Princeton University has been granted approval by the Planning Board to renovate and expand Dillon Gym on the university’s campus.
The Planning Board approved the university’s preliminary and final major site plan at a meeting on Jan. 20. The existing Dillon Gymnasium is primarily used for Campus Recreation programs and contains Dillon Pool.
Board Chair Louise Wilson, Julie Capozzoli, Phil Chao, Councilman David Cohen, Alvin McGowen, Owen O’Donnell, Tim Quinn, Councilwoman Mia Sacks, and Zenon Tech-Czarny voted “yes” to approve the project.
Dillon Gym is located on campus along Dillon Court Drive and Elm Drive. The original building was built in 1903 and would later be rebuilt in 1947 after a fire occurred during 1944, which had destroyed the building.
The expansion and renovation of Dillon Gym is not only expected to modernize the building, but accommodate an increase in the university’s student population. Princeton University projects over the next several years that the undergraduate student population will reach about 5,700 students.
According to Princeton University, the current undergraduate student enrollment is 5,267 students.
“We need to right size this facility to catch up with student growth over time and even give us some comfort for the current population growth and even into the future a little bit,” said Ron McCoy, Princeton University’s architect, at the Planning Board meeting on Jan. 20. “The overall site plan does leave room for future additions, because this is a central campus site. We want to maintain that optionality for future additions.”
Modular structures at Dillon Court will be demolished as part of the project and replaced by an outdoor basketball court and two-story addition.
The two-story Dillon Gymnasium expansion on the southeast corner of the building is expected to be 7,900 square feet. The addition will contain fitness space and two studio spaces for proposed multi-purpose group rooms.
Proposed renovations for the Dillon Gym internally include 24,700 in assignable square feet (ASF) for strength and conditioning, where 9,900 square feet is for general fitness; 8,000 square feet goes towards cardio, 4,100 square feet for circuit training and functional fitness and 1,000 square feet is for powerlifting; 3,700 square feet for group fitness and multi-purpose use; and 3,500 square feet for the new lobby, social and office spaces.
“I would say all users of the project are faculty staff and students, who already commute to campus. There is no parking growth related to this project,” McCoy said. “Strength and conditioning and group fitness are the two largest demands from students for health and wellness needs.”
According to application documents, Dillon Gymnasium is used not only by students, but the men’s and women’s varsity volleyball and wrestling teams for home matches.
Currently, there are 12 full-time equivalent employees that work at Dillon Gym.
“This would have a modest increase up to two additional full-time equivalent employees. There are a robust group of about 75 student workers who serve Dillon Gym, and that will grow,” McCoy said. “There is no impact, because those students are living on campus.”
The university will selectively reuse stone and wood that is salvaged, reduce existing imperious surfaces and also plant 37 trees at the facility.
There will be green roofs on the new building addition and the part of the existing that houses Stephens Fitness Center.
“In what we are proposing in terms of storm relative to stormwater management measures, in the northeastern portion of the site we are proposing porous pavers that will have an area of 3,000 square feet and two green roofs,” said Christian Roche, civil engineer from Langan Engineering for Princeton University.
Grass swales would be around the new two-story addition to Dillon Gym and infiltration trenches will be to southern portion of the site.
Princeton University is also proposing 60 new bike parking spaces, which is 30 bike racks at Dillon Gym. The current bike parking spaces at the northern end of the gym amounts to 20 bike racks for a total of 40 spaces. Once the project is complete, the Dillon Gym will be able to accommodate 100 bike parking spaces.
Tech-Czarny asked university professionals at the meeting if there is any fossil fuel use for heating and cooling systems at the gym and its addition.
“We are looking at a new geo-exchange system for the entire campus. It is a massive undertaking and is going to take a long time to implement,” said Jarett Messina, a Princeton University senior project manager. “The new addition to Dillon Gym will be on the new geo-exchange hot water system. It is going to take some time to convert the rest of the building over. There are plans to do it, but not a specific timeline yet.”
Messina added that beside the new generator, all of the new work will not have fossil burning equipment.
“The old equipment will have to remain in service for a little while longer, but eventually turn it over to the new hot water system,” he said. “The current building is on the existing steam system, which comes up from our plant down south. The steam will be phased out eventually.”
The fitness center at Dillon Gym is not a 24-hour center. General academic hours are 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday; Friday from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday from 8 a.m. to midnight.
“The hours do vary. The outdoor lights will not be on for 24 hours, but there may occasionally be a late night activity on the basketball courts,” said Jeff Graydon, senior associate director of Athletics. “There will be some low level of lights, just like Jadwin Gym, there are two or three on the main floor (Jadwin Gym) its security lighting in the evening when we are closed.”