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Suffolk County Community College fitness center close to opening

After numerous delays in the past 45 years, the Health and Wellness Center at Suffolk County Community College’s eastern campus in Northampton is close to opening.

Physical work on the building is complete, according to Ben Zwirn, the college’s director of legislative affairs. 

“It’s supposed to be ready on Jan. 28,” he said. “They are still trying to make sure all of the staffing is in place.”

That date coincides with the start of the second semester.

Mr. Zwirn said several positions still need to be filled.

“They need an aquatic master, a certified climbing wall instructor,” he said. “The postings have gone out to hire them. When they are in place, we should be ready to go.” 

The facility has an eight-lane indoor swimming pool, a basketball court, a locker room and shower facilities and faculty space as well as a weight training room and the rock climbing wall, among other features, officials said. It will also have two classrooms. The pool will be open to the public when not in use by the college, officials say. 

“It’s similar to what we have at the Grant Campus in Brentwood,” Mr. Zwirn said. “In the short term, some of those people will come out east and help train and man the Eastern Campus pool until they get a full-time staff.”

The pool will also require county health department approval, he said. 

The fitness center plan dates back to 1973, when it was recommended as part of the SCCC’s master plan for the Eastern Campus, which wasn’t even built until 1977. 

When the college moved forward with plans for the fitness center, it encountered opposition based on the 1993 Central Pine Barrens protection law, because the center was located in the core of the Pine Barrens, where development is largely prohibited.

The project gained steam in 2013, when it finally received approval from the Pine Barrens Commission, but officials still needed $2 million in funding restored from both the state and county to begin construction.

When work began in 2017, officials predicted that the facility would open by the fall of 2018, but Mr. Zwirn said cold weather and some changes in the construction led to further delays. 

The Jan. 28 opening would be a “soft opening,” Mr. Zwirn said. 

A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for the spring, when state and county officials who helped fund the project can be there, he said.

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Photo caption: The SCCC fitness facility will have a soft opening on Monday, Jan. 28. (Tim Gannon photo)