by Katie Rooney
Senior Staff Writer
The Health and Wellness Center has yet to extend its hours of operation despite a June ruling that allows the gym to remain open until 11:30 p.m. nightly.
The University must wait for the D.C. Zoning Commission, which approved the extended hours at a June 14 hearing, to formally issue the order, University Senior Counsel Charles Barber said. He said he expects the order to come in the next few weeks.
“It’s not something we have control over,” Barber said. “It has to be reviewed by various people in the District who work for the Zoning Commission, and it has made progress, albeit slow progress.”
Currently the facility, located at 23rd and G streets, closes at 10 p.m. every night except Sunday, when it closes at 8:30 p.m. These times are in accordance with the campus plan adopted between the University and the neighborhood more 10 years ago; alterations to this plan must be approved by the city.
Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities Tony Vecchione said even if the order is finalized by the end of October, the University will most likely wait until January 2005 to implement the new hours of operation. In May, Barber told The Hatchet that the center’s extended hours would begin sometime this fall.
“We have to rearrange staff and get the notice out,” he said. “If we can do it right away then we will, but I have a feeling that the changes won’t take place until next semester.”
Barber blamed the red tape involved with the D.C. bureaucracy for the delay, noting that he did not expect the city to take so long to finalize the order.
“There is always a procedure,” Barber said. “Why it’s taken months has to do with a backlog within the commission.”
Community groups were vehemently opposed to extending the hours of the center, citing late night noise as a possible problem for neighbors.
“The Zoning Commission voted on it, we’ve submitted a draft order, and we’ve been tracking the progress,” Barber said. “Until the order is actually issued by the Zoning Commission, the action that they voted on does not become final.”
Vecchione said the later hours should be beneficial to students because it could ease crowding at the gym during peak hours.
“It’s going to help because people will have more time to use the facility,” he said. “Students will start to re-plan their schedules in order to avoid crowds at the gym.”
Zoning officials also approved the University’s request to extend membership to Mount Vernon residents, trustees and President’s Club members in June, which will also be implemented when the order goes through.
Originally, GW requested to have the center’s hours extended until 1 a.m. and for membership to be extended to residents living within 500 feet of the center in addition to specific people affiliated with the University.
In response to community members’ concerns, the Zoning Commission compromised by extending the hours to 11:30 p.m. and giving membership only to those affiliated with the University. n