Equipment, facility enhancements add new life to the ARC


russell wright fitness center

Sept. 30, 2015

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Six weeks into the fall semester, Aebersold Recreation Center staff are even more convinced that the $400,000 equipment and facility upgrades made over the summer are proving to be a great return on investment.

"No doubt about it, patrons are enthused about the new exercise and fitness equipment and space," said Greg Sferra, director of campus recreation.

greg sferra


Sferra was one of the prime architects in updating the facility. The first challenge, he said, was communicating the ARC's need to replace its aging line of worn-out equipment. "Some of that equipment dated back to the early nineties; some of our newer stuff was 16 years old," he said. Most of the equipment was from the original Russell Wright Fitness Center, previously located in the East Gym, and was really starting to deteriorate, he said.

"We were at the point where we were investing more and more money just trying to rehabilitate old equipment," Sferra said.

"Back in the '90's, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education introduced a new policy for auxiliary facilities operating on state property. The policy required the facility to take a percentage of the building's worth out of its operating budget and place in a lifecycle maintenance fund, or 'rainy day' fund. We put money into that fund every year," he said.

The money has mainly been used for internal operational refurbishments such as climate control adjustments, power generators and a new roof, Sferra said. "We thought some of that money should be dedicated to updating the equipment."

Sferra and Brian Mortimer, coordinator of wellness and the Russell Wright Fitness Center, approached Philip Way, SRU provost and vice president for academic and student affairs, to make their pitch. After all, Mortimer said, "the students come to the building for more than the building itself, they come to use the equipment."

After reviewing the state system policy together, Way determined funds saved by the facility can be directed toward the purchase of new fitness equipment. From that moment on, it was all systems go.

brian mortimer


The duo began researching options for equipment and flooring in May 2014. While Sferra researched new rubber flooring, Mortimer's task was to test new exercise equipment models that were the right fit for the ARC.

"There are so many types of equipment out there. You have to be careful what you choose. We needed to consider the footprint of the equipment, the amount of space taken up by the equipment," Sferra said. "Looking at how the equipment functions is also important. The biomechanical function of the equipment is key."

"Brian did a great job in selecting the new equipment and also involving the students by making them a part of choosing the new equipment," Sferra said.

The makeover has been successful. "People are benefitting from all the new cardiovascular machines. They're taking take care of their heart, lungs and their circulatory system," Mortimer said.

With the center fully functioning, next up for Sferra and Mortimer is to develop a five-year plan for the replacement of existing equipment with expiring warranties.

"We have more than a 1,000 people coming to the ARC daily. We need to insure each has a healthy, fun and risk free visit," Sferra said.