Expanded fitness facilities help everyone on campus
“Everybody wants to perform better, whether you’re a student, staff member or student athlete. But everyone’s an athlete.” — Chuck Howard, director, Performance Athletics Department
By Rick Vacek
GCU News Bureau
It’s called the Lopes Performance Center, and it’s designed to help everyone on the Grand Canyon University campus achieve their physical fitness goals — now more than ever.
The LPC recently added a 4,500-square-foot workout room on the second floor that’s reserved for students and staff, but that’s just a warmup for what’s to come.
In conjunction with the new softball stadium that is being built just north of the field’s previous site, the entire north side of the LPC will be expanded by 100 feet to create more space for training areas and sports medicine facilities. Student-athletes also will benefit from a Gatorade Fueling Station stocked with convenient snacks, hydration and protein drinks.
Chuck Howard, director of GCU’s Performance Athletics Department and manager of the LPC, said the continuing expansion is a reflection of President Brian Mueller’s vision of a facility where athletes have first-class equipment and facilities but students and staff also can work out.
“Brian wanted us to combine it so there’s support both ways,” Howard said. “The student body provides opportunities for us in Athletics, and we want to do whatever we can to build community and provide health and fitness options for our students, faculty and staff.”
The new upstairs workout room includes eight treadmills, two of which high-incline trainers that elevate to 30 percent and have virtual climbing programs to make the workouts more interesting.
There also are three elliptical machines, an upright bike, a Stairmaster, three Helix lateral trainers (rarely found in any fitness center), two rowing machines, three weightlifting racks, one Smith Machine for weight training, free weights, a five-station jungle gym lifting station, and an octagon-shaped CrossFit workout station featuring a variety of exercises.
The room also has a space dedicated to core training, and a heavy bag recently was hung up for boxing workouts. And there are plenty of televisions for people who want something to get them to keep saying yes when their body is saying no.
The room has become the home of boot camp workouts from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 6-7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. It’s a different workout every day, and the room is reserved for boot camp during those times to make sure there’s enough space for everyone.
“It’s part of creating community and providing a fabulous opportunity to stay healthy and break up the day,” Howard said.
It also has become a training ground for exercise science majors who want to get a head start toward becoming performance coaches. They serve as the trainers. “We’re providing a great opportunity and experience for them,” Howard said.
For staff and students who can’t use the workout room at a particular time and need help setting up a fitness program, Howard plans to have laminated cards with beginning, intermediate and advanced workouts on them. There always is a student worker in the room ready to help.
The LPC, one of four fitness centers on campus, is open from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.-midnight Saturday and noon-midnight Sunday. Virtually the entire facility is available to everyone from 8 p.m. to midnight.
The three LPC basketball courts, already a popular destination for pickup games, will be available all the time to students when the new basketball practice facility next to GCU Arena is finished. Its targeted completion date is late January.
The GCU men’s and women’s teams currently practice in the LPC, but in the new facility they’ll have a full court, two half-courts, locker rooms, meeting rooms and a hydration station. The building also will feature a museum dedicated to Jerry Colangelo, the Phoenix business and sports icon who has had a major role in GCU’s growth.
All of the athletics facilities are part of the “GCU 10 in 2” initiative, which began in August with the opening of GCU Stadium and aims to build or expand 10 sports facilities in two years. The LPC expansion is a big part of that for several reasons.
“From the student-athlete welfare standpoint, we think about health and safety,” said Mike Vaught, GCU’s vice president of athletics. “The new sports medicine facility will give us some technology and facilities that we don’t have now to better service our student-athletes from an injury-prevention standpoint, and it also will have a lot more resources for rehabilitation.
“The strength and conditioning area also plays into injury prevention. For us to be competitive nationally, we’ve got to be in great physical condition from a strength and stamina standpoint. By increasing the size of the weight room, it’s going to give us some added equipment. We’ll be able to move more teams through there in a day and facilitate the needs of all the student-athletes. It will really be helpful from a time-management standpoint.
“Those are two big selling points for recruiting because athletes spend a lot of time in those two facilities.”
Geordie Hackett, GCU’s director of sports medicine, is excited about what the new facilities will do to increase his staff’s ability to prevent and rehab injuries. His area will include new hydrotherapy equipment, hot and cold contrast baths, an underwater treadmill and private examination rooms for doctors, and Hackett also plans to introduce fusionetics, which integrates sports science, clinical application and cutting-edge technology.
“This is big-time here,” he said. “This is Division I infrastructure and support. We’ll be even more efficient treating and rehabbing athletes.”
Another important piece in injury prevention is the Gatorade Fueling Station. Proper nutrition after a workout plays a key role in improving performance.
“The NCAA allows unlimited snacks for athletes,” Howard said. “What they’re finding is, you get done with a workout and you have to run to class, and sometimes you don’t have a lot of time to grab a bite. You’re missing that meal, which will affect your production and performance.”
The bigger-and-getting-even-bigger LPC has proved extremely popular. It is averaging more than 2,200 visitors a week since the start of the academic year.
“We really try to build community and try to make it for everybody, not just athletes,” Howard said.
Because everyone’s an athlete.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.