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Fitness Centers Serve Record Million Visitors This Academic Year

It’s hard to imagine a time when Penn State wasn’t scattered with gyms, but before the early 1980s, fitness centers on campus were essentially an unknown sight. Opened during an era of leg-warmers and spandex leotards to “support the Penn State community through dynamic group fitness programming which promotes both mental and physical health via accessible facilities, quality equipment, well-trained employees, and contemporary programs,” Penn State fitness centers are now a staple of on-campus life.

At first, the fitness centers merely consisted of two borrowed gymnasiums, home to only 20 weekly classes. Today, they’ve expanded to Rec Hall, the Intramural Building, the White Building, and the Pasquerilla Spiritual Center (faculty only), all of which average around 210 weekly classes, save for Pasquerilla.

Wednesday marks an important moment in its continued growth: the fitness centers will celebrate their millionth visitor from the beginning of the academic year. Before we can celebrate this success, let’s take a look back at the history of Penn State’s fitness centers.

The appearance of the fitness centers has drastically changed since opening in the early 1980s. A decade after its inauguration, they consisted of only a Rec Hall weight room, the Fitness Loft near the natatorium, and the no-longer existent Fit-Stop. In total, there were 7,500 square feet of gym space available to students, who paid a mere $10 membership fee per semester. By 1999, with the addition of the Intramural Building weight room, the maximum capacity of patrons on campus had reached 185. By this point in the 1990s, 96 different classes were offered, a stark increase from the original 20. In the mid-2000s, Penn State introduced the White Building Fitness Center, an initiative that further increased Penn State’s maximum capacity to 365 students, and bumped the price to $38 per semester.

Today, the comparative totals are an example of how the fitness community has dramatically grown at Penn State. Originally at a 125-person capacity, all three major facilities are now able to hold 760 students combined. Total available space has increased from 7,500 square feet to 56,000 square feet. The total amount of equipment has risen from 122 machines to 720. The membership fee has also increased though, from $10 to $60 per semester.

Coordinator of Strength and Fitness Programs Josh Davis cited the increase in membership as one of the biggest changes in the fitness centers. As the facilities have grown and improved, the numbers of students regularly attending classes and using the equipment has risen from 10,510 visitors per week to the current 38,176 mark.

Penn State has consistently received praise for its leadership in fitness and won numerous awards throughout the years. In 2013, Spot Me Bro ranked Rec Hall the best college gym in the country, and in 2014, The Active Times named Penn State the fifth-fittest college.

It’s because of the increasing membership fees and funding by UPAC that Penn State is able to continue elevating the quality and quantity of equipment available, as well as upping the capacity of gyms and diversifying available classes. There are currently 25 different types of classes available, increasing significantly from the original six.

Tomorrow at 11:30 a.m., all three fitness centers will host a celebration in honor of serving one million visitors this academic year. Old pieces of equipment will be displayed in the White Building, as well as cake, raffles, and free goodies available to those who attend. Because what’s a celebration of fitness without cake?

Photo: Penn State

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About the Author

Caitlin Gailey

Senior from just outside the city of Brotherly Love. Yes, I am one of those Philly sports fans. I bleed blue and white and have since birth. Maybe someday you will see me on ESPN and then again maybe not. If you ever want to inflate my ego email me at [email protected]


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