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An Inside Look at the Cornerstone Aquatics Center Renovation

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When HealthFitness began managing Cornerstone Aquatics Center in West Hartford, Connecticut, a year and a half ago, it had one gym with 20 pieces of exercise equipment and a small multi-purpose room that overlooked the pool.

General manager Michael Kerrigan noticed the potential in the space and began developing goals for the aquatics center. “Early on, my goal was, what can I do to refresh?” he recalled asking. “All the equipment was all so old. How do we refresh all this equipment so we can become, in addition to an aquatics center, a gym the community is going to want to come to?”

In response to his question, Kerrigan decided they needed to do something with the multi-purpose room. He wanted to offer more than just treadmills and instead, begin offering group classes such as yoga, spinning and personal training. This led to the complete replacement of all fitness equipment, a redesign of their multi-purpose room to a group exercise studio, and four new family changing rooms, as well as a front lobby remodel.

“We put in new wood fitness flooring, which was a start, then HealthFitness partnered with Technogym, a nationally recognized gym equipment manufacturer,” said Kerrigan. With the partnership, they were able to put together a large donation and cover the cost of the new equipment.

Another large contribution to the renovation was the upgrade to four new family changing rooms. The aquatics center previously had two locker rooms: one male and one female with a small, single-person changing room and bathroom. “On Saturdays when we would have swimming lessons, there would be a line of 20 to 30 people waiting to use that one room,” said Kerrigan.

He pointed out a large space on the pool deck that wasn’t being used, and this became the new home of their family changing rooms. Kerrigan’s goal was to meet the community’s needs. “To have a space where a father could bring a daughter into a changing room — there was a huge need for that, as well as for someone with any kind of disability,” he said. “We really needed this space to meet that need in the community.”

With any renovation project comes a unique set of challenges, and the aquatic center was no exception. While there were no major setbacks or closing of the facility required, the renovation did require patience from its community members. “It took a while, and the location of the renovation made it difficult at times for the members to get in and out of the facility,” said Kerrigan.

Despite having to tolerate the renovations for six months through jackhammers and dust, Kerrigan said the overall feedback since completion has been “very, very positive.”

Being able to renovate and adapt for the community’s needs has opened multiple doors for Cornerstone Aquatics Center. Not only were they able to meet needs by providing new family changing rooms, but they have also been able to offer new group fitness classes and are seeing growth in class attendance.

“We actually are starting to look at how we can offer just the gym membership, because right now we’re an aquatics center, so our memberships are for the whole facility,” said Kerrigan. “But [there is] definite growth because there are classes that first of all, we didn’t offer in the past, and now we’re offering them and filling them.”

When asked what his advice on renovations is, Kerrigan focused on communication. “Communicate realistic timelines on completion of projects,” he said. “Folks from the community want to know, ‘when’s this thing going to be done?’”

Along with communicating realistic timelines, Kerrigan also believes it’s important to promote yourself, and explain the reasons for why you’re doing what you’re doing. “Educate the community,” he advised.

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Brittany Howard

Brittany is a staff writer at Peake Media. Reach her at brittany@peakemedia.com

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