Tech Puts $45 Million Face Lift on Olympic Legacy

As the 2004 Summer Olympics begin their first full week of competition in Athens on Monday August 16, Georgia Tech will open a two-year, $45 million renovation of the site of the 1996 Olympic swimming and diving events.

Renamed the Campus Recreation Center, the athletic facility sports: a newly enclosed Olympic swimming pool and diving well; a leisure pool with a 184-foot water slide, current channel, hot tub and sun patio; three-story climbing wall; and a café that overlooks the leisure pool. After enclosing the Aquatic Center, Tech added two floors above it complete with six basketball courts, exercise studios, roller hockey rink and an elevated jogging track. The renovations increase the center's indoor recreational space to approximately 300,000 square feet, a three-fold increase over the previous facility.

"This facility shows a definite commitment of Georgia Tech to its students," said Mike Edwards, director of campus recreation.

The renovations give Tech a state-of-the art fitness facility, an essential tool in attracting prospective students to campus. The National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association estimates that U.S. universities are scheduled to build or renovate 400 indoor recreational facilities at a cost of $4.3 billion over the next five years.

"If we want to remain competitive in attracting students, facilities like this are essential," said Edwards. "When students visit colleges they ask 'Where can I play?' Universities that don't have these facilities are missing an important tool in recruiting students," he said.

The renovations also illustrate how owners of former Olympic sites can retool facilities built for the games for other uses while keeping the Olympic legacy alive.

"The Olympics provided us with a great swimming and diving facility, but there was one big problem: it wasn't enclosed. That meant that we could only use the pools four or five months out of the year," said Edwards.

The restrictions meant Tech's swim team had to find someplace else to practice during the fall and much of the spring semester. It also meant that Tech couldn't host swim meets. Now that renovations are complete, Tech is scheduled to host both the ACC Swimming and Diving Championships next February and the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in March 2006.
But enclosing the pool was only the beginning, said Edwards. "The Olympics provided us with the anchor to build around. Hastings & Chivetta Architects came up with the idea to use the space between the pool deck and the roof - space that would otherwise be wasted - to put in the basketball courts, studios and jogging track," said Edwards.

The leisure pool with waterslide was another departure from traditional university recreation centers. "Not everybody's a competitive swimmer," said Debbie Dorsey, aquatic manager. "The leisure pool gives non-competitive swimmers a way to participate and offers graduate students with families a place to play."

"Very few people don't like water parks. And that's what we have," added Edwards.

The new center also increased the fitness area from 6,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet. That's approximately one square foot per student, which Edwards said is the gold standard in college recreation centers.

The fitness area features treadmills and elliptical bikes with TV's imbedded in each one and more than 15,000 pounds of weights, according to Jon Hart, GIT FIT manager for Campus Recreation. Four racquetball courts and one squash court are adjacent to the fitness floor as is the three-story climbing wall.

"We've had many freshmen wander in here with their parents over the summer who were amazed at our new facility," said Edwards. "They say it's wonderful that they'll be able to come here to take their mind off the stresses of being a student."