By Amy Ledig
After months of discussion and planning, Macalester has cut the ribbon on its new $41 million athletic facility.President Brian Rosenberg, Macalester community members and local residents were expected to gather yesterday for the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Macalester College Athletic and Recreation Center. A dinner for select members of the Macalester community, donors and other community members was scheduled to follow.Macalester’s groundbreaking comes less than a week after the University of Minnesota broke ground on a new $248.7 million football stadium.Some on campus vowed to use the occasion to show their opposition to the project. Sara Buck ’07 and Alia Trindle ’07 called on students to protest the project at the ceremony.In a mass e-mail message, Buck and Trindle said that they objected to the school’s decision to fund the undertaking in light of the end of need-blind admissions, a decision the college made in January 2005 due to fiscal concerns.”I think what we’re trying to do is establish the connection between the disappearance of need-blind admissions [and the new facility],” Buck said.Buck called the planned athletic facility “a homophobic, heteronormative space” due to the absence of gender-blind bathrooms in the building plans.Along with confusion surrounding the college’s new Institute for Global Citizenship, Buck said that the athletic facility construction “shows Macalester is moving in a racist, heteronormative direction.”Approximately 20 students gathered on the second floor of the Campus Center Wednesday night to prepare signs for their demonstration. Group members refused to speak to a Mac Weekly reporter and asked the reporter and a photographer to leave the public area. Changes to CampusWhen the facility is completed in Fall 2008, the changes to the south end of campus are going to be extensive. Much of the existing athletic facility will be demolished in phases. The softball field will move from its current location on Shaw Field to a new home near the baseball field. Several of the cottages bordering the soccer and football field will be gone.”We’re looking with someone to recycle or move these houses,” Facilities Management Director Mark Dickinson said.The $41 million facility will be approximately 175,000 square feet, and will include the existing swimming pool. There will be a larger field house, a performance gym equipped to seat 1,200 to 1,600 people, and larger spaces available for intramural and other activities. Winton Health Services will be relocated to the new building from its current building on the Northwest corner of Grand and Snelling Avenues.”Our new facilities will put us at the forefront” compared to other schools, Director of College Relations Doug Stone said.”In terms of the fitness area, we’re trying to be conscious of [allowing] you to do your own thing on a treadmill without feeling self-conscious,” Dickinson said of the planning that went into the layout of fitness spaces.”I’m incredibly excited,” said Tristan Berto ’10, a football player. “It will probably attract more athletes to the school and right now the facilities aren’t that great, so it’ll be good to update them.”Earlier plans to build a parking garage under the building have been shelved, but there are plans to add more parking. Dickinson said that since the new building will not extend as far south as the existing facility, it will be possible to add approximately 30 parking spaces.Construction is expected to begin in January and conclude at the end of August 2008. Dickinson said that there isn’t yet an exact date because of the number of things that have to be done before demolition can begin. Athletic offices are expected to move out of the facility by December. The college will also move out equipment and remove asbestos before the contractors begin work. Workers will salvage materials from the existing building to be used in the construction of the new one.Any project of this magnitude is sure to cause disruptions, but administrators are optimistic. The sidewalk running along Shaw Field to Olin Rice will remain open during construction. Planners do not yet know whether the sidewalk along Snelling Avenue will have to close. The route between the Campus Center and the stadium is the only one that might be impacted.”Getting around campus won’t be a problem,” Dickinson said.College officials have said that the new athletic facility will be more welcoming to non-athletes.”You don’t have to be a jock,” Dickinson said. “You don’t have to be the best. Anyone of us can go down there and recreate.”Dickinson and Stone play basketball in the existing gym and are both looking forward to the new building.”We have several faculty members and a number of staff members and friends,” Dickinson said. “We have about 20 people that come and go for these noon time basketball games.”Katie Dittman ’10, a soccer player, is looking forward to the fresh scent of the new building.”I’m excited because the locker rooms smell funny and the weight room will be better and less smelly,” she said.