Renovation gives campus new gym, fitness center

Renovation gives campus new gym, fitness center

March 28, 2019

Following the Thanksgiving Day dedication of Maryville College’s Alumni Gymnasium in 1923, a Highland Echo reporter wrote that the gym, championed and funded by graduates and friends for nearly three years, “passed into possession of the College, to be one of the chief means in her hands of providing a sound and wholesome physical training for all the coming generations of students.”

On March 27, Maryville College reaffirmed that usage with a rededication of the nearly 96-year-old facility that recently underwent a nine-month, $2.5 million renovation to provide fitness and intramural space for the entire student body.

“This is the new standard for athletics and student wellness facilities on campus,” Maryville College President Dr. Tom Bogart said at a ribbon-cutting celebration held in coordination with the Blount Partnership and attended by members of the campus community, elected officials and community members. “What we’re looking to do over the next few years is renovate Cooper [Athletic Center], build locker rooms and support facilities for the lower-field –  soccer, softball and tennis – and build them or renovate to this standard.

“If you’re interested in joining us in that, let us know,” he said.

For the Alumni Gym, Bogart explained, “this standard” included compliance with 21st-century building codes, ample and efficient HVAC and electrical systems, new flooring, LED lighting and aesthetics – a “Power M” painted in the center of the gym floor and a horizontal tartan band accent attached to end walls – that promote school spirit.

On the exterior, the facility received a new roof, new lower windows, siding repair, a fresh paint of coat, gooseneck barn light fixtures and a large Scots logo.

“This is the third top-to-bottom renovation that the College has completed in the last four years, beginning with Anderson Hall, continuing with Pearsons Hall, and now this building,” Bogart told the crowd. “We’ve really continued to invest in the physical infrastructure for our students in the same way we continue to invest in the academic infrastructure.”

With an “L” shaped addition constructed on the southwest corner of the existing gymnasium for storage and mechanical systems, the total square footage of the Alumni Gym is now almost 13,000 square feet. The gym and large restrooms encompass 8,433 square feet, while nearly 1,860 is allocated to an office and fitness center equipped with weights, benches, treadmills, exercise bikes, elliptical machines and large-screen televisions.

“This is just the first phase of a comprehensive renovation, upgrade and some new construction for athletics and student wellness spaces here on campus that will unfold over the next few years,” Bogart said. “Why did we start with this project? Because this is space for every single student.”

Plans for the Alumni Gym renovation were announced last April, and crew members from Joseph Construction began work in June. BarberMcMurry Architects, a firm with a historic connection to the College, provided plans, and Barry Brooke, executive vice president of Knoxville-based company Lawler Wood, LLC, served as the College’s owner’s representative and project manager.

At the rededication ceremony, Bogart recognized Brooke; Kelly Headden of BarberMcMurry; and Jim Merritt, Justin Hall and Justin Marcus of Joseph Construction, as well as Blount County Mayor Ed Mitchell, Alcoa Mayor Clint Abbott ’66 and Maryville Mayor Tom Taylor ’70.

“One of the reasons that we wanted to do this as an official ribbon cutting and invite the whole community here is the fact that this space has historically been used very widely for a lot of community events, and it still available for that,” Bogart said.

College builds on its history

Originally constructed in 1923, the Alumni Gym was part of a three-year, $50,000 campaign for athletic facilities led by alumni and professors Dr. Edwin Hunter ’14 and Dr. Horace Orr ’12. Funding – $12,360 for the gym – came from alumni and former students, thus explaining the building’s eventual name.

The one-and-one-half-story, 11-bay building was home to basketball teams and other student athletics and social events until the construction of what is now Cooper Athletic Center in 1971. A renovation in 2007 turned it into a multipurpose venue.

Because of the building’s history, Bogart said it was appropriate to renovate and reopen it in the College’s bicentennial year.

“The 200th anniversary is a chance for us to celebrate our history, but more importantly, to build on a foundation of that history,” he said. “And the space that you see here is evidence of a commitment of the entire campus community to make the next 200 years even more successful than the last 200 years.”

Renovation directed by student input

Dr. Melanie Tucker, vice president and dean of students, told the crowd the need for a fitness center was a conversation she was drawn in to soon after she joined the campus community two years ago.

“From day one, I heard the College’s priority was to enhance opportunities for all students to recreate,” she said. “Throughout the renovation process, students have been at the forefront of decision making. Each time the planning group met, we reaffirmed both the fitness center and Alumni Gym as student spaces – first and foremost.”

Through surveys, Tucker and her staff collected students’ opinions and suggestions for the gym, then worked with architects and contractors to make them reality. Now that the renovation was complete, the dean said she was interested in gathering feedback on its operation and announced that an email address had been created to allow users to share their ideas.

She recognized administrators and faculty and staff members who had been involved in the planning and design, and thanked students who were “patient, thoughtful, eager and supportive throughout the renovations.”

“For some of our students, the time of our opening may feel a little ‘bittersweet,’ so to speak, as there are only a few weeks left before they graduate. However, one of the comments I’ve really appreciated hearing from students is how much they value the new space for new students who are yet to arrive on-campus,” she said.

Tucker concluded her remarks by pointing out that the facility enables the campus to increase programming offered through a revitalized wellness committee and the College’s participation in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Exercise is Medicine® on Campus initiative.

Referencing a unique campus initiative begun by Mountain Challenge, LLC, and officially trademarked in 2018, the dean said a renovated Alumni Gym helps the College better embrace the concept of Fit. Green. Happy.®

Students ‘ecstatic’ about the renovation

Beau Branton, a senior and president of the College’s Student Government Association, agreed.

“Having a space dedicated to students’ wellness is an awesome addition to our Fit. Green. Happy. initiative,” he said.

One of three students who helped Bogart cut the ribbon at the ceremony, Branton said students were “ecstatic” about the new space, adding that he enjoys watching a student’s reaction to seeing the gym for the first time.

“Before the gym renovation, intramurals would have to work around basketball and volleyball team schedules [in Cooper Athletic Center]. Now that we have a more dedicated space for club sports, I expect our intramural program to get even more participation,” he said. “The new fitness center is an awesome upgrade for students. I know students are looking forward to having a space to work out in that’s monitored by staff.”

The gym and fitness center opened to the campus on March 18. Access is through campus identification cards.

Written by Karen Beaty Eldridge ’94, Executive Director for Marketing & Communications


Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the Fall 2018 semester is 1,154.