Against the ropes

Students driving on Fletcher Avenue may have noticed the giant castle-shaped obstacle course residing at River Front Park. At first glance it resembles something out of Pirates of the Caribbean, but upon closer inspection students will find a new ropes course provided by Campus Recreation.

The course opened in early January, replacing the old ropes course, which was badly in need of renovation. The course cost approximately $45,000 and was funded by line-item requests in A&S fees over the past two years. Rather than repair the old course, it was decided that a new, more dynamic course should be built in its place.

“We had been thinking about replacing (the old ropes course) for a couple of years,” said Eric Hunter, acting director of Campus Recreation. “The old course was showing its age. We decided to build a new one rather than replacing the poles and cables for the old course. The course was at the point where the next inspection might not be safe.”

The new course is more accessible to larger parties. The old course allowed one person to use it at a time and did not have the capability to service a group of people.

“The one major difference between the courses is that the old course was a static course where one person at a time could go up and several (were) working the ropes,” Hunter said. “The new one is a dynamic course. We can accommodate up to 20 people at the same time on the high ropes course … it allows you to have your own safety harness.”

The ropes course has primarily been used by campus organizations since opening in January. Student awareness about the location and availability of the ropes course is relatively low. Some students attribute that to lack of communication between the University and the students.

“I didn’t know until today that there was a ropes course,” said Wade Bishop, a graduate student in library science. “Massive amounts of money spent and no marketing to back it up. I didn’t know until today that there was a pirate ship ropes course. That sounds like a dream.”

Student body President Bijal Chhadva disagrees, claiming that the course was constructed at the request of the students. “I don think it was too much because it’s something students have asked for,” Chhadva said. “Lots of student organizations have used it for team building and have had a good time.”

Some notifications have been posted in the Recreation Center but have not caught the attention of the average student.

“I haven’t heard anything about it,” said Jeff Pirozzi, a freshman architecture student. “I stumbled upon it when my friends and I went to the softball fields. I’m in both of the gyms all the time and I can’t recall seeing anything posted about the ropes course.”

Elizabeth Kozlowski, a senior in art history, sees the problem with promotion of the ropes course as an example of a major concern within the USF campus.

“There is no network to let students know what is going on. I think that is a big problem on this campus,” Kozlowski said. “There is a huge lack of communication with the students; no one informs the students of anything that is going on on campus.”

While the average student hasn’t taken advantage of the ropes course, that doesn’t mean the course itself isn’t seeing good use. According to Melissa Spratt, who is in charge of trip reservations at Campus Recreations, the ropes course already has half a dozen groups booked for the course in April, with three more groups waiting on confirmation. “I recommend giving a month’s notice,” Spratt said. “(The course) is something different. It’s new every time.”

Spratt added that Greek, religious, multicultural, ROTC and campus organizations have gotten the most use out of the course up to this point. Hunter believes that the course is beneficial to anyone wanting to try something new.

“I think that the opportunity for student leadership development comes through big time on a course like this,” Hunter said. “We get all sorts of organizations that utilize the course, and for them to be able to interact and recognize strengths and weaknesses gives them an opportunity to grow. The teamwork concept is primary; another concept is that it develops individual self-confidence.”