Campus Gym Out of Shape?

The Julianne Argyros Fitness Center lacks an expansion plan 

Students complain, SGA listens, but there is still not a definitive plan to expand the facilities and the resources available to Chapman students who want to stay in shape.

It’s a scene many Chapman students know too well, and what some would say is a formula for Julianne Argyros Fitness Center: cramped spaces, sticky yoga mats, high-demand machinery and too many sweaty people.

“I really thought the gym would be nicer considering how the rest of campus is and how much we pay for Chapman” said Meileen Cereno, a junior kinesiology major. “I just wish it was bigger and cleaner.”

The facility and overall lack of space is something that Mike Keyser, the assistant director of the fitness center, recognizes.

When we compare our facilities to similar institutions across the campus, we are clearly lacking in size, programming, and resources,” Keyser said, adding that he and the Student Government Association (SGA) are working to expand the fitness center.

Even after a $750,000 renovation of the Julianne Argyros Fitness Center in 2013 that brought new equipment, lighting, flooring and audio equipment, Keyser said “it was quickly clear that (the renovation) was probably not big enough” to handle the demand. Now more than ever, students want expansion.

I have been actively working on fitness expansion for the last 6 months,” SGA President Mitchell Rosenberg said. “Last year alone, over 115,000 check-ins were recorded. Because of this and because of constant feedback we receive from students about this, we know that the fitness center must be expanded and we are currently working to do just that.”

The most spacious area of the gym, which students use for stretching and body-weight exercises, is often crowded | Photo by LOU VANHECKE

However, Rosenberg said the conversations about expansion are in their preliminary phase, and there is no timeline of when a gym renovation could occur. Kris Olson, the vice president of campus planning and operations, said that the space on campus, that theoretically could’ve housed a bigger gym, has been alloted to the new science and technology center. In addition, Chief Operating Officer Harold Hewitt said that he is not current with the discussion of gym expansion.

The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), which is a well-recognized green building rating system, conducted a survey examining the top 20 gyms in the United States. California State University Fullerton, California State University Long Beach, and California State University Northridge all made the list, and each gym offers more than 2.5 square feet of space per student.

Chapman’s gym would need to be about 20,000 square feet to be in line with LEED and Best Value School’s ranking. The on-campus gym is about 4,000 square feet, averaging less than one half of a square foot of space per student.

Keyser said that statistic is not surprising, and that the Chapman gym does need more space.

Despite this recognition, Chapman’s gym remains underdeveloped.

“I think it’s ridiculous that we don’t have a bigger gym, especially since schools similar to our size have massive facilities,” said Danielle Pomeroy, a senior creative writing major. “So many students have to get gym memberships for gyms off campus even though their tuition includes paying for their membership at the school gym.”

Rosenberg said that SGA is researching gyms belonging to universities similar in size and stature to Chapman.

“Obviously, Chapman is limited in physical space, which allows us less opportunity to meet the very large fitness centers some universities do have,” he said.

Student employees of the center have also noticed the need for improvement.

I think that sometimes it’s hard when schedules only allow for a work out during really busy hours,” said Melanie Rutledge, a junior sociology major and Guest Relations Coordinator of Operations at the gym. “Expansion would be beneficial. The gym is still up and running, but could use work.

One of the most common student complaints is the lack of equipment and machines in the gym.

“A lot of the equipment, especially the cardio machines, regularly break down and then take awhile to be repaired,” Pomeroy said.

At one point, Pomeroy claimed, a stairmaster was broken for about two to three months before being fixed, which was confirmed by other students. Senior biology major Dylan Blumberg added that there are missing machines that students would like to see in the gym.

With resources thin, it’s not uncommon for students to get  off-campus gym memberships. With gyms like 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness, and Equinox a short drive from campus, cleaner workout areas and more exercise classes are enough incentive for some students to ditch the campus gym – but this isn’t an option for everyone.

Memberships vary from $25 per month to $185 per month, which many students won’t or can’t pay for, and many students don’t have cars.

“I’d like to get an off-campus gym membership, however I’m a poor college student and can not afford a gym membership,” Blumberg said. “I wish that our onsite gym would be more accommodating, especially considering how much we pay for tuition.”

Pomeroy has taken a strategic approach to make the facility work for her needs. She goes to the gym at 7 or 7:30 a.m. to avoid the crowds, one of students’ biggest contentions with the facility. She also said that as a powerlifter, the crowds can affect the quality of her workout.

“When I’m squatting or deadlifting, I really need to see my form in the mirror in front of me but people who have nowhere else to go will stand directly in front of me,” Pomeroy said. “They will use that open space even if they don’t necessarily need the mirror.”

Cereno said the crowds interfere with her workout plans.

Student gym employees confirmed that outside of students using sanitizing wipes on the mats, they never get cleaned | Photos by LOU VANHECKE

“The more crowded it is, the less productive I feel since so many people are using the equipment,” she said.  

For some students, not only are the crowds  inconvenient, but intimidating, and the battle for equipment has even made some female students uncomfortable when working out.

“When I’ve gone to the gym, the weight section is filled with all these men that are doing huge weights. If I was alone, I’d grab my fifteen pounds weights and be scared. It’s intimidating,”senior IES major Brianna Carcione said.

Carcione said that she believes a bigger space with areas dedicated to different types of  workouts would help the situation.

Expansion is not guaranteed so in the meantime, students can access alternative means of getting their work out in. This includes the Doti-Struppa Rock Wall, the Henley Basement gym, and the Panther Village gym.

These alternatives, however, do come with setbacks of their own.

“I use the on campus gym because at least it is better than the gym at Panther Village” said Panther Village resident and junior history major Ben McDonell. “The gym at Panther Village hardly has any equipment and it’s so small. All there is is ellipticals and kettlebells. There is nothing I could do there.”

The Doti-Struppa Rock Wall, although now open, was shut for maintenance and a brief renovation. Chad Sloggett, a sophomore environmental science major, applied to work in the Rock Wall Center because he found it a good alternative to the gym.

“I applied to be a staff member at the end of my freshman year because I thought being paid to climb sounded like a dream,” he said. “For the past six months, I’ve been working in the fitness center.”

Sloggett  hopes the rockwall will continue to serve as a way for him and others to stay fit.

The fitness center in the Chapman Grand apartments, which includes an indoor rock wall | Photo by MAGGIE MAYER

With the purchase of the Chapman Grand complex in Anaheim, there will be another “mini-gym” added to the university’s collection. The gym resembles the Panther Village and Henley gyms in sc, and is equipped with cardio machines, a small rock wall and some weight machines.

Keyser said he hopes that the gym facilities on campus will expand and serve as a “hub” of fitness, considering that students, including Blumberg, wish that the “onsite gym would be more accommodating.”

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