College pledges $190,000 for PEC shape-up

Due to the age of the machines and electrical problems, new equipment will be purchased for the PEC. (Tom O’Dell / Photo Editor)

Currently, one-third of the Physical Enhancement Center’s ellipticals are out of order. One quarter of its treadmills share the same fate.

“There were three ellipticals with arms working when I got here, and those are the ones I like to use. There were people on all of them,” said Robert Catona, sophomore interactive multimedia major. “I’ve gone everyday this semester. … It’s discouraging, because you have to fight for appointments, and people are bickering for spots.”

But that won’t be the case for much longer.

The College has set aside $190,000 to completely revamp the PEC.

“Basically, the entire PEC will be redone with brand new equipment and a new maintenance contract that allows for (speedy) repairs,” said Brian Block, senior political science major and Student Government’s vice president of legal and governmental affairs.

In addition to refurbishing or replacing faulty equipment, the College will install new machines — and a few additional improvements.

According to John Castaldo, Director of Athletics and Recreation, the College anticipates new cardio and strength training equipment being purchased, along with new padding for underneath certain machines.

“We will be installing flat-screen televisions in various locations throughout the PEC,” Castaldo said. “Similar enhancements on a smaller scale are also planned for the athletics weight room.”

Renovations will likely begin within the next two months and could be completed by the end of the semester. According to Castaldo, it is currently unknown whether the updates will require any PEC closings.

The facility will implement its new maintenance contract during that time period as well.

“The maintenance contract is an essential element of this project, as it will make it possible for the machines to be repaired on a regular basis. Currently, we do not have a maintenance contract,” Castaldo said in an e-mail. “Therefore, each time that a machine fails, we must pay service charges. As the equipment ages, this becomes a considerable cost to the College and may delay needed repairs. The maintenance contact will allow us to order repairs right away when a machine breaks down since there will be no additional charge for the repairs.”

The College earmarked funds to complete the project in its budget this year, according to Lloyd Ricketts, the College treasurer.

“The $190,000 will be funded from the College operating reserves and was approved by President Gitenstein, as part of the fiscal year 2011 institutional priority projects identified by Vice President Jim Norfleet,” Ricketts said in an e-mail.

The College made strides toward an improved PEC earlier this year.

When the number of defunct exercise machines ballooned, officials looked for the root of the problem. They found it — an overworked circuit breaker.

“The electrical problems were the result of too many machines being on the same breaker,” Castaldo said. “The College Facilities staff has made the necessary repairs, and we continue to monitor the electrical demands of the equipment to head off any further problems.”

Student dissatisfaction impelled action as well.

“I’ve been here for four years and the PEC’s been an issue for four years,” Block said. “They’ve been working on it for a while, but last year I directed the purchase of a new bench press. (SG) had seen that as a big issue and we were trying to fire a shot across the bow, bring it into the spotlight.”

After the $1,600 Olympic bench press machine, purchased with SG fundraising money, was installed, SG stepped up its effort.

After a student survey taken at the PEC encouraged SG to go forward with its purchase, the organization decided to take similar action to change the PEC’s overall condition.

Under the direction of SG’s vice president of Student Services, Dan Frieri, a student petition circulated encouraging administrators to do something about the “gradually worsening” condition of the PEC.

“The petition was put into action in mid-November. For just under one week, members of the Student Services committee went around campus explaining our stance and getting student signatures,” said Frieri, senior accounting major. “By week’s end, we had over 750 signatures, dozens of student stories and feedback that made us confident this was an initiative we needed to move forward with.”

Frieri’s committee showed copies of the petition to President R. Barbara Gitenstein, Vice President for Student Affairs Jim Norfleet and Castaldo.

SG President Olaniyi Solebo and Block championed the issue with additional administrators.

Though a PEC renovation project has been in the works for years, an action plan came together last semester.

The plan was a collaborative effort between administrators and members of SG.

The administrators included Castaldo, Ricketts, Norfleet, Director of Purchasing Mark Mehler and Director of Planning and Administration Lori Thompson. Block, Frieri and Solebo of SG joined them.

All are thrilled at the prospect of the forthcoming renovations.

“My staff and I are extremely excited about this project, which will further advance the College’s commitment to promoting health and wellness on campus,” Castaldo said. “The PEC is heavily used by our students and plays a critical role in enhancing their experience at the College.”

For SG student representatives, the project is the culmination of years of effort and a semester of sweating it out during meetings, hearings and paperwork sessions.

Now, they’ll have a new place to sweat.

“Last semester we really boosted our attention on it, and it finally came to full fruition,” Block said.

Emily Brill can be reached at brill3@tcnj.edu.