't the only beneficiaries of the new facilities. Faculty, staff and alumni can purchase memberships in the new facility and use it instead of a private health club.
"The state-of-the-art fitness facility offers employees a terrific opportunity for pursuing their workout regimen or simply taking some stress out of the workday," said Laura Avakian, vice president for human resources. "Our recruitment staff is excited about showing the new facility to prospective employees. It will be a wonderful gathering place for all members of our community."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on August 28, 2002.