KINGSTON, R.I. – October 8, 2013 — University of Rhode Island students who enter the new Anna Fascitelli Fitness and Wellness Center during the next few weeks might be overwhelmed by the stunning look, feel, and yes, sound of the newest facility on campus.
They won’t be alone. Donors, state and University dignitaries and student leaders were amazed today as they toured the facility and cut the ribbon to formally open the $11 million, 33,202 square-foot center, which is designed to promote the health and well being of students in a safe, high-tech and inviting spa-like environment.
The project was supported in part by $1 million private donation from Michael Fascitelli, a 1978 graduate of the University and former chief executive officer of Vornado Realty Trust, a commercial real estate firm in New York, and his wife Beth, and a $1 million gift from Bank of America. The center is named in honor of Fascitelli’s late mother, Anna.
“I want to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of Bank of America and Michael Fascitelli, as well as the University of Rhode Island community for joining together for the common goal of ensuring a major enhancement to one our state’s higher education assets,” Governor Lincoln D. Chafee said. “The new fitness and wellness center is an example of a project that sends a message beyond our borders that Rhode Island’s flagship university is forward-looking and developing cutting-edge facilities.”
URI President David M. Dooley said today marks another major step in URI’s efforts to build a welcoming and vibrant environment for students, faculty and staff.
“We are so grateful to the Fascitellis and Bank of America for their generosity and commitment to make this a reality for our students,” Dooley said. “Facilities like this are central to our efforts to create dynamic neighborhoods that allow our students to grow academically, physically, emotionally and socially. We continue to strive to build an inclusive, engaged community, and there is no better benchmark than this modern, full-service center that will promote healthy lifestyles.”
URI senior marketing major Paul Knott, director of Marketing and Recruitment for the Student Senate, said the center is more than just a gym.
“It is a center that provides students with a respite from our studies, allowing us to let off steam, while maintaining our health,” Knott said. “Students can also work on building their physical and social skills through the supportive and varied group exercise classes, many of them offered for free. Additionally, the center provides a positive environment for students to meet and work out, while still remaining within the hub of campus.”
“To give back to URI, honor my mother and underscore our family’s commitment to education is a unique opportunity,” Michael Fascitelli said at the time of his commitment. “College is a time to develop as a person. With the new wellness center, URI students will be better prepared to build fuller lives for themselves and their communities.”
“The new state of the art fitness and wellness center will help URI students keep their bodies healthy while they exercise their minds in the classroom,” said Bill Hatfield, Rhode Island president, Bank of America. “This renovation will bring world-class facilities closer to students and staff.”
The two-floor Fascitelli Center is located in what was once the Roger Williams Dining Center, which opened in 1969, but was closed when the University opened Hope Commons as the largest dining center in 2007. The six-year-old Hope Commons dining center and the new fitness center, which are directly across from each other on Butterfield Road, complement each other perfectly.
URI architects, planners and engineers worked with the team of architects at KITE Architects in Providence and fitness center experts S3 Design to develop a new entrance featuring large glass walls, a welcoming and sheltering roof and a gleaming concrete plaza. At the same time, the new design retained many of the best and unique exterior features of the original structure, which won a prestigious national architectural award when it opened for its innovative design and daring structural systems, including its waffle slab and cantilevered volumes. The transformation of the building involved gutting the interior to expose the high ceilings and views to the outside, unifying the spaces around vibrant exercise areas in the center. In addition, the use of sustainable bamboo flooring in two major group exercise and specialized class areas, rubber flooring that incorporates recycled materials, and hydration stations, which eliminate the need for disposable water bottles, will help the building earn LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) Silver certification, reinforcing the pledge made by the University to make sustainability one of the guiding principles at URI.
Two floors are filled with a mind- and body-boggling array of high-tech, user-friendly machines, traditional equipment like punching bags and free weights, open spaces for specialized group exercise and yoga classes and a central health and wellness resource center where experts from URI’s Health Services, nutrition, and kinesiology programs offer expert advice. The bright orange walls serve as way-finding cues for visitors, and security cameras are placed throughout the facility. The sound systems in the group exercise and class areas are able to pump up the energy with pulsing tunes or calm a mind-body class.
The new center complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act and is fully accessible with wheelchair access to both levels. ADA resistance equipment and signs in Braille are among the features.
“I knew we were going to build something special here,” said Thomas R. Dougan, vice president for Student Affairs. “But I still can’t comprehend how spectacular this is. We keep working to improve the University, and this is certainly an example of our efforts to put students at the center of all we do here. What young person wouldn’t be impressed by such a facility? I am grateful for the private support that helped us complete this project, and proud of everyone who worked on it.”
“All of our equipment was bought with the knowledge that it will have extremely high use,” said Jodi Hawkins, director of Recreation Services. “For a campus recreation facility, this is the cream of the crop. We have every single piece of equipment we wanted, and everyone who worked on this was committed to creating the best facility possible. It has a full intercom system, all the doors are alarmed, and security cameras are in place around the facility. We want people to know that this is a safe environment for all participants.”
The contractor on the project is Iron Construction Group, LLC, of Warwick, and URI’s project manager is Keough Construction Management of East Providence.