Construction underway for OHPE, set to end Jan. 2023

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Side of OHPE that is under construction

The Ornelas Health and Physical Education Center is currently undergoing construction. 

The OHPE has been serving Tyler Junior College’s student body’ needs in fitness and recreation since 1986, according to tjc.edu/ohpe. Mark Gartman, director of facilities and construction, discusses the changes to the facility. 

“Once complete, the building will be a dedicated band hall, Belles’ studio and the dance academy. All previous fitness activity will be removed from the building,” Gartman said. “These activities will be temporarily relocated to the Apache Woodlands.”

The Apache Woodlands surrounds  parking lot S-24 toward the merging of E. Devine St. and S. Porter Ave. 

The band hall and Belles’ studio are still currently located in the OHPE.

Gartman states the construction is expected to be completed by January 2023. In the meantime, certain areas of the OHPE are still open for recreational use. 

Photo by Chris Swann

Heath Stoner, OHPE director, explains what is currently available to students, faculty and staff. 

Downstairs heavyweight room

– The downstairs heavyweight room is an area on the lower level of the OHPE that contains some of the facility’s heavy-weight equipment including weight plates.

Downstairs machine weight room

– The downstairs machine weight room includes the weight machines and their necessary attachments, such as the Smith weight machines. 

Cardio Room

– The cardio room includes most of the facility’s cardiovascular equipment such as ellipticals and treadmills.

One Pingpong Table

–  The pingpong table is used for table tennis. 

These areas can be accessed during OHPE’s business hours, which are 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday.

For some students, the OHPE remains part of their everyday routine despite construction. 

Ashley Jeffery, TJC sophomore, discusses her everyday interaction with the facility. 

Photo by Chris Swann

“I visited the OHPE every day for Belles, but sometimes I would go up extra days,” Jeffery said. “I would go up in my free time to run on the indoor track.”

Due to the construction, exits and entrances have been closed off and students have been rerouted. 

“The entrance to these areas are on the south side of the building and marked by signage. The construction site itself is enclosed by a chain link fence with signage identifying a construction area. In addition, lot F-7 is closed and used as a laydown yard for the project,” Gartman said.

Freshman Caroline Phillips discusses how the changes have affected her.

“I mean, the construction does partially affect my daily routine, but not in any big way, mainly, just instead of using the normal entrance that band students would use, I have to go around to the front,” Phillips said. “But other than that, it’s not really a big deal, and I’m really excited for the changes that are about to come.” 

Sarah VanCleef, vice president for financial and administrative affairs and chief financial officer, states some of the reasons for the renovation include the age of the building and the fact that some of its features are no longer in use. In addition, many of the programs who use the areas such as, The Academy of Dance, additional dance programs, the Band, and the Belles have “outgrown their current spaces and need larger facilities in which to rehearse,” VanCleef said. 

VanCleef further explains the need for renovations.

“The renovations will help TJC better serve the needs of the students, employees and the community with modern facilities for exercise and physical activity. The college is in the process of finalizing its comprehensive master plan for the district, and the opportunity for a new state-of-the-art recreational center will be part of the plan,” VanCleef said. 

The OHPE is free to all students with a valid student ID.