Congestion reigns at Lilly


Two years ago Kristina Locke, a sophomore at the time, experienced an unusual encounter while exercising.

"I used to go work out in the mornings a lot and part way through my workout, the entire swim team or football team would walk in the weight room and start lifting weights, yelling and being all bro-ish," she said. "It was always weird being a girl in the fitness center with all that testosterone."

Now a senior, Locke has learned to schedule her workouts around athletic practices, if at all possible.

The Lilly Physical Education and Recreation Center is the primary athletic facility on campus. It includes the fitness center, offices for coaches and staff, racquetball and dance rooms, kinesiology laboratories, the pool, locker rooms, an auxiliary gym and a three-court fieldhouse.

When construction began on the Lilly Center in the early 1980s, the facility was impressive compared to comparable buildings at other institutions. Lilly replaced the Bowman Gymnasium, a facility located on the current Bowman Park property.

"To those that were in Bowman gym, [Lilly] was like the Taj Mahal," said Page Cotton, athletic director.

Nonetheless, Cotton said that three large changes in the collegiate athletic environment have altered Lilly's effectiveness.

First, Title IX, a federal law passed in 1972, changed the face of women's college athletics. By mandating equal opportunities for females in education, there was an increased emphasis on equality in college athletics. Over time, this led to an increase in female collegiate athletic participation, something not accounted for when Lilly was designed and built.

Also, since the early 1980's, there has been more interest in personal fitness and wellness. When Lilly was designed, the fitness area was 400 square feet. After renovations over the years it is now 5,600 square feet, a change made to accommodate the larger groups of individuals utilizing the facility.

Finally, the building's educational component has been altered. In the 1980's DePauw offered a physical education degree, in which a small number of students sought a career in coaching or teaching. Today the department of kinesiology hosts between 60-70 students, many of whom seek careers in health fields. Subsequently, the demand for laboratory space has increased.

Renovations since the building's initial completion have sought to alleviate these discrepancies. Alterations include an expansion of the fitness center, conversion of closet space into laboratories, additions of offices for staff and renovated locker rooms.

Although Cotton said it is not unusual for students and student-athletes to share a facility at a school of this size, Lilly's crowded nature has been noted by students.

"I modify my schedule because of athletic practices," Locke said. "I'll do other exercises instead of the ones I want to do, or I won't do them at all because the machines are being used or there's a ton of people in the weight room."

As DePauw makes the transition from Southern Collegiate Athletic Conference to the North Coast Athletic Conference, the Lilly facilities have continued to be examined.

"We will go into the NCAC as one of the institutions with some of the lowest-quality public facilities," said President Brian Casey.

This inconvenience has also been noted by prospective students. Senior Brandon Butler, a three-sport high school athlete, was originally recruited to DePauw as a football player.

"I was initially unimpressed because my high school had a massive weight room," he said. "But then I realized that [DePauw's] weight room still had everything I needed in a smaller space. It was just a matter of having to get used to it."

Although Butler only played varsity football for two years at DePauw, he still uses the fitness center approximately six days a week.

"Ironically I end up there with the football players a lot and I still can get things done. I have to adjust frequently, but I'm not in there longer, I just have to do things out of order," he said. "When you're used to it, it doesn't bother me."

Dan Meyer, vice president for Admission and Financial Aid, said the university doesn't sell a particular building or facility, but the entire package as a whole.

"If we look at the campus overall we stack up very well against . . . most of our competitors," Meyer said. "If you start looking at individual facilities like our athletic facilities, I'd be honest and say we are not at the top."

In terms of students who do not intend to join a varsity sports team, Meyer said that the facilities are adequate for general fitness.

However, peer institutions such as Wabash College, Kenyon College, and College of Wooster have recently updated their fitness centers. Although Meyer said that DePauw is not losing "droves of students" due to Lilly, some students' final decisions come down to the exercise facilities. This factor can be difficult to address during campus tours.

"Clearly we don't [bring up] the obvious shortcoming -- that it's overused, sometimes hard to get even court time," he said. "We don't mislead a student, but in general students aren't asking those types of questions."

Nonetheless, the facilities, particularly the fitness center, still leave something to be desired. Because large-scale renovation of the Lilly Center is not a main component of the "DePauw 2020" campus plan, a timeline of future renovations is uncertain.

Lack of funding for Lilly Center is primarily caused by the plan's emphasis on short-term changes, such as improvements to Anderson Street, restoration of the East College lawn and Bowman Park, and altering the admissions building, Casey said.

Cotton said there are many hypothetical additions and renovations he would like to see: an expanded fitness center, renovated locker rooms, a smaller performance gymnasium and additional lab space, for example.

"We've crammed about as much equipment in the fitness area as we can, to the point that it's more than what should be in there," Cotton said. "I would say that would be the first thing to fix, because it benefits all students."

Until funding is allocated, however, Cotton said that the university plans to employ other maintenance strategies, such as maintaining long hours (6 a.m. to 11 p.m.) on weekdays, ensuring adequate cleaning and maintenance of the facility and hosting new exercise classes as the demand arises.

As of now, no formal plans for renovations or additions exist, Cotton said.

"In the scheme of things, do I wish we had ability to wave a wand and make facilities better than any of our competitors?" Meyer said. "You bet you. But it's one of those things that will take some time."