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Jan. 20 will mark the 20th anniversary of the opening of the David Pottruck Health and Fitness Center on 37th and Walnut streets. Credit: Luke Chen

Pottruck Health and Fitness Center will mark its 20th anniversary on Jan. 20 with a celebration and open house. 

The festivities will take place from 3 to 5 p.m. and will include activities such as open bouldering on the rock wall, bench press and free throw competitions, and a spin class. There will also be giveaways for attendees, such as free t-shirts for the first 500 attendees, smoothie samples, and raffle tickets.

The anniversary also comes as Pottruck, and the rest of campus, sees higher occupancy. Erica Hildenbrand, the Director of Campus Outreach for Penn Campus Recreation, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that Pottruck’s attendance has strongly rebounded from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are nearing pre-COVID activity for students,” Hildenbrand said. “Our daily usage is around 2,050 people … and we are seeing very similar trends from before the pandemic in terms of daily usage.”

College first-year Ryan Wolff also said that he has seen Pottruck’s attendance increase since his return from winter break at the start of the New Year. 

“After a big break, [Pottruck] tends to be busier,” Wolff said. “The first few weeks of school it was really busy, and I would guess it’ll thin out a bit over the next couple months.”

In 2018, the DP reported that Pottruck was ranked the second-best campus recreation center in the U.S. As the center marks a milestone, students told the DP that they see it as a key part of their college experience. 

“Pottruck is a great stress reliever for me,” College first-year John Gonzalez said. “There’s nothing like being able to end a tough day of pre-med classes with a nice workout. It’s convenient and really helps keep me going throughout the week.”

Pottruck has not always been so positively received. When the Center opened in 2002, it received mixed reviews from Penn community members. While it was seen as a substantial improvement on Gimbel and Hutchinson Gymnasiums, the previous fitness facilities, all students were required to pay $200 for a membership — an unpopular requirement among those who did not plan to frequent the facility. 

In 2014, the former Director of Recreation of Pottruck, Amy Wagner, was arrested in Pottruck in the middle of the day and charged with 24 counts of theft and forgery. A University employee was told that Wagner was selling equipment from Pottruck on eBay by a staff member who worked at Pottruck, the latter of whom also claimed that the thefts had been going on for three years.

In 2017, Pottruck eliminated a discount for performing arts groups to reserve studio space — a decision which made it more challenging for Performing Arts Council-overseen groups to rehearse. 

More recently, when Pottruck closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, many students eagerly awaited its reopening. 

As the fitness center celebrates 20 years, Hildenbrand encouraged members of the Penn community to visit Pottruck.

“I welcome anyone to come by Pottruck if they want a tour, or if they want to check it out — don’t be shy,” Hildenbrand said.