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House of Payne gets ready for the new millennium

By Justin Siegel

Although Yale's basketball team cannot compete with UConn, and Bulldog football will probably not make it to the Rose Bowl anytime soon, Yale's athletic facilities are among the best in the world—and they just got better.

In 1999, the University invested $100 million to upgrade Payne Whitney Gymnasium—already the second largest gym in the world—and the renovations have helped both varsity and casual athletes stay in shape.
Payne Whitney is the second-largest gym in the world, after a national training facility in Moscow.

In the fall of 1998, the University unveiled the Adrian C. "Ace" Israel Fitness Center. Free for all students, this workout area contains 21,000 square feet of state-of-the-art equipment, including treadmills and Stairmasters, Elliptical and Nautilus machines, and various types of free weights. The exercise environment has also been enhanced by the addition of a surround-sound stereo system and several cable televisions.

Students are enthusiastic about the improvements made to the fitness center. "I worked out at the University of Colorado at Boulder last summer, and I was disappointed to come back to Yale's old gym," Emily Saslow, SY '01, explained. "But when I got here, I was so psyched because Yale's gym is now just as good as Boulder's, and Boulder has over 20,000 students. It's impressive that our facilities compete with those of a school that large."

Adjacent to the Israel fitness center lies the new varsity weight room, which has also been lauded by students. "One of the really good things is that [the weight room] doubled in size and equipment," baseball pitcher Randy Forman, SM '00, said. "Our team does a lot of Olympic-style lifting, which involves platforms. Last year we had four, but with the new weight room, we have 10. We also have twice as many squat racks. And these new racks let you do five or six different exercises, which makes them really versatile." The weight room is also equipped with video cameras that, Forman explained, "lets players tape their lifting so they can go back and watch their own technique and make improvements."

Last spring, the University also completed the Colonel Lanman center, a 30,000-square-foot recreational space which includes a one-eighth-mile suspended jogging track and four basketball courts that can be converted into 20 side courts or used for volleyball or badminton. In past years, students often had trouble finding available courts, but the addition has alleviated complaints about having to wait to play pick-up games. "In the beginning of the year, there were only two courts, and you usually had to wait 15 to 20 minutes to play a pick-up game," Ankur Chugh, DC '02, said. "But now there's a lot more room for players of different abilities to shoot around."

The University has funded numerous other improvements to Payne Whitney. Six exhibition squash courts have been added, and the varsity locker rooms have been refurbished. In addition, the University renovated the lobby, adding more light fixtures, double glass entrance doors, and a centrally-located security desk.

The aim of these improvements is "not only to brighten up the lobby," explains Barbara Chesler, the associate director of athletics. She adds, "The new double entry doors will assist the air circulation and prevent problems with the heat and cold."

Over the last year, the 50-meter stretch pool was renovated for the first time in many years. The Administration also updated the 3,100-seat John J. Lee Amphitheater, home of the basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics teams. Other pending improvements include the renovation of certain areas of the tower and of the dance and fencing areas.

Yale's academics are world-renowned, and the renovations to Payne Whitney promise to bring its athletic facilities on par with its reputation. There now exists ample opportunity for all athletes at Yale to have a great break from the studying grind. While the Lanman Center courts won't turn clumsy math dorks into Khalid El-Amin and the weight room won't make skinny freshmen into Refrigerator Perry, the new Payne Whitney will help your body keep pace with the advances that your mind will be making.

Alison Morris contributed to this article.

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