Vice Provost for Student Affairs Alanna Shanahan announced plans to renovate the Recreation (Rec) Center, which will expand existing workout spaces and add a cafe, in a University-wide email on Tuesday.
The $27 million project will be funded by a gift from the Rec Center’s namesake Ralph S. O’Connor, who died in December 2018. When the renovation is completed in August 2021, the facility will gain an extra 15,000 square feet — doubling the size of strength and cardio areas.
Students who work at the Rec Center pointed out that workout areas have suffered from overcrowding, while fitness classes have been capped due to lack of space.
Senior Kayla Klatt, who has worked at the Rec Center since 2017, wrote in an email to The News-Letter that the project was carefully planned, based on information collected over the past few years.
“The Rec Center staff has been monitoring which areas of the building are most popular and collecting feedback from members as to what they would like to see more of. The renovation aims to expand and improve upon these areas and suggestions,” Klatt wrote. “There will be expansions... to fix the problem of overcrowding and having to wait to use machines. There will also be addition of many new group fitness studios and expansion of the F45 studio to accommodate larger class sizes.”
This renovation project will overlap with the 2020 Spring Fair concert, which will take place in the Rec Center this year, instead of its traditional venue at Rams Head Live! downtown.
In an email to The News-Letter, Director of Recreation and Facilities Bill Harrington reaffirmed that the concert is scheduled to take place in the Rec Center, despite ongoing construction.
“Spring Fair is planning to return to the Rec Center for a concert,“ he wrote. “Because one court in the Scott Gym will be used for fitness equipment, the crowd size will be reduced during construction, but still take place.”
Additionally, the Rec Center will be renamed the Center for Recreation and Well-Being in support of the University’s initiative to support student wellness on campus.
Klatt explained that the building will grow from being just a gym into a space for holistic student health.
“The renovation plans outline areas of the building designated for students to relax and hang out, such as an outdoor seating area and an indoor cafe, which is a huge change to the rec center,“ she wrote.
In an email to The News-Letter, senior Franco Estores, a facility manager at the Rec Center, added that the expanded facility will be a unique place on campus because it is isolated from the intense academics that predominate much of the University’s communal areas.
“The Rec Center is one of the few places on campus you can completely escape from Hopkins’ academic pressures,“ he wrote. “I think when viewed that way it’s easier to see why we need the space to be renovated & expanded.”
Estores stated that aside from extra space, the renovation will encourage a more diverse group of students to frequent the gym.
“The fact that…it’s being completely renovated should open the place up to people who wouldn’t necessarily be incentivized to go before and they can also feel more comfortable in that space, which is what the Rec Center is really all about,” Estores wrote.
While students expressed their appreciation for greater capacity in group exercise and fitness classes, some worried that the project will affect their ability to work out during the construction period.
Administrators and student workers acknowledged that the renovation project will be disruptive for students while the expansion is in progress.
“The construction will require intermittent closures of different areas of the Rec Center throughout the execution of the project,“ Klatt wrote.
Estores agreed that the renovation may prevent some students from working out as they usually do, but emphasized the importance of flexibility.
“It would be misleading for me to say that it won’t be a frustrating time for some people because there’s going to be a lot of disruption to people’s routines, especially as someone who goes to the gym fairly often,“ he wrote. “Please be patient with the staff as we go through this because it’d be very easy to take out frustration on people who work there, but I guarantee you that we’re at work trying very hard to make this as smooth a transition as possible.”
Harrington confirmed that the renovation will constrain the areas available for exercise in his email to The News-Letter.
“During construction, the center will continue to offer the same activities, but in smaller areas. Strength and cardio equipment will be located on court one. The track will have to be narrowed for construction walls, but will continue to have a least one lane. Yoga will be held in the ROTC drill hall,“ Harrington wrote.