The Mind Body Connection on Campus
University of Rhode Island students are “fitting” in on campus, thanks to the brand new Anna Fascitelli Fitness & Wellness Center, dedicated on October 8, 2013.
This $11 million state-of-the-art, two-level fitness center—a complete transformation of the Roger Williams Dining Center—was made possible by a $1 million gift from 1978 alumnus Michael Fascitelli, former chief executive officer of Vornado Realty Trust, a commercial real estate firm in New York, and his wife, Beth. The center is named for Fascitelli’s late mother. Bank of America also donated $1 million.
“My mother was an extraordinary person,” Fascitelli said at the October 8 event. “She understood the importance of a good education and the foundation for future growth it would afford me. She encouraged me in physical fitness and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.”
University students will certainly benefit from the Fascitelli family’s support. The 33,202 square foot, full-service fitness and wellness center includes 8,000 square feet of new construction added to accommodate a street facade and main entrance. The increased space will help alleviate the functional shortcomings and over-crowding of existing fitness and wellness activity space on campus. Another bonus: 70 new on-campus student employment opportunities for those interested in working in a fun, high energy, wellness orientated environment.
URI architects, planners, and engineers worked with a team of architects at KITE Architects in Providence and fitness center experts S3 Design to create a modern facility in the heart of campus, with proximity to academic, residential, and other auxiliary enterprise facilities. They developed a new entrance featuring large glass walls, a welcoming and sheltering roof, and a gleaming concrete plaza. At the same time, the new design retained many of the best and unique exterior features of the original structure, which won a prestigious national architectural award when it opened in 1969 for its innovative design and daring structural systems, including its waffle slab and cantilevered volumes. The transformation of the building involved gutting the interior to expose the high ceilings and views to the outside, unifying the spaces around vibrant exercise areas in the center. In addition, the use of sustainable bamboo flooring in two major group-exercise and specialized class areas, rubber flooring that incorporates recycled materials, and hydration stations, which eliminate the need for disposable water bottles, will help the building earn LEED (Leadership in Environmental Engineering and Design) Silver certification, reinforcing the pledge made by the University to make sustainability one of the guiding principles at URI.
President David M. Dooley noted that the Center marks another major step in URI’s efforts to build a welcoming and vibrant environment for students, faculty, and staff.
“We are so grateful to the Fascitellis and Bank of America for their generosity and commitment to make this a reality for our students,” Dooley said. “Facilities like this are central to our efforts to create dynamic neighborhoods that allow our students to grow academically, physically, emotionally, and socially. We continue to strive to build an inclusive, engaged community, and there is no better benchmark than this modern, full-service center that will promote healthy lifestyles.”
URI senior marketing major Paul Knott, director of marketing and recruitment for the student senate, said the center is more than just a gym. “It is a center that provides students with a respite from our studies, allowing us to let off steam while maintaining our health,” Knott said.
“The new state-of-the-art fitness and wellness center will help URI students keep their bodies healthy while they exercise their minds in the classroom,” said Bill Hatfield, Rhode Island president, Bank of America. “This renovation will bring world-class facilities closer to students and staff.”
The center is filled with a mind- and body-boggling array of high-tech, user-friendly machines; traditional equipment like punching bags and free weights; open spaces for specialized group exercise and yoga classes; and a central health and wellness resource center where experts from URI’s Health Services, nutrition, and kinesiology programs offer expert advice. The bright orange walls serve as way-finding cues for visitors. Sound systems in the group exercise and class areas pump up the energy with pulsing tunes or set a calm tone during mind-body classes.
“To give back to URI, honor my mother and underscore our family’s commitment to education is a unique opportunity,” Michael Fascitelli said. “College is a time to develop as a person. With the new wellness center, URI students will be better prepared to build fuller lives for themselves and their communities.”
The contractor on the project was Iron Construction Group, LLC, of Warwick, and URI’s project manager was Keough Construction Management of East Providence.
—Dave Lavallee ’79, with contributions from Tracey Manni