The Ralph S. O’Connor Recreation Center, which underwent a large-scale renovation process over the course of the pandemic, was unveiled yesterday. The University originally announced that the project would be finished before students returned to campus for the fall, but unforeseen issues delayed the construction process.
In an interview with The News-Letter, Director of Recreation and Facilities Bill Harrington explained why construction took longer than expected.
“While we had hoped to open sooner, anticipated dates are subject to many variables,” he said. “In recent months, we have experienced some material and labor shortages like the rest of the world.”
Despite its opening, there will be ongoing construction to complete before the facility is fully operational, Harrington noted.
Students have voiced frustrations about the delays in construction. Sophomore Jayden Chiu explained that his alternative to the Rec Center has been inconvenient in several ways.
“It’s been kind of annoying because I like working out, especially with friends, and I hate home workouts,” Chiu said. “I’ve had to get a membership at Brick Bodies — a local gym — which is roughly a 25-minute walk each way, so it’s a big financial commitment as well as time commitment.”
Chiu added that he is looking forward to the new equipment at the Rec Center, and avoiding the commute to Brick Bodies during winter months.
Sophomore Fidel Cai has run into similar issues. To replace the Rec Center, Cai purchased a membership at the local YMCA, but he recalled that like Brick Bodies, the YMCA’s location is inconvenient.
“The delay in reopening made me continue my YMCA membership, which involves a bit more commute,” Cai said. “However, this also ties into my excitement for the reopening of the Rec Center since it's on campus and much closer than the Y[MCA].”
Some students were relatively unaffected by the delays. Varsity athletes like junior Sam Frank, a member of the men’s baseball team, have had access to their own weight rooms. Frank shared that the delayed reopening did not disrupt his first few months on campus.
“I, along with the other athletes, have had access to the varsity weight room, so varsity athletes haven’t really had to deal with the construction that’s been going on,” he said. “But I do know by hearing from my friends who are not athletes that it’s a bit of a dampener, especially for those who like to go to the group fitness classes.”
Harrington is confident that students will have lots to look forward to with the Rec Center’s new features. The cardio and weight rooms have doubled in size and house brand-new, state-of-the-art equipment. Fitness classes will be held in larger spaces dedicated to group instruction. Among other amenities, the F54 studio has doubled in size, and stationary bikes and yoga classes will have their own spaces.
The Rec Center also added a café, which will offer meal options from Hopkins dining services. Harrington shared his excitement about the new space.
“The café/juice bar will be another fantastic space for gathering with friends,” he said. “Service won’t begin for a few weeks, but we are anxious to welcome Good Part & Co., a local lifestyle brand that offers plant-based food alternatives.”
Sophomore Jason Zhong, who went to the Rec Center on opening day, told The News-Letter that despite delays, the facility’s equipment and amenities were worth the wait.
“I really like the quality of the equipment [at the Rec Center]. There are just as many machines as you would find in regular gyms,” he said. “I am glad the wait is over, though I wish it was open sooner.”
Ishan Kalburge contributed reporting to the article.