With KCC complete, college closer to starting Cowles Center renovation work


by James Tillison

With the Kent Campus Center recently opened after a 10-year odyssey, the college is now focusing on starting its planned renovations to the Cowles Center.

The fitness and pool areas are the main focus of the upcoming project, which is expected to begin as soon as March, according to former Athletic Director John Sirianni. The college announced on Monday that Sirianni was stepping out of the position to become an assistant to the president, partly to focus on completing fundraising for the renovations.

Renovating the center is expected to cost between $6 and 7 million, Sirianni said.

If construction begins in March, it will most likely run through December, Sirianni said. According to the college’s plans, the pool is being eliminated, and the area will be built into a new wrestling room, said Ken Birkenholtz, the college’s director of business and finance.

The college is hoping that it will be able to keep the fitness center’s weight room open as long as possible through the renovations, Sirianni said. It will remain open through the rest of this academic year, but will have to be closed shortly for moving sometime during the fall semester, he said.

A big reason to the focus on the fitness area is to help attract students, Birkenholtz said.

“The fitness area we have now was built in 1996 so it is out of date,” Birkenholtz said. “The wrestling facility and fitness area as they are now aren’t drawing in the students who will need them very heavily.”

Birkenholtz believes that after the renovation there will be a spectacular view through the center.

Once complete, there will be a total of 170,000 square feet of student activity space under one roof right in the middle of campus.

At the present time there is a glass wall allowing people walking past to look into the pool area. The plan for the renovation is to move the wall outward about 25 feet to house the weightlifting equipment.

The classrooms that currently overlook the pool will be extended out and given a balcony, and that area will become home to an aerobic area, including running, biking and treadmill machines. Classes that would normally be held in those classrooms will be moved next fall, Sirianni said.

The current wrestling room and fitness room will become the new classrooms and athletic offices.