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Rec and IMs continue to operate, adjust to new measures

Channing Wang/Thresher

By Daniel Schrager     9/1/20 7:24pm

At a time when many gyms and recreation centers across the country are shuttering their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Rice’s Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center, which reopened from a temporary closure on Aug. 3, is taking a number of measures in order to remain open. 

“We’ve worked hard to try and keep it safe, so that [students] can keep [their] health up and [their] fitness up,” Senior Associate Athletic Director-Recreation Tina Villard said in a YouTube video posted by Rice in mid-August.

According to Assistant Director for Competitive Sports Chris Watkins, the most notable changes have been efforts to reduce the Rec’s capacity. In order to ensure that the gym does not fill beyond a safe capacity, access is available by reservation only. Students can reserve appointments in the weight room, cardio room or pool. Reservations are made on the Rec’s website on a first-come, first-serve basis, and can be made anywhere between 12 hours to five days in advance.

“Our plan is to reopen the facility in phases, with limitations [on] occupancy and programming expanding each phase,” Watkins said. “How quickly we move through the phases will depend on guidance from the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and [Environmental Protection Agency], the regulatory laws of the state and the health of our community.”

The Rec also mandates that visitors are required to wear masks at all times. The equipment is distanced and sanitized after each workout, and guest passes (for non-students) are no longer being sold in order to limit exposure to people who are not subject to Rice’s COVID-19 protocols.

For the most part, the reopening has gone smoothly according to most reports. Watkins said that the Rec feels as though these measures have been working to keep students and employees safe.

One problem has appeared though: according to a number of students, reservations are incredibly hard to find.

According to the Rec’s website, reservations can be very difficult to come by. Particularly with the weight room, spots fill up very quickly. At the time of this publication, while there were as many as 24 reservations open in some time slots for the cardio room, there is not a single reservation open for the weight room in the next week. 

“[Appointments] fill up within 10 to 15 minutes [of being posted],” said Zach Rewolinski, a sophomore at Hanszen College who visits the Rec regularly. “[A friend and I] set alarms on our phones so that we know when to sign up.”

In all other facets, however, Rewolinski has been impressed with how the Rec has handled its reopening.

“Once I get an appointment, I feel completely safe going,” he said. “[The problem] is just the reservation system.”

As for intramural sports, the Rec has created a schedule of modified events that meet COVID-19 safety standards. This schedule includes some in-person sports, as well as 15 esports offerings. 

According to Watkins, in-person offerings include both individual sports that can be played at a proper distance, and modified team sports such as team home-run derby, or punt, pass and kick competitions.

“Each in-person competition has been adapted to support the current physical distancing guidelines,” Watkins said.

These measures have made going to the Rec very different than it has been in the past. While it may take time for students to fully adjust to them, they have allowed the Rec to remain open during this unique semester.

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