For some students, new Henley gym not worth the $1.2 million

The 1,230-square foot Henley basement gym will be replaced with a newer model that is four times its current size, at about 4,600 square feet. Photo by Cassidy Keola

The Henley Hall basement – home to a lounge that houses pool, pingpong, and foosball tables – will be transformed from a student hangout spot to a $1.2 million fitness center in fall 2019. Henley’s gym now is 1,230 square feet and once construction starts, the new gym will be about 4,600 square feet.

The Henley Hall Fitness Center will also fill up the unused space that used to make up Doy’s Place, Chapman’s old late-night snack stop.

But some students aren’t happy about the new fitness center.

“Do we really need to spend another $1 million dollars on a gym?” said Jake Hindley, president of the Henley Hall student council. “I think putting a gym (in the Henley Hall basement) is going to eliminate so many possibilities that the basement offers.”

Hindley said the basement could be used for video games, studying and socializing.

“College should be about building relationships and building bonds with your peers and growing as a person,” Hindley said.

Freshman creative writing major Matthew Eng thinks the basement has a use as-is.

“I see people enjoying the recreational options in the Henley basement all the time. We have so much fun (enjoying) these activities,” he said. “Some people have more problems with it being crowded in the gym because they feel intimidated rather than there’s not enough space and time to use all the equipment,” Eng said.

But other students like Sean Levitt, a freshman screenwriting major and Henley resident, think that the existing gym is too small.

“If you go at a busy time, you have to fight for machines and weights,” Levitt said. “There are machines for everything that you need, but it’s just hard to get them; a lot of the time you have to wait for people to finish their sets.”

Mitchell Rosenberg, president of student government, spearheaded the effort.

Rosenberg started pushing for the gym in 2016, when he noticed the fitness center was too small for the growing student population, which grew by about 1,000 students from fall 2014 to 7,281 in fall 2018.

“Last year alone, we had over 115,000 check-ins to the fitness center,” Rosenberg said. “It was obvious to all of us involved that we needed more space for our students.”

Initially, Rosenberg and student government looked into expanding the main gym, rather than creating one elsewhere, but was prevented by construction.

“We would have to build a wall and remove a section of the bleachers from the current (basketball) gym,” Rosenberg said. “If we removed those bleachers, it would lose the ability to hold about 1,600 people in there for any given event.”

Michael Keyser, associate director for student engagement, told The Panther the gym will include features offered not found on the main campus, including group fitness rooms and a spin studio.

While there are Zumba, kickboxing, yoga and high-intensity interval training fitness group sessions offered in Argyros Forum, Rosenberg said there are only eight of them a week. The group fitness programs for the new gym will host 16 group sessions a week.

Despite planning new equipment and fitness rooms, Hindley said he is still opposed the gym because there are gyms on the main campus, at Chapman Grand and at Panther Village.

“If we look at the number of gyms we already have, it’s kind of preposterous,” he said.