STAR-BULLETIN / NOVEMBER 1989
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie, shown here as a city councilman in 1989, shows off his physique. The 69-year-old Democrat is a dedicated weightlifter and maintains a yearly goal of bench-pressing 200 pounds more than his age. CLICK FOR LARGE
Abercrombie attempting to muscle up $8M for gym
'Gym god' works out renovation for U.S. House
STORY SUMMARY »
U.S. Rep. Neil Abercrombie is leading the charge to fix the gym reserved for members of Congress -- which he says "is not a torture chamber; it is just an old beat-up gym."
The gym, built in the Rayburn Office Building in Washington, D.C., in 1965, is outdated and has few facilities for women. Female members of Congress are shunted aside to a smaller, even crummier gym, Abercrombie says.
The Hawaii Democrat is pushing to put $8 million in the House appropriations bill to take care of the remodeling.
FULL STORY »
When the U.S. House gym is falling apart, who you gonna call?
That would be the "gym god" -- Democratic Rep. Neil Abercrombie, who heads the bipartisan committee in charge.
The athletic facilities reserved for House members have been ignored for years and have few facilities for women; now is the time to renovate, Abercrombie says.
Tucked away in a sub-basement of the sprawling Rayburn Office Building in Washington, D.C., the gym includes a swimming poll, basketball court, paddle-ball courts, weight and exercise rooms and lockers.
Women have a smaller, separate gym, but Abercrombie said it offers even less than the main gym.
Original estimates for renovations are $8 million and would be included in a $60 million account in a legislative appropriations bill. The original building was finished in 1965 at a cost of $88 million.
House members pay $20 a month to use the gym.
"When the Rayburn was built, space was set aside so people, meaning men, could exercise.
"The facilities for women are virtually nonexistent," Abercrombie said in an interview in Honolulu.
"The gym has been allowed to deteriorate. This is not operated as a business. This is to facilitate exercise for members of Congress," Abercrombie said.
Abercrombie disputed reports in Washington papers that he would not be able to get House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to approve the renovations.
"Nancy has already decided that we have to deal with the contemporary difficulties -- the building is going to have to go under extensive renovations," Abercrombie said.
Pelosi does not need to use the gym because "she is genetically blessed," said Abercrombie. The emphasis on expanding the gym's use to include female members makes it an easy sell, he said.
"The appeal to her was that it would equalize facilities when we bring it up to standard," Abercrombie said.
The 69-year-old House member has a personal stake in the gym. As a dedicated weightlifter, Abercrombie maintains a yearly goal of bench-pressing 200 pounds more than his age.
Although he once bench-pressed 275 pounds, Abercrombie said he is training to lift 270 before his next birthday in June.
Abercrombie says he earned his "gym god" nickname not for his own physical prowess, but because all House members come to him with complaints or suggestions for the facility.
"The gym is the one thing I hear about from members every day. It is a little refuge. It is not a perk; it is a refuge."
If Abercrombie needs a model of what the new House gym should look like, he reports that it already exists in the Rayburn building, where a new gym for congressional staff assistants recently opened. Staffers pay $25 to join and $20 a month for a facility with dozens of cardio-machines with TV screens, specialized weightlifting machines and free weights, and special instructional classes.