A plan to reconfigure and renovate the Shoreham-Wading River School District’s fitness center and auxiliary gym drew mixed reaction from wrestlers and senior citizens at last Tuesday’s board meeting.
Superintendent Gerard Poole provided updated figures for the plan, first pitched last month, to convert the auxiliary gym located at the high school into a fitness center for student and residential use. The project would also convert the district’s now-closed fitness center into a “large group instructional space,” which will be used primarily by the wrestling team.
Talk of constructing a new fitness center began in June 2018 after the center closed following a structural evaluation by BBS Engineering. The study revealed the space was non-compliant with its use as a fitness center, Mr. Poole said. The district constructed a temporary fitness center in rooms A102 and A101 of the high school located near the cafeteria for use this academic year, Mr. Poole said.
The cost to remediate the district’s now-closed fitness center into a large group instructional space is an estimated $464,000. That estimation does not include costs associated with new wrestling mats and equipment, Mr. Poole said.
To convert the auxiliary gym in the high school into a fitness center would be roughly $356,000. That estimate does not include the cost for modern gym equipment, but the district is exploring the option to lease new equipment, Mr. Poole said.
The projects could be funded by taxpayers and be included in a capital reserve proposition for voter approval. Alternatively, the projects might be funded through excess state aid for capital project.
The renovations to the fitness center may be paid for through extra funds from 2015 bond work if they receive state approval, but it’s unclear what funds are available at this time, officials said.
Mr. Poole said the new fitness center would be open to residents twice during the week and once on Saturday morning. Residents who wish to use the facility would need to complete a health release form, liability waiver and training of equipment usage prior to joining.
The project has been met with criticism from senior citizens, some of whom claimed that they only used the fitness center during morning hours.
Peggy LoScalzo of Wading River said she worked out at the fitness every morning at 6 a.m. for almost 11 years. Two of her sons were wrestlers in the district, she said, but she believes the fitness center should be shared by the community.
“We pay for it,” she said. “Having it two days a week in the afternoon? There’s no way I would go.”
Shoreham resident Robert Badalian, who worked at the center for nearly 20 years, said the “general consensus among most of the adults” and other community members is if the fitness center moves into the high school then adult usage will be eliminated.
“If you restrict the hours and the days beyond what we already had then you’re going to lose the adults we had,” he said.
In response, board president Michael Lewis said the district does not want to eliminate adult usage nor programs. He added that the administration is simply suggesting the board enhance the fitness center and relocate it to provide more opportunities for students.
Mr. Badalian said that local gym users have relocated to the Rocky Point Planet Fitness or Defined Health and Fitness in Wading River.
He later suggested the district renovate the current gym for the wrestlers and reserve the space for the team only during their season.
However, sophomore Connor Blunnie, who is a wrestler, said training is year-round. He supported making the gym into a wrestling-only facility and said the conversion would prevent equipment damage.
“The gym classes will come in and they will go over the mats with their shoes on,” he said. “Then we have to clean them. By the end of the season, they’re ripped.”
Board vice president Katie Andersen said the primary goal of the fitness center is to facilitate the physical education requirements from the state. She added that the proposed plans are not finalized and she’s grateful the community is bringing feedback to the meetings.
“I’m certainly understanding both perspectives,” she said, “as one of the parents mentioned, I’m hopeful we’ll joining the two instead of being in opposition of one another.”
Photo caption: Wrestlers at a joint practice in the Shoreham-Wading River wrestling room in December 2016. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)