By: Marcus Dieterle, Editor-in-Chief
Photo by Marcus Dieterle/ The Towerlight
After undergoing construction since 2015, Burdick Hall will open the doors to its $34 million, new facilities on Jan. 27.
Director of Campus Recreation Grady Sheffield said that during the Burdick expansion, the designers wanted to emphasize Burdick’s lively and welcoming atmosphere.
“When we were designing this, we wanted to create a sense of energy and excitement,” Sheffield said. “That’s why you see the open floor plans. That’s why you see a lot of glass and windows, so that when you’re on the outside, especially at night, you’re going to see all this activity in here and you’re going to want to be in here.”
Sheffield said Towson decided to expand Burdick as a commitment to student health and wellness after realizing that the existing facilities were unable to keep up with the University’s growing student population.
“The enhanced growth that the University felt in a short period of time just caused the resources that we had to not meet the demand.”
Students were able to access Burdick through the building’s University Avenue entrance during the renovations, but exercise space was limited.
According to Sheffield, the existing Burdick was approximately 110,000 square feet. The Burdick expansion added 94,000 square feet for a total of just over 200,000 square feet.
Included in that new space was the addition of 22,000 square feet of dedicated fitness floor space – a 16,000 square feet increase from the existing facility’s 6,000 square feet of fitness floor space. Burdick is now on par with Campus Recreation’s standard for having approximately 1,000 square feet per 1,000 students, Sheffield said.
Burdick has been under construction for most of senior Miyah Overton’s time at Towson, and she’s just excited for the building to be fully open.
“At least I get to use it before I graduate,” said Overton, who is majoring in health science.
Overton said the Burdick renovations deterred her from using the gym more. Instead, she and her friends started working out in common areas in Marshall Hall.
Overton isn’t sure whether she and her friends will move their small group fitness sessions to Burdick, but she said she is excited to join a yoga class and use the new equipment at Burdick.
The fitness center includes plate-loaded equipment, like power racks, squat racks, and benches for weight lifting, as well as adaptable workout machines for people who use a wheelchair.
Burdick’s upper level features a functional training area where people can do high intensity interval training, perform body weight exercises, and use non-traditional equipment such as medicine balls, kettlebells, sandbags, plyometric boxes, ropes, sleds and tires — ranging in weight from 88 pounds to 228 pounds.
When first formulating the Burdick expansion, Sheffield said the designers wanted to incorporate a track that would snake through the building. Due to budgetary restrictions, however, they had to cut that feature out of the plans.
In place of the track, the designers built an American Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course, a sprint hill and stadium stairs. The sprint hill is at a 20 percent grade and covers about 70 yards, according to Sheffield.
“I could see using [the Ninja Warrior-style obstacle course] for an activity or if an on-campus organization had an event using them,” said graduate student Samantha Prager. “I don’t know if its my cup of tea, just on a Saturday afternoon or something, but definitely using the gym facilities altogether is pretty cool.”
Burdick’s course, which was built by Adventure Solutions, isn’t a complete replica of what you’ve seen on television – you won’t see the Warped Wall, for instance. But gym-goers can expect to see several Ninja Warrior features like the angled steps and horizontal climbing beams, as well as other obstacles like a Swiss cheese board.
For now, the course is just a training piece, but Sheffield said he hopes to eventually have special events like a “Jungle Warrior Day” competition.
The functional training area also includes non-motorized treadmills and bicycles, and total resistance exercise suspension training, or TRX, where people can use their bodyweight as a form of resistance.
The Burdick expansion also brings five new group fitness studios. Previously, Campus Recreation had been operating group fitness studios in the existing Burdick’s Gymnasium 3 and Mezzanine and in a small studio in West Village.
The group fitness classes are taught by trained student instructors.
In preparation for the Burdick expansion, Campus Recreation hired over 100 new student employees, bringing their total to approximately 340 student employees.
Burdick also features two multi-activity courts on the lower level. Instead of wood floors, the MACs have rubber athletic floors that are appropriate for more activities like badminton, volleyball and futsal – which is similar to indoor soccer.
In Burdick’s cardio area, machines are outfitted with touchscreens where students can access a range of apps including social media, Netflix and virtual tracks that match the machine’s movements to a virtual terrain. The area also includes televisions for people to watch while they walk, run, climb and ride.
“I’ve heard it’s supposed to be amazing,” Prager said. “I’m really excited to use it. There’s a whole floor of cardio, so that’s pretty cool.”
In fall 2016, Campus Recreation hosted a “Demo Day” when they brought in equipment from various manufacturers for students to test out and provide feedback. Campus Recreation then used that feedback to determine which pieces of equipment to purchase, Sheffield said.
Although Sheffield said Campus Recreation’s staff members have years of experience and knowledge of equipment usage trends, they still wanted to make sure that students’ voices were being heard.
“We wanted to make sure we included the students in on the decision-making process,” Sheffield said.
Burdick offers personal training and assessment office where people can get one-on-one consultation and work with a personal trainer.
The auxiliary fee, which all students pay, gives students access to open or informal recreation such as using equipment in the open fitness floor space, attending group fitness classes, using the gymnasiums for open recreation, swimming in the pool, using the climbing wall and using Burdick Field. However, services such as personal training, lifeguard and CPR classes, intramurals and outdoor trips require an additional fee, according to Sheffield.
The Outdoor Adventure Trip and Education Center, which features the 33-feet climbing wall that existed before the Burdick expansion, now includes a service desk where students can sign up for outdoor trips and pick up outdoor equipment.
Downstairs, people can visit the skills studio where there are heavy bags on tracks that can lock in place for activities like boxing. Sheffield stresses that this area is not a mixed martial arts studio and that student safety is a top priority.
Burdick’s cycling studio features video display boards, LED lights, about 32 bikes for indoor cycling, and six inches of glass and wall to help minimize the external audibility of the studio’s booming sound system.
At Burdick’s south side entrance in front of the Union, people can pick up a smoothie or acai bowl from the Chartwells-run Rec Fuel which has a service window open to the outdoors.
As people come to or from West Village, they will pass by Burdick and be able to see inside of its facilities. Sheffield hopes the increased visibility of Burdick’s interior will encourage more people to visit the gym.
“While the fitness center can be a little bit intimidating for a first-time user, they can see that ‘okay, there are people just like me that are actually going in there.’”
Sheffield said Burdick’s expansion, in addition to the upcoming expansion of the University Union, will transform the center of campus into the hub for campus life.
“I can’t tell you, as a director, how fortunate we are to be right here…. People will be walking past us every day,” Sheffield said. “Most rec centers when they get built on a college campus, they’re usually way off on the outskirts of campus just because they need the space. So, we’re really fortunate for that.”
Campus Recreation will host Burdick’s grand opening at noon on Jan. 31, where President Kim Schatzel, Vice President for Student Affairs Deb Moriarty, SGA President James Mileo and Sheffield will speak. Attendees will be able to tour the new facilities on their own or with a professional staff member, try out the new equipment, participate in giveaways, and sample some smoothie shooters.
“There’s not a club in the area that has what we have to offer, whether that’s from an equipment standpoint, a space standpoint or a programmatic standpoint,” Sheffield said.
Sheffield hopes that everyone finds something they love about the new Burdick.
“There’s definitely something for everyone,” he said.
– Mary-Ellen Davis contributed to this story.