City approves new Campbell Sports Center

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The Campbell Sports Center is being designed by Steven Holl, a Columbia architect known for his poetic use of simple geometric shapes. / Rendering Courtesy Steven Holl ArchitectsThe New York City Council recently granted Columbia final approval to construct a five-story, 47,700-square-foot sports center at its Baker Athletics Complex on the northern tip of Manhattan. The new center will serve as a hub for student-athletes and coaches who practice and compete at Baker, which is the University’s main outdoor sports compound. It is scheduled to be complete in late 2012.

The Campbell Sports Center, named in honor of University trustee chairman and former Lions head football coach William V.

Campbell ’62CC, ’64TC, will include a strength-and-conditioning center, coaches’ offices, team meeting rooms, an auditorium, and a lounge and study area. It will be located at 218th Street and Broadway, at the southeastern corner of the Baker Athletics Complex, where Columbia until recently had a maintenance garage.

The new center will dramatically improve the day-to-day lives of students and coaches, says Columbia athletics director M. Dianne Murphy. Currently, there are few indoor spaces at Baker where coaches can hold office hours, teams can gather, or students can find desks or computers. Athletes are often seen sitting on duffel bags in the grass before practice, doing homework.

“Soon, when our students travel up to Baker, they’ll be able to lift weights, watch films with their coach, do a little studying, and gather in the lounge,” says Murphy. “It will make their lives a lot easier and also create a sense of community.”

In recent years, Columbia has made several upgrades to the Baker facilities. The football, baseball, softball, and soccer fields have been resurfaced, as have the tennis courts, and a new field-hockey venue created. The two-story Chrystie Field House, which consists mainly of locker rooms, has been renovated with state-of-the-art training and sports-medicine equipment. But the 60-year-old building has only two small offices and a tiny student lounge.

“Space is a major issue, because our athletics programs have grown significantly over the past 25 years,” says Murphy. “The facilities at Baker were built at a time when Columbia College enrolled only men and had just seven or eight sports teams. Now we have 700 student-athletes who compete in 31 varsity sports, with both men’s and women’s teams using the facilities. We’re still the smallest athletics department in the Ivy League, yet we’re totally maxed out.”

The construction of the Campbell Sports Center will also help relieve overcrowding at the Dodge Fitness Center on the Morningside Heights campus. All of Columbia’s sports coaches are now situated at Dodge; some are forced to share offices on rotating schedules. Many of the coaches will move to the new sports center, freeing up office space and meeting rooms for Lions teams that compete at Dodge, such as fencing, wrestling, swimming and diving, basketball, and volleyball.

“Everybody on campus will benefit, since Dodge also serves as the main fitness facility for the general student body,” says Murphy. “Dodge needs major renovations, but this is a first step toward creating more space for wellness and recreational activities there.”

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