Award Winner - July/August 2003
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Smart Update

Johnson Athletic Center at Choate-Rosemary Hall
Wallingford, Conn.

When your designated fitness area is basically a small, outdated basement weight room, literally and figuratively, the only way to go is up.


For Choate Rosemary Hall, a coed boarding and day school for 850 high-school students in Wallingford, Conn., the time was right for some serious additions and renovations to its existing athletic center, the main facility for indoor sports on campus, which was in dire need of significant upgrades and new equipment.

"It's designed to be a place for everyone; it's been a shot in the arm in every way," says Ned Gallagher, director of athletics at Choate. "It was also kind of a matter of keeping up with the Joneses."

The existing Georgian building was renovated and contains a skylit multi-use "cage" with a running track, the basketball arena, squash courts, weight and wrestling rooms, and locker rooms. The addition, which provides a new two-level wing with a two-story lobby at its heart, contains a fitness center, trainers suite, dance studio and two competition squash courts.

"Compared to other facilities at other schools, this was a relatively modest project cost," Gallagher says. "We got a lot of bang for our buck, both with the concept as well as the execution."

The new athletic center is hard to miss on campus with its sinuous glazed wall, which from the outside is like a beacon and from the inside becomes a "Belvedere" lounge overlooking the main fields.

"It sort of functions as a lighthouse," Gallagher says. "It glows. It's a beacon. It both projects out as well as allows people inside to enjoy the sweeping panoramic views of campus."

Of all the new activity spaces created by the renovation and addition, the fitness area was designed to be a show-stopper.

"The crown jewel is the fitness center," Gallagher says. "We gave it a highly visible and prominent place in the building."

Likewise, the new building itself has quickly earned a prominent place on campus.

"It's become a vibrant center of activity, especially in the afternoon," Gallagher says. "It has something for everyone, not just students but faculty and staff."

"This is a very thoughtful addition to the existing building. Wonderful scale and detail allow the addition to blend beautifully with the original building without being bound by the existing building."

—Reed I. Voorhees

"High-quality project but extraordinary in the context of the balance of the campus or in the context of what has been built by Choate's peers."

—Paul Brailsford

"Beautiful spaces. Very attractive addition; strong appeal. Very nice project that compliments existing structure."

—Philip Neeley

Submitted by: Herbert S. Newman and Partners P.C. in New Haven, Conn.

Size: 16,300-square-foot addition; 55,000-square-foot renovation

Project cost: $4.5 million

Quick tour:

  • 2,200-square-foot dance and aerobics studio with sprung maple floor and adjustable dance barre. The dance studio is also equipped with theatrical lighting for use as a small performance space.
  • 1,200-square-foot athletic department office suite with kitchen, conference room and reception area
  • 6,500-square-foot reconfigured and expanded boys and girls locker rooms as well as male and female faculty/staff/ coaches locker rooms
  • 1,500-square-foot trainers suite for player rehabilitation, conditioning and training with a taping/first-aid room, wet therapy room, office and a 500-square-foot physical-therapy training room
  • 3,000-square-foot fitness center with views from the running, biking and rowing equipment out to the athletic fields and surround campus
  • Four squash courts converted for international play featuring new fiberesin play surfaces and new maple floors
  • Two new competition squash courts with bleacher seating for 45 spectators. The competition courts are set up for international play and feature plaster wall play surfaces, a glass back wall and maple floors.
  • 750-square-foot "Athletic Hall of Fame" with small kitchen highlighted with trophy and plaque display. The space is used for small receptions, team meetings and viewing of game films.

Associated Firms

Mechanical/electrical engineer: Van Zelm Heywood & Shadford

Structural engineer: John Smolen & Associates

Landscape architect: Towers/Golde

Civil engineer: Diversified Technologies Consultants

Acoustic consultant: Acentech Incorporated

Code consultant: Bruce J. Spiewak, AIA

Construction manager: Newfield Construction, Inc.

Squash courts: Anderson Courts & Sports Surfaces

Ceramic tile: Dal Tile

Quarry tile: Ruabon Quarry Tile

Carpet: Milliken

Flooring/sports surfaces: Robbins Sports Surfaces, Pulastic

Millwork: CSM Cabinetry

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