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Recreation Center still waiting on permits before opening

In a release sent on Oct. 6 to University of Massachusetts students by athletic director John McCutcheon, the delay in opening UMass’ new recreation center was explained as a result of needing to “document and verify that all safety systems are operating.”

The release also stated that it “may take several weeks” to get an occupancy permit from the state building inspector.

“They should have taken care of these inspections over the summer so that it would be ready by the time they said it would be,” said sophomore Mike Powers.

Officials from campus recreation refused to comment over the phone on the building’s delay in opening.

According to Ed Blaguszewski, director of News and Information at UMass, “The process is still underway. The way this works is that in order for [the recreation center] to open there has to be an overall occupancy permit that is approved by the state building inspector, and there are multiple elements to that because there are many systems within the building. There is heating, ventilation, electrical, and fire safety—those are just examples of the type of systems in any building that a building inspector must approve. There are also different people that will assess and certify the different systems.” So really my understanding is that essentially what we’re doing is focusing on the fire safety systems.

 “All I know is that they don’t have all the permits [to open],” said Patrick Callahan, Associate News Editor from UMass’ news and media relations office.  “I just know they’re still working to get some kind of safety permits.”

At the present time, it is unclear what specific permits, other than an occupancy permit, are needed to clear the building for use. Additionally, it is also unclear whether gaining these permits was budgeted into the original plans of opening the building or if the managers of the recreation center did not predict needing these permits.

According to Blaguszewski, the cost of the building for students and UMass will not be altered by this delay in opening because “it is the responsibility of the contractor to finish the job.”

“It’s a very complicated process,” said Blaguszewski about the process of gaining approval from the building inspectors. “It’s a state of the art building, and there are a lot of safety things involved. It took longer than we expected to open the building, but we did have a very aggressive and ambitious schedule to get the building done.  It is still going to be a great building.”

During the Family Weekend tour of the recreation center, students and families were told that the Recreation Center’s opening would only be delayed from Monday, Sept. 28 to Wednesday, Sept. 30.

After seeing the recreation center during the Family Weekend tour, sophomore Courtney MacFarland, a sports management major, said about the recreation center, “It’s perfect. I was worried there weren’t going to be enough machines, but there are plenty for every student. It’s the best gym I’ve ever seen.”

“We had hoped to finish this earlier,” said Blaguszewski. “But [the opening of the recreation center] took a little longer than anticipated. The important context to keep in mind is that this is a building that has been hoped for by students for many, many years.  In the short-term, it is a little frustrating that we couldn’t get it open as soon as we would have liked, but students really will have a great time using it when it opens within the next few weeks.” 

Blaguszewski also said that they are currently on the same “timetable” the press release on Oct. 6 sent to students outlined; therefore the building should be open after inspections in a few weeks.

Alyssa Creamer can be reached at acreamer@student.umass.edu.

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