“Overcrowded.” “Dimly lit.” "Underground windowless dungeon.” The dissatisfied feelings regarding the quality of Dodge Fitness Center seem like tired news. Luckily, a more optimistic twist is coming to the Morningside campus. With the Campbell Sports Center construction ending soon, Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy is shifting her attention to the underground gym.
Murphy first began redeveloping plans for athletics facilities in 2006, though the perennial issue of space has been her concern since she stepped on board in November 2004. She’s already accomplished some of the goals with the new Campbell Sports Center at Baker Athletics Complex. Next comes a renovation and refurbishing of Dodge, she says.
“Everyone knows and acknowledges that this is something that needs to be done. And part of my desire is, once we finish Campbell and get that done and get people resituated down here, is to have more ongoing conversations with the University,” she said.
Her plans extend beyond new machines and more space for students and faculty. Murphy envisions an entire reconfiguration of the facilities, which she believes necessitates a capital campaign of approximately $20 million and a partnership with the school deans. This wouldn’t be the first time that the center has undergone an upheaval.
“There was a major reconfiguration with the tri-fitness center, I believe, I want to say in ’96. I wasn’t here then but they did a major reconfiguration then. This building has been reconfigured so many times that there’s not a lot that can be done but there’s some things,” Murphy said.
Murphy says she can’t be more specific on what “some things” means yet.
“We need to bring in architects, we need to bring in a design firm, and we really need to look at what’s possible,” Murphy said.
At the moment, the possibilities allow for better-allocated office space. With several coaches moving to the Campbell Sports Center this semester, other staff members will finally have their own offices instead of sharing with two other coaches or sitting in hallways.
Though these vacancies will be quickly filled by other coaches, leaving no new space, there may be some immediate remedies that can be made to Dodge.
“I think the machines that don’t work, I think those can be replaced or repaired, the ones that are constantly broken,” Malcolm Ray, a General Studies student who uses Dodge about six days a week, said. “And the men’s locker room is really a disaster. The toilets always have garbage bags over them to indicate they need to be repaired. And the soap dispensers in the shower, half of them are now gone and the other half are barely filled up.”
Ray said he believes that anything to improve the current situation is good but says “a reconfiguration misses the point,” and that Dodge should be gutted for a state-of-the-art gym.
Entirely new facilities may be coming to Columbia soon but likely won’t be underneath Pupin Plaza anymore. According to Murphy, the Manhattanville expansion calls for a space dedicated to recreation, intramurals, and club sports. Though she will likely retire by the time the athletic department moves, she has an image in mind for the new facilities.
“My vision would be another natatorium, squash courts, more fitness opportunities, recreation opportunities. We need that to be a part of the campus. There is a long-term plan for that. And that’s a good thing,” Murphy said.
Correction: A previous version of the article stated that overhauling Dodge necessitates a capital campaign worth $20 billion as opposed to $20 million. Spectator regrets the error.