Media Contact
May 14, 2010

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Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) President Dennis Berkey and members of the WPI Board of Trustees, along with the Moonraker 2.0 robot, broke ground today for a 145,000-square-foot sports and recreation center.  Moonraker 2.0, the student-designed robot that won a $500,000 prize from NASA for its ability to excavate moon dust last year, used its remarkable digging capabilities to kick-off construction of the new center, which will be built into the hillside at the west end of the WPI Quadrangle and is designed to meet LEED certification standards. The facility is scheduled to open in August 2012.

From left, President Berkey, James Carr '74, WPI Board Chairman Donald Peterson '71, Stuart Kazin '61, and Trustee Judith Nitsch '75 break ground for the new center. Watch a video of Moonraker 2.0 getting the groundbreaking under way.

"The Sports and Recreation Center is an exciting and much needed addition to the WPI campus," Berkey said.  The new center will provide substantially more space for our growing population of students, faculty, and staff, and their avid interests in sports and recreation. We are not just building another gym. We are building a place for our community to come together – for competition, for camaraderie, for celebration. We are building a new setting for excellence."

Recent years have seen an increase in participation in sports at WPI and successful team performances, including winning the Worcester College Cup for top-performing athletic program among its local peers in four of the past six years, and enjoying a 20-percent increase overall in the percentage of wins. Beyond varsity sports, there is also a diversity of student interest in sports and recreation offerings and campus-wide participation in physical fitness.

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The new building will overlook the quadrangle to the east and Alumni Field to the west, presenting an attractive two-story facade to the main campus and a dramatic five-story facade to the playing fields below. Featuring state-of-the-art equipment incorporated into a bright, spacious and thoughtfully laid-out space, the new center will be available for use by WPI students, faculty, and staff. It will feature 14,000-square-feet of fitness space, a four-court gymnasium, a competition-length swimming pool, a three-lane elevated jogging track, racquetball and squash courts, rowing tanks, and workout studios.

The center will provide attractive space for large-scale events, such as admissions open houses, career fairs, national academic conferences and alumni events. In addition, the facility will have space dedicated to WPI's robotics program, and will enable WPI to support regional and national robotics competitions.

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Development of the new center is part of the Institute's seven-year capital plan. Boston-based CannonDesign serves as the architect, and Gilbane Building Co. as the general contractor. Worcester-based Cardinal Construction is the owner's representative. The facility's total cost is expected to be approximately $53.2 million. 

In 2007, WPI's Board of Trustees endorsed a policy calling for the design of all future buildings on campus to meet LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification standards from the U.S. Green Building Council.  The center is expected to be the third LEED-certified building on campus. The new facility will utilize 50 solar thermal panels on the roof to heat the pool water, saving more than $50,000 in operating costs and reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 4,400 pounds per year, as compared with conventional pool heating. In addition, underground storage tanks will collect 50,000 gallons of rainwater from the roof for the cooling system, reducing the building's water consumption by more than 800,000 gallons per year. Some of the fitness equipment within the building will generate electricity to reduce the building's electrical load. The facility will also feature FSC-certified (Forest Stewardship Council) wood for paneling and furniture to protect endangered forests by using wood species that are easily replenished. More than 75 percent of the construction waste will be recycled and diverted from landfills.

About Moonraker 2.0

Moonraker 2.0, created by Paul's Robotics, which is led by robotics engineering major Paul Ventimiglia, won the $500,000 NASA Regolith Excavation Challenge in October 2009, beating out 22 other teams of professional engineers and college, university, and high school students.  The NASA challenge required robots to excavate at least 150 kilograms of simulated lunar soil within a 30-minute period, demonstrating a task that will be important for future lunar construction and processing projects. WPI is the only university in the nation to offer bachelor's, master's, and doctoral programs in robotics engineering.