The East End’s first public fitness facility – complete with an Olympic-size swimming pool, aerobic and weight training rooms and a rock climbing wall – is coming to Suffolk County Community College’s Riverhead campus.
The $18 million facility will also be available for use by county residents and local governments, making it the first public athletic and fitness facility of its kind in the five East End towns.
The 48,000-square-foot building will feature a floor-to-ceiling rock climbing wall, a strength and weight training equipment room, an aerobics room for spinners, yoga, dance and exercise classes and an eight-lane competition and diving pool with spectator seating.
The building’s 13,500-square-foot gymnasium will be able to accommodate a regulation basketball court, two volleyball courts and six badminton courts. There will also be a three-lane running/walking track around the perimeter of the gym.
“It’s the first indoor swimming pool for the North and South Fork that is of this size and open to the public,” said Jay Schneiderman, a Suffolk County Legislator who pushed for the facility’s funding in the County Legislature. “It’s going to be an amazing facility.”
The facility’s construction, estimated at $18 million, will be funded half by New York State and half by Suffolk County through a bond. The project has been on the table “for years and years,” Schneiderman said, but funding from the County Legislature was difficult to acquire.
“Most of the county’s population is in western Suffolk,” Schneiderman said. “It’s hard to convince the lawmakers to spend $18 million on the East End for a fitness facility.”
But last year, Schneiderman and a group of other lawmakers managed to do just that. The funding was secured in May 2014, and now that the design has been completed, construction is ready to begin.
“The day is finally here,” said Shaun McKay, president of Suffolk County Community College. “Our students on the Eastern campus have not had the same experience as the students on the other campuses. If this is one college, they should have the same experience – the Suffolk experience.”
The Health and Wellness Center will be the first fitness facility on the Eastern Campus, which is the youngest and smallest of the college’s three campuses.
“For years, this campus has felt like the step-child of the college,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele at a groundbreaking ceremony for the building today. “How can you have a college that doesn’t have a library or a gym? You have to have those kinds of facilities available to truly be a college.”
Though the Eastern Campus finally got its own library four years ago, there has been no fitness facility on campus to fulfill the state education system’s physical education requirement. Unlike their peers on the Selden or Brentwood campuses, which each have their own fitness facilities, Eastern Campus students had very few options when it came to fulfilling their physical education requirement, which is required to graduate.
In addition, the East End has no public fitness facility of this kind in any of its five towns. Bridget Fleming, Southampton Town Councilwoman, said that a public fitness facility is “desperately needed.”
“Not a week goes by that someone doesn’t complain that we don’t have an indoor swimming pool,” Fleming said.
Local towns will also be able to train lifeguards in the facility’s swimming pool. “That’s very important for the East End towns with all of their beaches,” Schneiderman said.
County residents will also have access to the fitness facility through membership or one-time fees, which Schneiderman stressed would be “very affordable.”
“This facility will help bring revenues to Suffolk County Community College that will help cover some of the operating costs,” Schneiderman said, “which will help keep tuition low and affordable.”
Conventions at the facility, he added, would bring more people to the East End to enjoy its tourism and restaurant industries. “It will also have economic multipliers in the community,” he said. “It’s going to be good for the whole East End.”
The facility will also include new classrooms for the college’s nursing program
We need your help.
Now more than ever, the survival of quality local journalism depends on your support. Our community faces unprecedented economic disruption, and the future of many small businesses are under threat, including our own. It takes time and resources to provide this service. We are a small family-owned operation, and we will do everything in our power to keep it going. But today more than ever before, we will depend on your support to continue. Support RiverheadLOCAL today. You rely on us to stay informed and we depend on you to make our work possible.