West Campus gym to focus on outdoor education

Oct. 19, 2012, 2:33 a.m.
West Campus gym to focus on outdoor education
Stanford Daily File Photo

The new West Campus recreation center, slated to open in late 2013 or early 2014, will focus on outdoor education and feature a new climbing wall as well as an area to rent equipment for outdoor activities such as camping, backpacking, surfing and snow travel. The University recently hired a new director of outdoor education, Chris Pelchat, to oversee these operations.

The Board of Trustees first approved $35.5 million for the Arrillaga Outdoor Education and Recreation Center in December 2010. Permit issues, however, stalled construction until August 2011.

“The project has had a number of challenges, but the key issue has been schedule,” wrote Mark Bonino, the project’s manager, in an email to The Daily. “The building permit for the project took quite a bit longer than anticipated, so the construction site was dormant for almost a year working through issues to get that permit.”

Bonino projected construction to be completed by December 2013, allowing for a late 2013 or early 2014 opening. Tim Ghormley, director of recreational sports facilities, said that workers have finished putting the main steel into place and are currently pouring the concrete slab.

Aesthetically, the new recreation center will resemble the existing Arrillaga Center for Sports and Recreation on the east side of campus, but will also have a 50-meter pool and a stronger focus on outdoor education.

“The outdoor education component is going to be huge, and I think the students and the entire Stanford community are going to be excited by that,” Ghormley said.

In accordance with the focus on outdoor education, the Department of Physical Education, Recreation and Wellness (DAPER) recently hired Pelchat as its new director of outdoor education. Pelchat, who previously worked at Ithaca College, will be involved with overseeing all the University’s outdoor programs, as well as the new recreation center.

“One of the things that I think is pretty unique in what Stanford is doing is building this outdoor education and recreation center,” Pelchat said. “I think it will really put outdoor education in the limelight.”

Pelchat, who will assume his new post on Oct. 29, noted that many facets of education are catered to outdoor programming, including collaboration, teambuilding and leadership training. He said he hopes to use his background in leadership development and education to connect outdoor education to others parts of the University, such as the Graduate School of Business and the School of Education.

“The center could actually become a bridge for professors and other programs on campus that are looking to teach more experientially to use our center,” he said. “I’m excited to help make outdoor education more of an integral part of our students’ experience at Stanford.”

Estimates vary on the number of people who will use the new gym.

While the current recreation center records more than 30,000 non-unique visits each month, Ghormley noted that it is difficult to estimate whether or not that number will be split between the two facilities. He predicted, however, that new users would be drawn to the gym because of its proximity to their campus residence.

Senior associate athletic director Eric Stein estimated that the new facility will service between 2,000 and 2,500 individuals.

“At some point it may pull some [users] away from the current facility, but we would anticipate that the overall total would probably be up at least 50 to 70 percent in terms of people utilizing on-campus recreational facilities,” Stein said.

The sports facilities department has not yet made official decisions about the future of the Tresidder Fitness Center, which is also located on the west side of campus.

“It’s valuable to certain users, and it may change in purpose and scope, but we don’t know yet,” Ghormley said. The only other athletic facility currently on West Campus is Roble Gym, which houses the dance department.

New recreational and aquatics staff will be hired before the opening of the gym, Ghormley said. There may be job postings for positions as early as the spring of 2013.

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