“The Zone expansion has quickly made the fitness facility an integral component of the student experience at Brock University, providing opportunity for physical, mental and personal growth.” Asad Bilal (Brock University Student Union President).
“This experience certainly challenged our creativity, with an enclosed courtyard and this year’s unprecedented and unforeseen circumstances. But, looking at the result you would never know, and what great reflection of the skill of whole integrated team who made it happen.” Drew Hauser (McCallum Sather).
Executive Summary – NIRSA Outstanding Facilities Award Application – November 2021
On the Brock University campus, The Zone Fitness Centre (“The Zone”) is the epicenter of the school’s impressive fitness culture. In 2017, the fitness centre (originally built in 2002 when the student population was less than half the current size) regularly reached its maximum capacity, so the Brock University Student Union held a successful referendum which supported tripling the size of the current facility from 5,000 sf to over 15,500 sf. Completed late in 2020, the result is an exciting $8.4 million dollar transformation for the University’s community.
Asad Bilal (the Brock University Student Union President) was a staunch ally of this project “The Zone expansion has quickly made the fitness facility an integral component of the student experience at Brock University, providing opportunity for physical, mental and personal growth.”
It was clear from the start; this project would have unique challenges. The University is situated on the Niagara Escarpment and is part of the UNESCO Biosphere. The Zone Fitness Centre expansion is located within an enclosed courtyard and there is an active tunnel system running underneath. McCallum-Sather (Architect) recommended a construction management approach, and with Aquicon Construction, an innovative construction path was charted. An existing link between courtyard buildings was removed, allowing materials to be moved in and out. This would not be the only challenge. Halfway through construction, the team had to adjust and shut down, facing the new realities brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The facility was completed at the end of 2020; however, the University was closed to all students until March 2021. The building opened briefly (10 person per hour capacity) in March and closed again until August 2020 due to a Covid outbreak in residence on campus, as well as provincial directives requiring the closure of all fitness facilities.
The students’ vision for their expanded fitness centre has now come to fruition. The double-height interior of The Zone has a series of active mezzanines that feature the campus colours. The space is programmed with a mix of wide-open areas for exercise equipment, a variety of turf for training and group classes like yoga and spin.
“We have had so much fun working on The Zone, especially because we know how meaningful the project is to this campus. What’s exciting is that it reflects the University’s strong activity-based culture and vision of its Student Union” said Drew Hauser (McCallum Sather).
Recreation facilities relationship to campus master plan and mission
The Zone expansion aligns with the Campus Plan vision and the Facilities Needs and Priorities Study which speak to the physical changes (capital and space planning initiatives) needed to support the University’s academic goals while enhancing the campus experience for students, staff, faculty and the Niagara community. The expansion provides a modern destination for health and wellness and meets four of the five campus planning principles – support academic mission, enhance the campus experience, engage, and integrate with the community and foster sustainability.
Intended and actual impact to your recreation program
Expanding The Zone was done to provide access to more students to fitness activities and equipment in a modern, spacious, bright space. The Zone is one part of the Walker Sports Complex (athletics, recreation, and academic use). Covid-19 and capacity restrictions placed on sport, fitness and recreation facilities has meant that the new centre is currently open at a reduced capacity. New fitness programming is taking place in the outdoor space, and inside the facility, due to the extra space available. When we can open to full capacity, 250 people at a time can utilize the facility. This is a substantial expansion in usage from the 95 people who could use the old facility at once.
Relationship between facility design and staffing
Constructing an addition to the current Zone Fitness Centre and joining it to another section of the Walker Sports Complex, which sits on the Niagara Escarpment created unique challenges, as there are elevation changes between the first floors of the two buildings. The supervisory staff “hub” is placed in the centre of the first floor of The Zone, providing a central, visible place for guests to interact with staff, and for staff to be able to view 2 of the 3 levels in The Zone. The mezzanine area upstairs requires staff to move to this space to assist guests, provide service and ensure appropriate supervision.
The Zone Fitness Centre is full of light with a 2-story full glass curtain wall facing into a courtyard, with a connection to the workout space in the courtyard outside the centre, direct access to the indoor track and proximity to gymnasia, locker, and shower rooms. There is ease of movement within and between groups of equipment, with deliberate space for floor work and stretching. The space has a mix of areas for exercise and strength equipment for varying abilities, turf specific training and group classes.
Use of technology
With regulations related to Covid-19 in Ontario, Canada, we moved quickly to an on-line reservation system, to allow guests to pre-book their work out times. This provides us with required contact tracing information. Our spin bikes in the spin studio have ICG technology which we will begin to use in the new year for classes.
Innovative, inclusive, or sustainable features
While the project did not pursue LEED certification, sustainable practices were employed, and new energy efficiency technologies were implemented wherever possible (e.g., LED lighting).
The finishes chosen were essential to the success of the space, including a mix of mats, high performance sports flooring, high impact resistant walls, terrazzo surfaces and artificial turf. Acoustic panels were added to the mezzanine to control and provide sound seclusion during spin classes. The materials chosen are durable, easy to clean and easy to maintain under heavy use.
The new Zone Fitness Centre includes some stakeholder driven innovative solutions. For example, a long turf section creates an area for walking, runs or sprints, and gives workout options with different training surfaces. There is a multi-purpose space for TRX, heavy bags, plyo boxes and hurdles; cardio areas in the mezzanine, easily accessed without passing through the weight-training areas; a free weight area; and Olympic Lift, strength, and conditioning areas. Group fitness areas are more private with a specialized spin studio and yoga studio.
The sustainable performance rubber flooring was provided by Nora. In the spin studio, we used a wood louvered wall system allows light and connection into the space when open and sound seclusion during spin class.
Many pieces of equipment were selected for their versatility to be used by persons who have different abilities.