On Mondays and Tuesdays, nearly 5,000 MU students pass through the MU Recreation Complex to participate in a variety of activities as diverse as yoga classes and mountain climbing.
Sophomore Rachel Watkins, an exchange student from England, goes nearly every day to use one of the complex’s 77 pieces of cardiovascular equipment. She says she will miss the facility when she returns home in May.
In September, Sports Illustrated On Campus named the complex the best rec center in the nation. And in April, the complex will receive the 2006 Outstanding Sport Facility Award from the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association.
The recent awards confirm what students are already saying about the facility.
“Anywhere (else) they go is really not going to compare,” said junior Sara Mijares.
The complex has come a long way during its $50 million renovation. Meg Dimsa, the facility’s strength and conditioning coordinator, said it is “something like I’ve never seen.”
Other facilities are just big boxes, Dimsa said. But the MU complex has a unique design, complete with themed rooms, plasma and LCD TVs and nearly $1 million worth of equipment. Members are getting more out of it than just a workout.
Freshman Aaron Chrisman said he goes to the complex to meet people and work out with friends.
“It provides a place for me to waste time if I am bored,” he said.
The décor and state-of-the-art equipment certainly don’t hurt the complex’s status. But it is the 300-person staff that makes the facility great, said Diane Dahlmann, its director.
“We take extraordinary care in the types of students that we hire and the types of training that we provide those students,” Dahlmann said.
TigerX is a group exercise program that offers more than 105 hours of classes, such as cycling and body sculpting, each week. Staff members are held to high standards, said Mijares, a TigerX instructor. The application process for an instructor includes attending a TigerX class, auditioning and interviewing. Within six months of getting hired, instructors must complete CPR training and earn national certification from the Aerobic and Fitness Association of America.
TigerX has more than 1,700 members. Dahlmann said that, by providing an assortment of classes with varying intensities, the program is designed to meet a variety of needs. The center also provides comfortable spaces to eat, study or relax.
“We’re just always trying to cater to what participants want and need,” Mijares said.
But the popularity also brings problems.
“One of the biggest challenges we face is the amount of use our equipment gets,” Dimsa said. She said some treadmills have more than 15,000 miles on them.
Despite having 77 pieces of cardiovascular equipment, the complex still needs more, Dimsa said. Lines often form during peak times, and patrons are asked to abide by a 30-minute rule.
“You just wait in line like everybody else,” said senior Nick Voll, who visits the complex from 2 to 4 p.m. daily.
The busiest days are Monday through Thursday, with Monday being the most popular. The number of visitors ranges from 3,000 on the weekend to 5,000 on a Monday or Tuesday. During a weekday, the busiest times are from 6 to 8 a.m., noon to 1 p.m., 3 to 7 p.m. and after 9 p.m., Dahlmann said. Weather also plays a role in how much the center is used. The beginning of winter semester is always busier, which Dahlmann attributes to post-New Year’s motivation.
“Some people enjoy the peak times, when there are more students in the place, even if the occasional wait for the machine of choice is inconvenient,” Dahlmann said. “Those are the times when it is more social.”
Seniors Nakoya Moss and Nicole Hill frequent the complex on Wednesdays and Fridays after class and on Sundays. At first, they were annoyed when it was busy. But when treadmills were clogged up, Moss and Hill began using bikes and the indoor track.
“We found we liked (the track) better,” Moss said.
With all the traffic, keeping up with cleaning is a never-ending job.
Gum is a major housekeeping issue, as are hair and lint from clothing, Dahlmann said. The cleaning staff comes in before the complex opens and works until 11 a.m.
In the Jungle Gym room of the complex, each shift during the day is responsible for doing thorough equipment cleaning. With all the newer equipment, things are running pretty smoothly right now, said Dimsa, who manages the room.
While the physical construction of the complex is finished, there are still some minor projects to wrap up. Dahlmann expects the landscaping in the front yard and around the outdoor pool, called Truman’s Pond, to be finished by the spring. Outdoor lighting and Truman’s Pond brick repair are also in the works.
“By and large, the project is considered finished,” Dahlmann said. “We’re very happy with the way the spaces have been performing for our students.”