Massachusetts Daily Collegian

New Recreation Center is a knockout

By Nick O'Malley

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I’ll admit it. I was pretty mad about the new Recreation Center being delayed a month for vague inspection reasons. But you know what? People got pissed about the new Facebook too. Look at the travesty that turned out to be.

            After actually entering the building and experiencing firsthand what it offers, though, it’s kind of hard to remain angry. It seems, for the first time in a while, a project has been implemented on this campus and has actually met expectations.

            In short, the new Rec Center is freaking awesome.

            The glowing reviews have been pouring across campus since the building opened last Friday. It’s really an impressive facility. It’s almost like it doesn’t belong here. The entire time I was in the Rec Center, the fear in the back of my mind was that Boston University was going to show up and say “Oh, that’s where we left this. Sorry, we’re taking this back.”

            Out of the many projects the University of Massachusetts administration has gone through to improve the campus, this is easily the most successful. Specifically, the Rec Center is going to be a success because it’s all of the things that a lot of people in this area can’t stand (flashy, expensive, a pure luxury). By being that, though, the Rec Center can be what the school really needs: a landmark facility to attract students.

            In a sense, UMass is a campus of good – rarely great. It’s considered a good school academically. The sports teams are good. The food is above average but taken for granted. Sure, the accumulation of good thing after good thing makes this campus a great place, but UMass has always lacked a knockout punch for recruiting students. There’s rarely an aspect of this school that makes a student on a tour go, “Holy crap, that thing’s awesome. I’m so coming here.”

            If it’s really the intention of the administration to bring this school up to the standards of the Boston Colleges of the world, it has to do at least one thing that it can absolutely say it does better. The Rec Center is that thing that the University can just absolutely nail. It’s what can make a high school senior that wants to go somewhere else say “but UMass has that.”

            The new Integrated Sciences Building was cool, but what all non-science majors can really do is walk through the lobby and be jealous while they wallow in Bartlett, Herter or Machmer. The W.E.B. Du Bois library is a nice aspect, but the elevators are terrible and gets old after five tour guides talk about it. The Mullins Center is nice, but can’t consistently serve students.

            While there is an argument that we needed a fitness facility (we already have Totman and Boyden), the truth of the matter remains that those places aren’t good – at all.

            Boyden is always crowded, loud; it’s impossible to get a machine. It’s hot and looks like a sketchy basement. That’s great if you’re doing dead lifts and trying to make the varsity squad, but the athletic program already has an awesome gym in Boyden students can’t use. Totman meanwhile, isn’t a gym. Seriously, take the 30-minute walk over there and look at it. No one wants to work out in a closet with four machines. And by machines, I mean a treadmill, some weights and a bench.

            While it’s a drain on precious funds during a time when the school doesn’t have any, the Rec Center is beneficial to the school in the long run and the campus is better for it. For some, though, it kind of sucks.

            As you may have noticed by the graduate student protests, the Rec Center’s not free for everyone. According to the UMass website, to sign up today, a monthly membership to the facility is over $70 for registration until next September. For an annual membership? Grad students are expected to drop $323.53. If you plan on graduating, ever, that free Rec Center that just popped up is going to be a lot less free. For alumni, an annual membership, is $517.65 to sign up today.

            While that sucks for non-undergrads, the Rec Center was made to cater people from the ages of 17-23. They pay the $20,008 ($31,005 for out-of-state), and they get a free gym and all the cool shiny things.

            Unfair? Not really. College facilities should be marketed in the way that brings the campus the best recruits and servicing those students. That and every school comes around looking for money anyway. You can just say a gym membership is your pledge back to the school. That is, of course, for the small fraction of alumni who live in driving distance of the campus.

            The point is, in the end, that the facility is spectacular and one of the best things that the University has going for it and will be for some time.

            Is it expensive and essentially unavailable for a people outside of the undergraduate population? Perhaps. But that’s part of the allure. It’s the school saying to potential students, “We have this wicked sweet fitness center. Only you and other undergrads get to use it if you come here.”

            I’d buy it.

            Nick O’Malley is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]

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