St. Paul Gym renovations include rock climbing wall

by Amy Olson

A climber slowly works his way up the rocky face; his feet and hands hold tentatively. One after the other, he reaches up with one hand, slowly finding the next hold. Soon, he is at the top, ready to scale back down and try it all over again.
Like many rock climbing enthusiasts, the climber is scaling an indoor wall. But instead of going to the REI sporting goods store in Bloomington, or finding an indoor climbing gym, this student rock climber has a membership at the St. Paul Campus Gym.
And the cost of a membership to this new gym is covered under student services fees.
The St. Paul Campus Gym is part of the University’s recreational sports department, which includes the Recreation Center, tennis courts and the Aquatic Center on the Minneapolis campus. It also includes the soccer fields, tennis courts and the Les Bolstad Golf Course on the St. Paul campus.
Built in 1917, the St. Paul Campus Gym has been remodeled over the years, but the first major renovations occurred in 1990 as part of the 1987 Recreational Sports Facilities project.
Recent renovations on the gym began in August 1997 and will be completed just in time for the new school year. The gym’s new facilities include a new eight-lane, 25-yard-long swimming pool, new showers and renovated locker rooms, four racquetball/squash/handball courts and more room for aerobic exercise equipment and nautilus weights, in addition to the climbing wall.
Tony Brown, the gym’s program director, said the addition nearly doubled the gym’s space. The project cost just under $4 million. The construction of the new pool alone cost $2 million.
“It’s going to be exciting to have it done,” Brown said.
The St. Paul Campus Gym was the second campus facility dedicated to recreational sports. In 1902, Norris Hall was built on the East Bank to house women’s athletics. It included gymnasium space, a pool and other amenities. It has housed the University’s dance program for several years. The program’s new home, the University Dance Center, will be completed next spring.
The St. Paul Gym was cited as the only building on the St. Paul campus to be part of President Mark Yudof’s historic preservation project. The lawn in front of Coffey Hall, the agricultural experiment fields and the Hill Top area near the gym were also included in the preservation plans for the St. Paul campus.
The staff at the St. Paul Campus Gym plan to open its new facilities in style, hosting a four-day open house during Homecoming in November.