House gym to open a month early

After four years of planning and six months in the making, the House staff gym will open its doors early next month.

The 11,000-square-foot facility, in the southwestern quadrant of the Rayburn Building, under the G3 parking lot, will include cardio and weightlifting equipment along with an aerobics facility and men and women’s locker rooms. The facility has not yet been assigned a room number.

The $3 million gym was completed ahead of schedule and within budget, according to House Superintendent Frank Tiscione.

“It was originally going to open in January,” Tiscione said, but is now scheduled for the first week of December, barring any unforeseen conditions.

To build the facility, 20 parking spaces had to be removed from the adjoining parking garage; however, Tiscione said, the garage was restriped and more economy spaces were added to offset the space used for the gym.

The facility was designed to serve 2,000 members; the number was a result of a survey of interest conducted in 2002 by the Office of the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO). The Senate gym, between the Dirksen and Hart buildings, was built for 500 members.

“This is good — very impressive,” Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) said on a tour yesterday. “I’m very pleased.”

He added, “This was well worth the effort; it’s just taken about four years.”

Moran and Reps. Ray LaHood (R-Ill.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) have lobbied for the gym since their days on the now-defunct House Legislative Branch Subcommittee.

Staffers who choose to join the gym will pay an administrative enrollment fee and then can choose either monthly or yearly membership dues. Tiscione said he expects that the CAO’s office will launch a membership drive as soon as the gym equipment is delivered, which is scheduled to occur Monday.

The amount that staff members will be charged has not yet been determined. House Administration Committee Chairman Bob Ney (R-Ohio) has been working on this and other issues for the gym, such as equipment selection, vendor selection, design oversight and setting the hours.

Moran expressed interest in using member representational allowances to pay for staff gym memberships and said he would look into “if it was an appropriate allocation of funds.”

“It would be a nice thing to do for Christmas,” Moran said, as two of his own staff members stood nearby nodding in agreement.

Upon entering the gym, members can change and shower in the locker rooms and store their valuables in one of the 120 grey lockers that line the inside of both the men and women’s rooms.

Fifty Life Fitness cardio machine will line the walls. Each will feature a television screen and a selection of channels, giving staffers the option to plug in their headphones and watch C-SPAN — or another desired station — during their workouts. The facility will also have 50 pieces of Cybex weightlifting equipment and Leisure Fitness free weights.

Federal Occupational Health (FOH), the same manager that currently runs the Senate-staff gym, will manage the House facility. Staffing of the facility will also be handled by FOH.

Gold’s Gym, near the Ford House Office Building, will continue to offer the discounted rate of $25 enrollment and $15 a month to House staff, according to a gym spokesman.