Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Matchbox, Swarthmore’s new wellness, fitness, and theater space, opened yesterday morning with much fanfare. Tours throughout the day took students through the three story building, which houses a theater studio, an extensive fitness center, and a wellness center that affords a view of the Crum.
Jameson Lisak ‘15, a Theater major, said, “The Matchbox is a noted improvement on our health and fitness facilities. The Mullan Center was cramped and outdated. The Matchbox seems to show the Swarthmore administration is interested in providing up-to-date and useful facilities to students.”
The new workout area was also well-received: “I think the Matchbox is exactly what I’ve wanted for the past three years. There is finally enough equipment for everyone, it is beautiful with walls of windows and fantastic architecture, and it is just overall a happier place. I am finally excited to work out everyday.” said Peter Amadeo ‘15.
“We were excited by the idea of a building that had the opportunity to significantly impact so many parts of our community our athletes, our theater department and the wellness of students, faculty and staff,” said Salem Shuchman ‘84, who led the Matchbox initiative, along with his wife, Barbara Klock ‘86. The Matchbox, so named for Shuchman and Klock’s status as a Quaker Matchbox couple, represents an optimistic effort to meet the practical needs of the campus.
“Reusing existing spaces and materials was a way to evidence our community’s commitment to being good stewards of our resources and showcase how that might be accomplished,” said Shuchman.
From its foundation to its front entry desk, the Matchbox is made almost entirely of repurposed material. A glass fabrication company with an interest in sustainability, headed by CEO David McElhinny ‘75, donated the distinctive glass windows that enclose the space and planners used ancient stone discovered in the woods to build part of the outside structure.
The eclectic materials that make up the building seem to reflect its purpose. While it is easy to think of the Matchbox as an upgrade of the Mullen Fitness Center, it aims to be more than a gym. Besides an expansive and very visible fitness center on the main floor, the building’s lower level contains the Lewis-Reynolds Athletic Performance Room and the Allen Kuharski Theater Studio and its upper level features Tarble Commons and the Wellness Lounge.
Theater majors toured the space at a special opening on Saturday afternoon, to celebrate the opening of the Allen Kuharski Theater Studio. Though the studio will need to have its floors replaced due to unevenness, students anticipate it will be a well-used space, as Lisak noted, “Extra rehearsal space is always desperately needed by the theatre department and theatre students.”
Lisak said, “As to whether more students will use the wellness facilities? It’s hard to tell, but the students who made use of Mullan center will, I think, certainly be thankful for and encouraged by the new space, and hopefully that will rub off on other students. Additionally the new facility will do well in showing prospective students that resources that would be available to them at Swarthmore College are extensive.”
The Matchbox strives to bring together parts of the Swarthmore community that might seem at odds in any other place. “The image of actors and athletes, students, faculty and staff, all making use of a single facility has captivated us…we need spaces like that at Swarthmore, and in the world around us,” said Shuchman.