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Powerhouse concerns

The construction of the new Beloit Powerhouse, billed as a unique student union and sports center, and slated for completion in August of 2019, has generated both excitement and frustration among the Beloit College student body. The most notable complaints are about certain aspects of the design. Student athletes who stand to benefit from the new recreational space have pointed out that the length of the track is just shy of NCAA regulations.

Track and field athlete Aleeshah Heinzen’19 said she “would hope that other students take a look through our eyes at the problems we’re dealing with and respect our dedication for what we do. The fact that they’re going to tear down the fieldhouse without giving us our own space will cause so many issues and collisions on the new track.” 

Heinzen also voiced her safety concerns. “What if someone gets hurt? [Plus] the current field house is not good material or in regulation and gives us shin splints and limits us” she said. She also added that “with the results we’re getting and records we’re breaking right now, just think of how much more we could do with an official track.”

The Round Table sat down with Dean of Students Christina Klawitter to go over the Powerhouse plans, and to discuss these matters of contention. Klawitter, the Powerhouse Program Lead, is highly involved in the architectural and planning process. She confirmed that the Powerhouse will feature a three lane indoor track with an included three lane, 67 meter straightaway. The current track length is 174 meters on the interior lane, and 185 meters on the outer lane. Within the track will be a 7,000 square foot fitness space with cardio machines and small weights, a limited trainer’s room, and areas for stretching. This cross traffic of student athletes, casual gym users and those training within the track might cause the collisions that Heinzen hinted at.

Aside from an indoor track, the new additions for the Beloit Athletic Program include a fieldhouse with artificial turf and a swimming pool with 10 training lanes, eight of which are for competition. This is a substantial step up from the current six lanes in the pool at the Sports Center. There will also be a new training room, in conjunction with the current room in the Sports Center.

“This isn’t an an athletic building, but it’s not not an athletic building,” Klawitter said. “We shouldn’t assume that only student athletes will be interested in these facilities, and we want to attract people to these spaces who might otherwise feel intimidated.”

The plans for the new pool are especially exciting, and Klawitter anticipates the student body can look forward to fun, new activities such as night swims, yoga on paddleboards and even swim lessons for kids in the local community. “We’re gaining more water and bigger lanes,” Klawitter said. “There will also be more viewing, seating and it will be more accessible with ramps.”

Both Klawitter and Powerhouse Project Manager Dan Schoof tried to not duplicate spaces while designing the Powerhouse, which is why there is no new weight room, tennis courts or indoor racquetball courts. In fact, attempts to create a space for heaving and deadlifting in the Powerhouse provided a tricky sound and vibration issue, as the whole building would have been affected by the noise of the dropped weights. Therefore, most heavy weights will be left the Sports Center gym, while cardio will be moved to the Powerhouse.

“There will be some interaction with the current sports center because we really want to expand our resources,” Klawitter said.

Tennis player Priya Heinen’20 was disappointed by the lack of new walls for hitting in the Powerhouse, as they don’t have any spaces to practice their hitting in the current fieldhouse.

Cross Country and Track long distance runner, Dan Arkes’19, echoed the other athletes’ disappointments concerning the Powerhouse, especially concerning the track.  “The track is not regulation, so we can’t hold meets, and we might not be able to train on it if other people are using it. If it helps other varsity sports I’m here for it, but I’m disappointed that Varsity Track won’t get a regulation track. There’s no reason for there to not be a [cardio] room and a track in separate areas of a facility so everyone can train.” Heinzen also pointed out, “If it was regulation size we could charge for admission and concessions.”

“We aspired for 200 meters,” Klawitter said. “But we are building within the historic footprint as much as we can. We vowed for the money not to come out of tuition, so we had to take grants such as historic grants around retaining aspects of the old building. In order to get the dollars from the historic trust we can’t go beyond the constraints of the building. [The track] also goes into the constraints of the new fieldhouse, which we are trying to keep as big and high as possible. Countless architectural, creative hours were spent trying to make it 200 meters.” Klawitter determined that the track is “as big as it can be given our constraints.”

“Of course every coach who wants a 200 meter track wants to be competitive,” Klawitter agreed. “We really tried to listen to heavy users of the fieldhouse, so baseball, softball, lacrosse. We had conversations with [Track coach] Brian Bliese, and we had the Athletic Director with us in meetings.”

There were several meetings held that allowed for input from students. Klawitter took note of the many student athletes she saw there, remembering that many were passionate about the plans for the new building, and had plenty of questions.

However, there remain several aspects of the Powerhouse not yet fully established. For example, the administration has not decided how it will divide employees and equipment between the two training rooms, one in the current Sports Center and one in the Fieldhouse. “The decisions have not been made yet on how those two rooms will work together,” Klawitter said.

Another example is the current lack of sandpits in the design for the new track, which Track and Field runners would need to be able to practice their long jump and triple jump, especially with the Fieldhouse being torn down.

The college currently has two jumpers making waves in the Midwest conference. Eva Laun-Smith’21, who set a school record in the triple jump last week and leads the Midwest Conference, and Lena Ramsay’21, who won the triple jump at the Parkside Relays meet.

Head Track and Field coach Brian Bliese believes that advances are being made in the plans to add a sandpit into the architectural renderings, most likely at the end of the straightaways although he is disappointed that the additions are being made so late in the design process. “The varsity sports teams are not being asked what they would like, as far as new equipment and space,” distance runner John Tower’21 said.

As Klawitter put it, the Powerhouse is not necessarily an athletics facility, and the main heart of the building will most likely be the cafe, study rooms, gathering spaces, and outdoor decks over the Rock River, turning the building into a student union.

Ethan Haryski’19, a thrower for track and field, said “I think the goal of the Powerhouse is to turn it into a student hub, like Pearsons, which I’m for, but if they are trying to do both [create an athletic space and student union], they need to give each side its voice.”

With a brand new lecture hall for guest speakers and student events, a new cafe, hang out areas and a conference room, the Beloit College Powerhouse will no doubt be an exciting addition to the campus.

Editor’s Note: We would like to note that Frannie Knaggs, the author of this article, is a member of Beloit College’s track team. 

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