Students hoping to shed a few pounds before warmer weather and shorter hemlines come may soon find an incentive to get in shape by using new campus gym equipment.
The University’s Department of Recreational Sports has started facility renovations this academic year. With a total of $1.6 million allocated for the project, the revamp includes 60 new cardio machines, television installations and the refurnishing of lobbies and locker rooms at the Intramural Sports Building, Central Campus Recreational Building and North Campus Recreational Building.
The funding came from the University’s vice president for student affairs and the provost’s office. E. Royster Harper, the University’s Vice President for Student Affairs, served as commissioner of a yearlong recreational facility-planning study that will be released this month. The study will expose further areas for improvement and longer-term projects apart from those that will use the $1.6 million for Recreational Sports facilities, according to William Canning, director of Recreational Sports at the University.
All the renovations, including those that will potentially be done as a result of the upcoming study, will take approximately five to 10 years, according to Canning. The funding will potentially extend gym hours and increase programs and the number of staff members.
By replacing old equipment, Canning said the University will save money in the long term since upkeep of broken-down machines amasses substantial fees.
“The older equipment was costing us so much time, labor and money for the replacement parts of some of the old treadmills that we’ve already seen some significant savings in our expense budget because we have new equipment that are now under warranty,” Canning said.
Equipment replacements and locker room overhauls are already underway, and the department is currently in the process of installing cable television in some cardio rooms at each gym, he said. The renovation funding will also be used to install AstroTurf on Elbel Field. The funding has already been used to replace the roof and upkeep of the University’s ropes challenge course located on Dixboro Road, according to Canning.
To garner student input on the renovations, the Department of Recreational Sports held student focus groups last year and throughout the summer, Canning said.
LSA junior Jessica Kraft, who participated in multiple focus groups, said that as a member of the club softball team she is forced to play at Ann Arbor city parks rather than on University property because there is no regulation field. Since her team travels to other universities, she said she was able to compare their facilities to those of the University and gauge how they can be improved.
Kraft said she felt the University took student feedback into consideration when developing the final renovation plans. She said while the project may not be exactly what she would hope for, the University strived to incorporate the student perspective.
“Because of the size of the student body, it’s hard to capture our voice,” Kraft said. “It’s hard to know what the students want because we’re here for a couple years, and we’re gone, and a project like this is going to take a lot of time.”
The study that Harper commissioned will call for continued expansion of space at the gyms to more efficiently accommodate the growing student body, according to Canning. Recommendations for wireless Internet service, food areas and more are to be included in the report.
The University’s student body was the largest ever during the fall 2010 semester with 41,924 students enrolled at the Ann Arbor campus. There were 3.1 percent more undergraduates than the previous year — due partly to a bigger freshman class than originally estimated — and 6.7 percent more graduate and professional students.
According to Canning, the study calls for almost a doubling of square footage and an increase from three to 12 general recreation rooms like those used for U-Move classes.
Canning said one reason Recreational Sports building renovations may not have been a top priority for funding allocation in past years is that gyms are often used as draws for recruiting students and increasing retention rates at universities — problems the University doesn’t struggle with. However, Canning said initiatives like renovating the gyms and residence halls are more of a “quality of life” issue at the University rather than incentives to bring in more tuition money.
“My job is to make sure … that it’s a good experience when you come in the facilities,” Canning said. “It will be a bright, better experience for students to come in and get healthy.”
Building closures will depend on the magnitude of renovations, Canning said, but there will always be a gym open on campus.
LSA sophomore Ida Ahmadizadeh said she regularly goes to the gym but still views the University’s facilities as “abysmal,” especially in comparison to those at other schools.
“Other schools are so much nicer, they actually have televisions and machines from this century … and they’re cleaner,” she said.
LSA freshman Dylan Margalit said the gyms are often crowded and that while he enjoys using the IM building, he dislikes the overall layout of the CCRB.
“There are all these different rooms and each one’s a little box, and you don’t have much space,” he said. “It gets a little claustrophobic.”
LSA freshman Kendal Noonan said though she doesn’t use the gyms often, she thinks they’re sufficient. She said she doesn’t foresee the renovations leading to an influx in use among students.
“I don’t really think it will make that much of a difference to students,” Noonan said. “Obviously if it’s nicer it’s going to be more pleasant when you’re there, but I don’t necessarily think that means that you’ll go more. If it’s not in your routine to go to the gym, you’re not going to go to the gym just because it’s nicer.”