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The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and the Harvard Law School (HLS) announced last week that the Hemenway Gymnasium will undergo an extensive renovation this summer.
The building is owned by FAS but its location in Harvard’s North Yard, a brief walk from the Science Center, makes it popular with undergraduates and HLS students alike.
“Dean [of HLS Elena] Kagan feels strongly that we have to improve the quality of student life,” said Michael A. Armini, director of communications at HLS. “Hemenway is just the next step in a series of improvements. For many years students felt it wasn’t the best facility.”
Armini predicted that students “will be pleasantly surprised” with the changes, which Elizabeth Randall, Capital Projects Manager for FAS, said will be “major.” The renovation is slated to be finished in September.
HLS and FAS will split the costs of the renovation, which have yet to be disclosed, but which Armini said will be “significant.”
The firm of Sasaki Associates, Inc. has been chosen to modify the building, which has not been significantly renovated since the 1960’s. Sasaki has previously designed fitness facilities at MIT and Brandeis University.
One of the most significant changes at Hemenway is to be the creation of three new international-size squash courts in place of the current seven American-size courts.
The excess space will be converted into a place for additional weight and cardiovascular equipment. The plan is to “more than double” the amount of fitness equipment and upgrade existing equipment to “state-of-the-art replacements,” according to a press release.
The building will gain an air-conditioning system, and the building’s heating and ventilation, which date to 1938, will also be updated, according to Randall.
Changes to the building’s façade, which is protected by both the Cambridge and Massachusetts historic commissions, are to be minimal.
Randall said HLS and FAS sought input from various sources during the planning process,
Town Sports International, the company that manages MAC classes and equipment, acted as a sports health advisor.
The HLS administration also solicited student opinion.
“The Law school did an entire survey of students and faculty with questions like ‘what do you use, how often do you use it, do you like fluffy towels,’” Randall said.
There was also an open meeting where students, faculty, and staff could discuss the upcoming renovations.
The transformation of three American-size squash courts to three international-size ones has gotten mixed response.
While students say they are glad to have the opportunity to play on international-size courts, some worry that with fewer courts available, they may have to wait for playing space. Post-renovation, there will only be three courts, and Robert D.A. Campbell ’08 observed that there are currently almost always at least three courts occupied.
And not all students want Hemenway to change in the first place.
Arjun K. Manrai ’08 says, “I think it’s a pretty nice gym. It’s usually quieter than the MAC; the machines are more available.”
Brendan J. Corcoran ’07 said, “There are areas when you’re walking through the gym, you feel like you’re in a submarine almost, but I think it adds to the character of the gym, I preferred it to the MAC.”
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