BLOOMINGTON — Work is expected to begin in September to expand Illinois Wesleyan University's Shirk Center to meet the growing needs of students.
“It's not just for the athletes. It's for all the students,” Athletics Director Dennie Bridges said Tuesday.
When Shirk Center opened in 1994, personal fitness wasn't a huge deal among students, Bridges said, noting that female students almost never went to the old Fred Young Fieldhouse. Now both genders are regular users of the fitness facilities and at times they have to wait a while to use the machines, he said.
“The present fitness center is about half the size we need,” he said.
In addition, Bridges said, the number of student athletes has grown from 294 to 520 in the past 20 years with the addition of men's and women's soccer and men's and women's lacrosse and greater participation on some teams, such as women's track.
A two-story expansion of the building will extend 75 feet into the parking lot on the east side of the building, Bridges said. The lost parking spaces will be replaced elsewhere, he said.
The second floor of the addition will feature a fitness center with two multi-purpose or team rooms, according to Bridges. He said the first floor will have five new locker rooms, a satellite training room and space for storage.
The current fitness area likely will be converted to weight training, he said.
“It's been in the dream process for about five years,” Bridges said. “We just got serious about it in the last year.”
Bridges said he could not comment on the cost of the addition or the donor. That will come up at the next meeting of IWU's board of trustees in May, he said.
Bridges hopes the project can be done with minimal disruption, with the new area ready for use in November 2015.
Although the east wall of Shirk Center will be removed, Bridges said, as he understands it, that won't have to be done until late in the construction process, so regular use of the facilities can continue.
He also is hopeful the replacement parking will be in place before the football season begins. The university wants to expand parking east toward Fell Street, but city approval is needed first, Bridges said.