The Mercer fitness center is free to students and staff, costs $35 per month for locals and includes a multi-purpose workout area for strength training and cardio, a swimming pool, and large basket- ball gymnasium. The VOICE set out to review the school’s fitness center and to see how it stacks up to other area gyms.
In terms of convenience, Mercer’s fitness center certainly can’t be beat. It is located on the West Windsor Campus, right across from the Communica- tions building and Kelsey Theatre, and has its own parking area that backs up to the tennis courts and Mercer County Park just beyond.
The price is also right, especially for students, but the school is evidently counting on most students not using the fa- cility because it couldn’t possibly handle the needs of even a fraction of Mercer’s 9,000+ students. The cardio and weights area has a capacity of 35 people, the pool only has three lap swim lanes, and Zumba and yoga are the only two fitness classes offered. While the pool and basketball courts in the gym are recently renovated and well maintained, the equip- ment in the main workout room is old and dingy and there are not enough weights for serious lifters.
Second year Criminal Justice major, Shane Miller, who used to be on the baseball team, said of the fitness center: “There was enough stuff to use to get a good car- dio workout as a team, but there clearly isn’t enough to get a good lift in. No way I would go here on my own time when I could just go to the gym in my town.”
Dedicated body-builder Matt Delgado, a second year Mer- cer student, has attended both Pennington Ewing Athletic Cen- ter (PEAC) and Mercer’s fitness center to workout. He says that PEAC is far superior to in terms of space, variety, and equipment. “It’s not even close,” said Delgado.
Here’s a basic comparison: PEAC has three free weight flat benches and Mercer has one. PEAC has over 50 aerobic ma- chines, Mercer has 20. Mercer has four yoga balls, PEAC has hundreds.
Mercer’s main fitness center and pool have been run for the past five years by Mike DeAngelis who is also the women’s soccer team assistant coach and teaches Health and Physical Education (HPE) classes at Mer- cer. DeAngelis told The VOICE, “We plan to add more free weight equipment and a few more treadmills.”
The trouble is, there’s just not enough space to add much more equipment to the main car- dio and weights room. The room would have to be expanded into adjacent areas in order to make it competitive with even the low cost local gyms such as Retro in Hamilton and WoW (Work out Work) in Robinsville.
When asked what he thinks of Mercer’s facilities compared to local fitness centers, Mike DeAngelis said, “We don’t have all the bells and whistles Robert Wood Johnson has, but this gym has everything to offer and our swimming pool sets us apart. Not many gyms offer that swimming pool.”
It is certainly true that the low cost gyms like Retro do not offer a pool. And high end centers that do have pools, like Robert Wood Johnson and the newly opened fitness center at the cost hundreds of dollars per year in membership dues.
But Mercer’s pool has just three lap lanes and the pool hours are extremely limited: one hour in the early morning (three days a week) and an hour and forty-five min- utes at midday Monday through Friday. There are a few hours on Saturday afternoon and an eve- ning session on Thursdays, but that’s it. The pool is open for lap swim a grand total of: 18 hours per week.
The pool hours are limit- ed because it is used for swim les- sons, training of student athletes (we don’t have a swim team, but it is used by teams such as cross- country), summer kids camps and so on. These are all good things, but for someone who just wants to get a few laps in, the hours are ex- tremely limited. There is currently a pre-school swim program Tues- days through Thursdays, a great community service, but it comes with a fee of $115.
For local swimmers Peddie School in Hightstown offers open swim for $37 per month (cheaper for seniors), there are 16 lap lanes and the facility is open 57 hours per week. To be fair, Mercer’s changing rooms aren’t great, but the floors are a lot cleaner than the wet hairy ones at Peddie.
In terms of Mercer’s other fitness offerings, the gymnasium is a showpiece. It has a capacity of approximately 2,000 and features a finely detailed, three- year-old, hardwood floor.
In March of each year, Mercer hosts the Mercer County high school basketball tournament semi finals and champion- ships. For the last three seasons, DeAngelis and his staff ran a phe- nomenal event, and the beautiful gym at MCCC hosted thousands of wild fans. DeAngelis com- mented on event’s success by saying, “It’s run so well because of the experience our staff has making sure everything’s covered from the shot clock to the score book.”
Louie Conde is a second year student athlete who transferred to MCCC this semester from St. Joseph’s in Vermont. He is majoring in Business Manage- ment, and is preparing for the up- coming Viking men’s basketball season. Conde played two years of varsity basketball for Ewing High School, and participated in the Mercer County champion- ship located at MCCC in both of his varsity seasons. He had good things to say about the event such as, “they (event staff) treated us like NBA stars, and playing in a gym that big gave me chills as I walked onto the court.”
Unfortunately, however, the basketball court has the same issue as the pool. Because it is used for many other activities, including team practices and games, the hours to use it for recreation are limited. It is open for a few hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
Mercer’s fitness center is a resource for students, but it could be so much more. Given that the school still requires all students to take a Health and Physical Education class to get an associate’s degree, it is time Mercer puts its money where its mouth is, expands the facilities and modernizes, adding the kinds of amenities that would make it possible for more students to maintain a healthier lifestyle.