Students ready to hit the gym this fall are in luck, as the University of Oregon’s Student Recreation Center is on track to open on September 21. Although the Rec Center will be under strict social distancing and safety guidelines, equipment will be available and many classes will still be offered.
Lynn Nester, the director of physical education and recreation, said that faculty at the Rec Center are working diligently to prepare for its reopening. According to Nester, the Rec Center must follow five different types of state guidance to reopen. Those include guidance on employee safety, higher education, fitness-related organizations, aquatic programs and recreational sports.
“We're having to really make sure that we're abiding by all those guidelines,” Nester said. “And then the other factor is the budget. Just because we could potentially do something from a state guidance perspective, we might not have the same funding available due to our financial situation.”
Hours will be limited at the Rec Center, due to a lack of funding from sources like student fees, according to Nester. Those hours have yet to be determined, but will be released later when more financial information is available, she said.
The Rec Center faculty are carefully planning and rearranging equipment in order to maintain the six-foot social distancing guideline, she said.
“There is an extensive spreadsheet with every single space that we have and the square footage of space in that particular court or studio or workout space,” Nester said, which enables them to map out where equipment should be placed.
Cycling classes are already being mapped out, according to Nester. Instead of classes being held inside the Wheel House, the bikes will be spread out in one of the Old Town Courts, with higher ceilings and more room to socially distance.
“We really want students and our community members and our faculty staff members of the Rec Center to feel comfortable and safe in the workout space and in classes,” Nester said.
The Rec Center will install a new on-site generator for cleaning and disinfecting chemicals, to prevent a shortage of cleaning supplies. This generator will provide safe cleaning chemicals for staff and patrons to use, according to Nester.
Mask requirements will follow state guidelines and will be required for common spaces, but not when using equipment.
Chantelle Russell, the associate director for physical education, said there will be a full schedule of PE classes available, as well as Group X classes. These classes will be offered in person, online or in a hybrid model. Members with a Group X pass will be able to attend in-person or online classes.
For in-person classes, class sizes will be reduced and they will be held in larger studios with designated workout stations, Russell said. Equipment sharing will also be reduced. There will be 30 minutes between classes for individuals to clean and wipe down equipment and for instructors to have more time to prepare.
“We actually had great success this spring with some online classes and students gave us some really valuable feedback in regards to what was working,” Russell said. “Lots of students said they felt really empowered and motivated that they were so capable to do it independently.”
The Rec Center will not be able to offer any contact sports, which means intramural sports will not be available fall term, but Russell said that she hoped intramural sports could resume winter term.
“Yes, we know we have to keep our distance, but we get this sense of collective joy when we do it with other people,” Russell said about exercising. “So we really want to make sure we can still facilitate some of that social piece of movement while doing so with safe distancing.”
As for returning in the fall, Russell and Nester said they couldn’t wait to see students again.
“We are just looking forward to being with the students,” Russell said. “Especially at the Rec Center where you know we thrive around helping people be active and moving.”
“I'm excited about getting our doors back open and seeing students,” Nester said. “I mean, we do what we do because we love students — we want to provide awesome experiences for them.”