Like Bumblee in “Transformers,” Hillsdale’s weight room is a whole new animal.
Except instead of a grungy 1977 Chevrolet Camaro turning into a sleek, new model, the old gym turned into a pristine state of the art weight room.
“It was pretty shocking,” senior Matt Eltringham said.
In addition to the remodeled downstairs weight room, the Jesse Philips Arena was revamped and renamed the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena, a golfing practice facility broke ground in Hayden Park, and locker rooms and coaches’ offices were added throughout the George C. Roche Sports Complex.
The weight room is now termed the JAM in honor of the alumni who gifted the remodel to the college: Jared ’10, Aaron ’01, and Morgan Veldheer ’12.
“There’s a sort of fraternity of athletes at Hillsdale and we need to look out for each other,” Aaron Veldheer said. “It was also a way of saying thank you for the great education and mentors that Hillsdale provided us.”
The JAM features new flooring with a large “H” in the center of the room, freshly painted walls, exposed black ceilings, and 25 customized weight stations. The student-athletes’ mantra’s “Arete” (Greek for the pursuit of virtue and excellence) and “E.P.E.P.” (Every player, every play) are spelled out in white lettering on blue medal at the top of each station.
“A weight room is important to all sports, so we knew it would do a lot of good for a great number of teams,” Aaron Veldheer said. “All three of us love the weight room- a couple of pictures of Jared in the weight room have gone viral- so it seems fitting.”
After captaining the 2009 Hillsdale football team, Jared suited up for the Oakland Raiders for four seasons. This spring he signed as a free agent with the Arizona Cardinals. Jared’s older brother Aaron was starting point guard for the Hillsdale basketball team for three years, and Jared’s wife Morgan helped lead some of Hillsdale’s most successful volleyball seasons, which included winning three consecutive GLIAC conference tournaments.
“They were both great leaders on their team, their paths kind of paralleled in a lot of ways,” Aaron said of his brother and sister-in-law.
Arriving for camp on Aug. 14, the football team was first to use the JAM.
“We’re really thankful,” Eltringham said. “It’s been a big force of momentum for our team. Going into a new weight room with nice new speakers- there’s a lot of positive energy.”
Football strength training coach Aaron Shreffler said that the change has boosted efficiency in team workouts.
“We can fit 80-plus guys in there and I can coach the same lift at the same time rather than running from spot to spot,” Shreffler said.
The new equipment allows players to do a majority of their workout without leaving the stations because each contains a squat rack, platform, and bench.
While he enjoys the final product, football head coach Keith Otterbein said the JAM is not 100 percent completed.
“Some fatheads and a really cool sign along the front wall would really be the icing on the cake,” Otterbein said. “The fatheads will really make the room pop.”
The JAM was built with the varsity athletes in mind. However, it will open to students and the community starting Sept. 4.
Construction on the main stadium in the Dawn Tibbetts Potter Arena is planned to be finished for the first home volleyball match on Sept. 12. The expected completion date for the rest of the project is Oct. 1, Athletic Director Don Brubacher said.
The new additions include a large rock climbing wall that rises at the base of the Fitness Center. The wall will be able to accommodate nine climbers at a time.
The mezzanine above the fitness center will serve as a spacious exercise room.
With the help of collapsible walls, the room can be split into three different areas, and all three sections include flat screen TVs for people to play workout videos. A room to the left of the exercise space will hold a golf simulator, and the room to the right will be reserved as a cycling area, complete with a raised platform in the corner for instructors.
In addition to office space for the volleyball and basketball coaches, the arena also holds new locker rooms for the men’s basketball team, and the women’s volleyball and basketball teams. The old locker rooms are now accessible to students and the community and one will be used for officials on game days.
The court at the end of the arena will host home basketball games and volleyball matches. New individual seating spans 360 degrees around the court and can accommodate up to 2,200 spectators.
“We are definitely in the top tier of Division II in terms of facilities now,” Brubacher said, making sure to point out the raised platform seating areas and the crow’s nest.
Behind the crow’s nest, a film area, the old dance studio is being converted into a Presidential suite and a Hall of Fame room.
At Hayden Park the college is building an outdoor practice facility which will include a 330 yard driving range, a putting and chipping green, and sand traps.
New outdoor tennis courts are also in the works and will be completed next spring or summer.
And a teaser for all current Chargers: the destruction of the old tennis courts will make room for an indoor turf arena.
“While it will mainly be for softball and baseball during the off-season, the possibilities are endless- lacrosse, ultimate frisbee, soccer- I contend it will be the most popular exercise space on campus in the winter. Students will overrun it, which will be absolutely fantastic,” Brubacher said.
So go check out the revamped sports complex. You’ll surely be left gaping in awe like Sam Witwicky back in 2007.