November 4, 2022

Swim, Pedal, Sprint, and Smile: The Zesiger Center Celebrates 20 Years

Zesiger Center 20th Anniversary Image

After two decades since its doors first opened, there is no stopping the activity that happens each and every day in the Zesiger Center on the campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Few people have seen much of what the building offers this community more than MIT Director of Recreation, Stephanie Smith.

“The Z Center 20-year celebration came together exactly how we had hoped – activating spaces throughout the entire building for our MIT community to recreate, have fun, and celebrate 20 years of wellness –together,” Smith said. “Al and Barrie [Zesiger]’s commitment to lifelong health has made an immeasurable impact on thousands of MIT students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends of MIT and we are forever grateful,” she added.

For staff and members at MIT like Tarek Fadel, the Z Center, the Zesiger Center’s more colloquial name, is a special place. 

“It’s my temple,” he said. “I try to sneak away from the office regularly to exercise and the Z center provides a broad range of fitness activities from lifting, and swimming to floor exercises in the mat room. I taught Judo at the MIT Judo club for a couple of years as well, and the community here is really friendly,” he added.

Fadel, a member of MIT’s Recreation Ambassadors, is also the Assistant Director at the Marble Center for Nanomedicine.

The 20th Anniversary Celebration included a fun-filled weekend of athletics, activity, and events on the gridiron, soccer pitch, and in the pool and gyms, a dinner with donors at the Sloan Center, and a continental breakfast held in the morning during the indoor triathlon on Sunday. 

The Z-Center is a remarkable space that elicits community engagement and uniquely illustrates the value of healthy living and wellness,” said Dr. G. Anthony Grant, MIT’s Athletic Director.  “The 20th-anniversary weekend was a great time to showcase the physical space, which was highlighted by the indoor triathlon, and a dinner to recognize our donors for their incredible impact. We appreciate all of the community members and donors who came out to participate in the weekend’s events,” he added.

On the morning of October 16, the weekend’s cornerstone event, the Z20 Indoor Triathlon, kicked off bright and early. This event activated the entire Z Center, with swimming in the Olympic-sized pool on the ground floor, spin bikes moved to the third floor’s MAC Court, and the second-floor treadmills overlooking the pool.

MIT Recreation has put on Indoor Triathlons in the past, but those previous to the Z20 have been held across campus at the Alumni/Wang gym. The venue change seemed to be no problem for organizers and competitors alike.

The key data point for an indoor triathlon is distance, not time, like a traditional triathlon, like the Ironman would measure. Each event in the Z20 Indoor Triathlon was timed; 15 minutes in the pool, 25 minutes pedaling on the spin bikes, and 20 minutes on the treadmill.

In the end, all of our competitors logged over 24 miles in the pool, 317.9 miles on the bikes, and 114.73 miles on the treadmills during the Z20 Indoor Triathlon. 

“I want to do this again; it was so much fun,” Jane Wilkinson, the Executive Director at the Koch Institute for Cancer Research at MIT and an MIT Recreation Ambassador said. “I loved that it was a timed event rather than distance-based so everyone was cheering each other on all the time.”

Wilkinson also remarked that a competitor in her heat shouted, “on your left,” a common phrase amongst city bike commuters outpacing their walking counterparts, during the spin bike leg. This comment was met with lots of laughter in the room. 

Want to know more about the importance of the Zesiger Center? Look no further than this video which includes testimonials from some of MIT Recreation’s most dedicated staff, members, and ambassadors.