With the recent completions of Penn Park and Shoemaker Green, the Penn Athletics landscape has experienced a very literal change.
Up next: Hutchinson Gymnasium.
The University is currently renovating the nearly century-old Hutchinson Gym, long-time home of practice facilities for the gymnastics, fencing, rowing and wrestling teams.
“That’s going to be a really neat project, because there’s so many users of that building who will get really nice stuff,” Athletic Director Steve Bilsky said.
One of the highlights of Hutch 2.0 will be the implementation of air conditioning, which will have a huge effect on how teams will practice.
“It’s really unbearable in there in the summer,” Bilsky said. “So now it becomes [useable for] a full year.”
One of the programs most affected by the new air conditioning is the fencing team.
“In fencing, you always have to wear the mask and jacket all the time for protection, so there is always sweat, more than other sports,” fencing coach Andy Ma said. “The air conditioning will be huge.”
The fencing team will also reap the benefits of a new practice facility, meaning they won’t have to train in two small rooms in the Hutch basement.
While Hutch has been standing since the 1920s, not many changes have been made since. Though the affected teams have to practice in a different location for a year — the fencing and gymnastics teams are at the Levy Indoor Tennis Courts, and rowing is in Hollenback — the short-term sacrifice is worth the long-term benefit.
The gymnastics and fencing teams are the most obvious beneficiaries from the ongoing renovations, but other teams will be greatly affected as well, such as the golf and rowing programs.
“You can create these golf simulator rooms … almost like what we have in Pottruck,” Bilsky said. He also mentioned the possibility of adding tanks for the rowing team in the future as well.
Those changes, however, are not in the present budget but rather “on the back burner,” Bilsky said.
While it’s easy to focus solely on the shiny new gadgets and sparkling facilities, what effect will the renovations have on Penn sports as a whole?
“It will be a good representation for the University, Athletic Department and fencing team. It will be good publicity for the University and very good for the recruits so people can say it’s one of the best facilities in the country,” Ma said.
It will truly be an exciting time for Penn Athletics when Hutch reopens in the fall of 2013, and many people are looking forward to that day.
“It will motivate our team to work harder and train harder and build better team spirit,” Ma said. “It’s our dream come true.”
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