FORT LEE, Va. - The "Mac" is about to make its comeback.

MacLaughlin Fitness Center, Fort Lee's largest recreational fitness facility, will soon reopen after a near 5-month closure and extensive makeover.

Daniel R. Gauvin, manager of the Family and MWR facility, said the 40,000-square-foot building is scheduled to welcome back patrons Aug. 6 with it normal opening at 5 a.m. A formal reopening ceremony is in the works, he noted. Details of that event will be publicized very soon.




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The new and improved "Mac," as it's popularly referred to, counts among its enhancements a spruced up entrance, new lobby and refurbished hardwood floors. Changes to the entryway alone are enough to render the surroundings unrecognizable to most loyal customers, said Gauvin, who oversaw the renovation.

"They're going to be taken aback," he boasted. "It will be a big 'wow!' because the front entrance is impressive and sets the tone for the other improvements."

The refitted lobby includes a new front reception desk, lighting and more usable space. The latter, Gauvin said, refers to the addition of a roughly 1,600-square-foot, glass-enclosed area that can be used for various functions.

"The lobby renovation maximizes the space," he said. "Before, it had a large opening with a lot of wasted space, but it's been transformed into a group fitness area that we can use for spin classes. It's also been brightened up with new floors and lighting."

A smoothie bar, Gauvin said, also adorns the lobby but will not immediately open as the operations contract has not been finalized.

Moving from the entrance toward the gym and exercise rooms, the two racquetball courts closest to the lobby were removed to accommodate a weight room extension. The extra space, which includes the addition of new industrial-grade fans, allows for the installation and use of larger equipment and a practice area to help Soldiers prepare for the new Army Combat Fitness Test.

In the gymnasium, the hardwood floors have been sanded and sealed and include new court markings, Gauvin said. The floors in the remaining exercise rooms also have been redone.

MacLaughlin's exterior sports a number of improvements as well. Seating and bike racks have been added outside the entranceway and new concrete will welcome visitors and better accommodate the disabled, Gauvin pointed out.

Another of the building's most visible improvements, literally, is its outdoor marquee advertisement system, Gauvin said.



"We now have three large, LED backlit signs (that read 'MacLaughlin Fitness Center')," he said, "one on C Avenue - it's about 19 feet wide - and two others on the side and front entrance, respectively."

The Mac's overall renovation cost was a bit more than $1 million, Gauvin acknowledged. It is the second major FMWR facility makeover occurring here in the past three years. The Strength Performance Center - previously a post field house used for youth sports, indoor ceremonies and other events - was repurposed into a modern exercise facility resembling many of those found outside the installation. It features a plethora of weight machines as well as sufficient space to accommodate extreme activities such as CrossFit.

Gauvin, who also oversaw the SPC renovation, said fitness trends greatly influenced his decisions regarding MacLaughlin's makeover.

"I wanted to create more space while accommodating group fitness needs because people in this day and age - especially considering social networking - would rather workout in pairs than individually," he said. "That's what trending."

MacLaughlin Fitness Center was built in 1982 and accommodates more than 133,000 patrons yearly. It is one of two all-purpose wellness and workout facilities - Clark Fitness Center is the other - and one of five accommodating exercise activities here. The SPC and satellite facilities on the Ordnance Campus and in the Army Logistics University are the others.

The facility will have new hours of operation when it reopens. They will be Monday - Friday, 5 a.m. - 9 p.m., and Saturday, Sunday and holidays, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m. Information about the recreational facilities at Fort Lee also can be found at lee.armymwr.com.