Above the entrance to the Michigan Union stand two statues: the Scholar and the Athlete. They are said to represent two of the virtues that go into the quintessential Michigan Wolverine. By default, I think I am more the scholar than the athlete. My basketball career ended prematurely in fifth grade, and my high school tennis record was never going to get me into Wimbledon. Yet, during my time as a student at the University, I have become increasingly aware of the importance of staying physically active in maintaining my mental, physical and emotional health.
My freshman year, I struggled to stay active. With an erratic schedule of classes, work and student orgs, I needed to find a way to exercise on my own time. Enter: the Intramural Sports Building. The classic façade, reflecting that early 20th-century style ubiquitous throughout the University’s campus, gave the impression of grandeur and splendor.
Perhaps, 30 years ago, this impression would have held true. My first visits to the IM Building, and later the Central Campus Recreation Building and the North Campus Recreation Building, were categorized by disappointment. Waiting to use broken treadmills in the dungeon of the CCRB, whose lack of natural lighting will always instill in me the slight fear that I will never escape, became a regular and expected part of my day. Learning to navigate the confusing and convoluted buildings felt like an extra three credits in my schedule. Even today, I am convinced that some of the treadmills in the IM Building are preparing to celebrate their own bicentennial anniversary in tandem with the University.
This week, we have an opportunity to bring the Recreational Sports facilities into the future.
Building a Better Michigan led a student-driven initiative last year to secure funding to renovate the IM Building, CCRB, NCRB and the Union. The University’s Board of Regents approved a proposal for $173 million to fund these projects, and the first of these renovations, Mitchell Field, breaks ground next week. Renovations to the Rec Sports buildings, meanwhile, are on track to begin in 2015.
The building architects will be hosting two town hall meetings this week, on Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 7 p.m. in the Pierpont Commons Café, and on Thursday, Feb. 20 at 7 p.m. in Angell Hall Room G127. The architects hope to hear from students about the specific needs and goals they want to see in the renovation projects. If you believe that our Recreational Sports facilities are not living up to the standard of the University, I hope that you will come out and make your voice heard. The input generated from these short focus groups will be reflected in the building updates.
We have heard students’ calls for the buildings to be updated, but they will not renovate themselves. The Office of Student Life, Recreational Sports administrators and the architects leading the renovations need to hear student support to determine the path for the updated spaces. We want to hear from the heavy gym users to determine the equipment that is most needed, and how space can be best allocated. We want to hear from casual gym users to learn about what you enjoy most out of your trips to the gym. And we want to hear from non-users to help us figure out how to make the buildings more accessible and inviting than they are now.
Last week, I had the opportunity to visit the recently renovated recreational facilities at the University of Illinois and Purdue University with Building a Better Michigan and the Rec Sports architects. The facilities were immaculate. Full of natural lighting and modern equipment, the buildings were everything that a gym needs to be. However, I was most impressed by the community that the buildings helped to build. It was clear that students enjoyed their time at the gym.
With upcoming renovations to the IM Building, CCRB and NCRB, I believe that future Michigan students will have a greater opportunity to fulfill the vision of a Michigan Wolverine as a scholar and athlete. As students, we must ensure that our voices are represented in the renovation process. The Rec Sports buildings have played an integral role in my time as a Michigan student, and I hope to leave a legacy so that future Michigan students can have the same experience in facilities that are only fitting for the leaders and the best.
Jacob Light is an LSA Junior.