The UA community has a lot to look forward to this upcoming semester as the Student Recreation Center undergoes a major facelift and employs the campus Inclusive Excellence initiative.
“What we wanted to make sure of was that campus rec is a welcoming environment,” said Michele Schwitzky, interim Director of Programs.
Records from an LGBTQ Center survey five years ago found that many UA students felt uncomfortable and unsafe when asked about their past locker room experiences. This data led the Rec Center administration to designate two restrooms for all genders.
“That was just a Band-Aid, and we knew that this was not going to meet the needs of all people,” Schwitzky said. “We discovered that that is not the only community that didn’t feel comfortable.”
Open conversations with gym members provided the discussions necessary for potential resolutions.
Schwitzky said faculty members and families with small children expressed concerns about showering, changing and getting dressed in the open. This need for more privacy was a central factor during the planning process.
The implemented plan, contracted by Lloyd Construction Company, will result in the building of 14 new all-gendered cabanas. Single shower rooms will be replaced with individual shower stalls within gendered areas.
The old locker rooms’ outdated design also made ensuring access for people with disabilities complicated.
“They were built in a time where requirements for accessibility weren’t there,” Assistant Director of Marketing and Communications Tara Watson explained. “So we have done things in the meantime to make sure wheelchairs … could obtain accessibility, too.”
The locker rooms, which were built in 1990 during initial construction of the center, were exposed to inevitable wear and tear over the years. Watson said the quick fixes were temporarily effective but problems were recurring.
“We uncovered a lot of barriers for people and that got us excited because we are making a huge difference by doing this renovation for our members,” Schwitzky said. “And we are leading most of the country about doing an all-gendered space and more private space.”
Total renovation charges amount to about $5 million. Funds accumulated from the mandatory health and recreation fees, which are shared with campus health, help support the building project. However, the majority of the money came from auxiliary accounts, according to Schwitzky.
“We’re really diligent about funds – it was like saving for a new house,” she said.
After budgeting for operating costs, the increased dues from incoming freshmen will go toward future Student Recreation Center developments.
“You know, you can keep putting in more money to repair it, but it makes more sense to stop throwing that money away and repair it to current standards,” Watson said.
Demolition of the gym’s locker rooms began in May and renovations are likely to finish during mid to late August. A grand opening ceremony is in the works.
Two portable shower trailers are available for use on the pool deck until the project is complete. Students who paid their university fees for the previous Fall and Spring semesters are now given free admittance during the summer.
For more information on the UA recreation renovation or for updates, please visit rec.arizona.edu.
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