As construction workers take the place of varsity athletes in the empty shell of Sam Carver Gymnasium, the Wade King Student Recreation Center has become the university’s central athletic training facility. The change has forced rec center staff and users to adapt to limited space.
The renovation has impacted the athletic teams, resulting in basketball, track and field and cheer to all spend their practices in the rec center. Athletes haven’t been the only ones affected. Intramurals, classes and everyday users of the center now must share the space with each other, and the privacy that was once provided with separate buildings is lacking.
The rec center typically averages about 2,100 users a day, not including the additional groups that have been using the center since the Carver Gym renovation started, said rec center director Adam Leonard. Since the renovation started, the rec center has maintained its amount of average users, said Leonard. This number excludes the athletes that have relocated their practices to the rec center. In total, team members and coaching staff for men’s and women’s basketball, track and field and the cheer team total 129 additional rec center users.
“This is a transition time and it is impacting students, however we have a great project. The Carver Gym renovation is a huge project and it’s going to mean so many great things for so many different entities,” Leonard said.
Inside the rec center, the MAC Gym and Court C are currently used by varsity athletics, along with other activities. Between basketball practices and fitness classes, the MAC Gym is typically used the entire day. In Court C, volleyball practices and intramural games take the court, leaving the space open from about 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. for open recreation, according to the rec center’s website.
Bob Hofstetter, associate director of Facilities and Operations for the rec center, notes the adjustments for the teams were made to accommodate everyone.
“It can be difficult having all the athletic teams coordinating around one facility,” Hofstetter said.
Head athletic trainer Lonnie Lyon has found the transition from Carver Gym to the rec center to be difficult, but worth the promise of a future new facility for the athletics department.
“We don’t have the convenience of our own space and access to equipment that we need when we’re able to get it,” Lyon said. “Having to put up with some inconveniences and some distractions being in a different place, I think, is all very within acceptable parameters because the big picture is that we’re going to be getting a building that’s going to be newer and a lot more convenient for the athletes.”
Due to restricted space, the rec center has worked to accommodate all users of the center, Leonard said.
“We have made some adjustments to make sure that we’re having longer hours at the climbing wall, we are doing more activities for intramurals on [Robert S. Harrington Field] as well as the turf field to make sure that we can offer different options,” Leonard said.
Senior Elena Silesky, who has been involved in intramural sports including volleyball and soccer throughout her time at Western, feels disappointed about the MAC gym being closed off to students, she said.
“It’s a bummer,” Silesky said. “I’ve been using it for the past three years.”
Tony Dominguez, head coach for Western’s men’s basketball team, said there is a difference in practicing where you play, but thinks his team has adjusted fine to the MAC Gym, he said.
“It’s definitely not convenient,” Dominguez said. “I think the university has done a really good job to alleviate any stress level.”
Due to several groups using the rec center, the men’s basketball team, along with others, has had to adjust to less practice time.
“We don’t have as much time as we’re used to having; we’re sharing a facility with many different groups,” Dominguez said.
Additional adjustments made for teams and students include setting up a privacy curtain for physical education classes and athletes to prevent a crowd of onlookers through the large MAC Gym windows.
Locker rooms housed in temporary trailers and shipping containers have also been added to the outside of the rec center for student athletes to use and prevent overcrowding the locker rooms.
“I think the rec center has been fabulous with their ability to work with us and their being so gracious in allowing us to come to a happy medium between the rec center operations and the athletics operations,” Lyon said.
Basketball and volleyball home games are now being held at Whatcom Community College while Carver Gym remains unavailable.
The projected end date for the Carver Gym renovation is spring 2017.
The new facility will house classes in the health and human development, extended education and the recreation department, along with varsity athletics.
Students who currently use the rec center for personal use will also benefit from the completion of the project as the rec center becomes more available for use, Leonard said.
“I think if we just keep our sights on the big picture, I think everybody will be hunky-dory with this temporary set-up,” Lyon said.
To avoid the rec center space crunch, Leonard suggests that users of the rec center check out online schedules, he said.