Construction for the expansion and remodeling of Pomona College’s Rains Center for Sport and Recreation is slated to begin at the close of spring semester and is expected to be completed before the start of the spring 2022 semester.
The college is working on plans for the construction period, according to Bob Robinson, the college’s assistant vice president of facilities, who told TSL about the construction schedule.
Pomona announced the $55 million construction project in a Dec. 2018 press release. The new building’s footprint is smaller, but will add 15,000 square feet of space, totaling to 94,000 square feet, the release said.
During construction, the entire current building will be out of commission, prompting the athletic department to make plans to mitigate the situation.
Pomona and Pitzer College students, faculty and staff will be able to use Claremont McKenna College’s Roberts Pavilion 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. and from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. — outside of the facility’s “prime-time” hours — for individual fitness and recreation according to Pomona-Pitzer Interim Athletic Director Jen Scanlon.
Pomona and Pitzer students’ reactions to this news are mixed.
“I think Rains needs an update and in the end we’ll all be happy that they did it, but … it’s very annoying that I’m going to have to go all the way to CMC to go to the gym,” said Ella Hort PO ’23, who said she works out roughly five times per week.
The P-P volleyball and basketball teams will practice and play at Roberts and Harvey Mudd College’s Linde Activities Center, according to Scanlon.
But the specifics are not yet finalized and are subject to change.
“It would be safest to say that we are still in discussion with CMC and HMC,” she said via email. “I do not anticipate that any of the teams will have season-long dedicated locker rooms at [Mudd], perhaps on game days. But there are just too many things still up in the air.”
Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Athletic Director Erica Jasper welcomed the arrangement.
“We will be working to support Pomona-Pitzer students, faculty and staff at Roberts Pavilion during our non-peak hours and will keep a close eye on overall usage during this time,” she said via email. “We are viewing this as a positive — a chance to help our neighboring students, faculty, and staff all in the name of fitness and recreation.”
When CMC’s Roberts Pavilion was under construction from 2014-2016, Rains and the LAC helped house Claremont-Mudd-Scripps athletics, according to past TSL coverage. Temporary locker rooms, as well as a weight room and training room, were installed at the site of CMS’s old tennis courts (just north of Axelrood Pool), while fitness equipment was moved to the Emett Student Center, the current location of CMC’s Soll Center for Student Opportunity.
“The biggest downfall is, obviously, being displaced for a couple years. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will get back in … but that’s just something that is part of it. You learn to adjust.”
During the Rains construction, the coaches’ offices, the athletic training room and laundry service will be temporarily relocated to the Montgomery Art Center, Pomona’s soon-to-be former museum of art, according to Scanlon. Montgomery may also serve as a changing area.
“The goal is that [the teams] would not have to leave the consortium. … They are going to have to be flexible with practice times, but hopefully they can at least geographically stay local,” Scanlon said. Using existing spaces will also reduce the project’s costs.
Pomona has also begun building a temporary space by the Strehle Track to house more fitness and weightlifting equipment. It currently holds some equipment and storage space, but it will be expanded to hold “as much as we can fit,” Scanlon said. It will be open most hours of the day.
To some P-P athletes, the plan seems inconvenient.
“If it’s Harvey Mudd and our locker rooms are all the way on South Campus, that is a 30 minute walk,” said Lauren Asato PO ’23, a starter for the Pomona-Pitzer volleyball team. “The fact that they didn’t necessarily have a plan for us is kind of junk. … I don’t know what the set plans are.”
Asato also said she’s concerned the team may not finish practice in time to make it back to Frary Dining Hall before it closes at 8 p.m.
Head volleyball coach Valerie Townsend acknowledged that the transition presents challenges.
“The biggest downfall is, obviously, being displaced for a couple years. Hopefully sooner rather than later we will get back in … but that’s just something that is part of it. You learn to adjust,” she said.
As part of the plan, the volleyball team will be playing more away games when possible, Townsend added, which may place additional strain on the team.
Those living near Rains will likely also be affected by the construction. To lessen the impact of noise on those students, the college will install double-paned glass in Clark 5 “to reduce noise,” and supply students with headphones and earplugs, according to Dean of Campus Life Josh Eisenberg, who spoke at an ASPC meeting Thursday.
Coaches, athletes and non-athletes alike, however, eagerly await the expansion.
“They definitely need to re-do Rains because it’s getting old and our locker rooms are so small,” Asato said. “We have a really big team, and it’s hard to even fit everyone in there comfortably.”
Alaina Woo PO ’17, interim head coach of P-P women’s basketball and a former P-P guard, also thinks the project is necessary.
“The new Rains Center project is exciting for our athletics programs but also for student wellness at Pomona more generally. Though it may affect team logistics next year, the project will be beneficial long term,” she said via email.
Pomona also offers over 50 physical education courses with roughly 1,400 registration spots. During construction, some of these will be held at Pitzer and Scripps College, in Pomona’s Pendleton Dance Center or outside, with a “minimal impact” on students and enrollment numbers, Scanlon said.
“We are still going to have a very extensive set of classes,” Scanlon said. “There may be more travel … but they will still have the option to choose from a lot of different great things.”
Under the construction plans, Rains’ Voelkel Gym, the main competition space, will be the only area that will remain intact, according to Scanlon.
Memorial Gym, the recreational gym, will be moved to the second story, along with office spaces, a classroom and a studio with some fitness equipment. Locker rooms, an athletic training room and the fitness center, will remain downstairs.
The new gym will also include an additional studio space, classroom and a new strength and conditioning center for more technical weightlifting, Scanlon said. Varsity teams will be able to reserve the strength and conditioning center, unlike the current fitness center.
Scanlon hopes the new building, which will offer a variety of seating and work areas, as well as TV screens, will also act as a social hub where students will study and hang out.