Recreation Center warns students of endangered access to equipment rentals

By Paul Bagnall

Daily Collegian File Photo

The University of Massachusetts’ Recreation Center has always been willing to lend students shower and locker room equipment. But with equipment increasingly going missing last semester, that luxury has come under threat.

Stolen shower towels are nothing new for the Recreation Center, but more recently the locks for the lockers have also been going missing and there has been an increase in missing towels.

Due to the amount of towels that are stolen, the Recreation Center runs out every two weeks.

“It’s been ongoing since opening,” facility manager Roger Heimerman said.

John Blihar, who has been the Director of Campus Recreation for the past two years, hopes that making students aware of the problem will prevent the staff from having to make any unnecessary changes to their system of free equipment rentals.

Replacements for the towels cost upwards of $9,000 per year, and around 40 dozen towels were estimated to have been taken since last semester, averaging to about 10 towels per week. Each missing towel is replaced with a colored one to distinguish the old towels from the new.

Some believe the loss is not accidental.

“It’s not that hard to lose them,” said Stephanie Kwon, a biochemistry and molecular biology major.

This year, about 600 locks were replaced in order to meet the demand for this semester.

The Recreation Center’s inventory system is based on sight, so there’s no clear amount of how many towels and locks have been taken over the past year. It’s an ”old school” system of keeping the equipment in check, according to Heimerman.

Part of the problem with the stolen equipment is the long line that can form at the check-in desk. Last week alone, 29,000 people visited the Recreation Center, according to Blihar.

“We’re the ‘fun people’ on campus, we want people to enjoy themselves when they come here,” Blihar said.

If the Recreation Center were to start charging students for equipment rentals, staff would research schools that charge for such services and base their costs on that. Blihar recalled that at Florida State, where he previously worked, the fee for towels was $16 per semester.

One of the Recreation Center’s goals when it opened in December 2009 was to be customer oriented. Blihar and the other staff members hope that this warning will make students less likely to steal an extra towel for their dorm room.

Paul Bagnall can be reached at [email protected]