The Rec records highest number of students swiping in since 2019

This year’s entry count of 20,906 for the Rec in the first week of the semester is a 4.7% increase from 2019. ORACLE PHOTO/JUSTIN SEECHARAN

The Recreation and Wellness Center has seen surges of students using the facility, resulting in frustrations for those trying to get a workout in.

Complaints have risen specifically because of how crowded the Rec is, which has led to longer queues for exercise machines and equipment.

In the first week of the fall semester, 20,906 students entered the Rec, according to Director of Recreation and Wellness Jay Souza. This represents an increase from last year’s first week in which 15,405 students entered.

“These are actually normal patterns that we wanted to get back to,” Souza said. “I’m actually happy to see the numbers come back to where they were pre-COVID.”

The last time the Rec had numbers like this year was in 2019 when 19,967 students entered the Rec the first week of the fall semester.

In regard to any plans to alleviate the overflow, Souza said his team will be revising the Rec’s space and assuring its functionality. Old and unpopular cardio machines will be removed to create a functional and conducive space on the second level, according to Souza.

Some students continue to struggle with the Rec as they find themselves in the midst of a dense population at most times.

Evan Miller, freshman secondary social science education major and dedicated powerlifter, said the Rec is a constant in his life. It provides a space for self-improvement where Miller can clear his thoughts.

Having a strict regimen that requires him to use the deadlift platforms, Miller said he had waited as long as an hour to get the chance to start his workout.

“I’ve had to wait too long for a squat rack and the deadlift platforms,” he said. “[It’s been at least up to] an hour sometimes. I’m just willing to wait for it because I like to deadlift so I’m going to wait if I have to.”

The Rec updated its hours this semester as well. It now opens at 6:30 a.m. and closes at 10:30 p.m., compared to its previous hours of 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. These changes were prompted by budgetary constraints, which are set by Student Government, according to Souza.

“Unfortunately, we had to look at the data for our most utilized times of the day and least utilized times of the day to make the budget work,” Souza said. “We had to adjust to the current budgetary limits.”

USF’s other on-campus gyms, The FIT and WELL, are other options for students to use if they find the Rec to be too full, according to Souza. ORACLE PHOTO/MARGO CHIPMAN

Aided by the shortened hours, senior health science major Matthew Smith said even what used to be slow times are now busy. He often finds himself working out with strangers and having to wait for other students to finish using machines.

“I have to wait on people that take 15 minutes to do three things and that makes our workout an hour and a half or two hours,” Smith said.

Although she has found herself among the least impacted students, junior chemical engineering major Reut Gare recognized that the crowds in the gym have deeply affected other students like Miller. She said the Rec was an open gym for all, yet many have been forced to deal with long queues to use just one machine.

“It’s really hard to live with it,” Gare said. “I would say for the machines that are really popular here that are limited, like the leg press, they should definitely get more of those. If they attend to that and bring more machines that people are always in line for, that could definitely help.”

Even Shizelle Taylor, a junior nursing major, who works at the Rec has witnessed a noticeable difference. She said at the beginning of the spring and summer semesters she saw an influx of students that normally dropped. However, it hasn’t tapered off this semester.

“[Students] would visit for the first two weeks and then die down,” Taylor said. “But now people are staying in.”

Although she doesn’t think the addition of new machines will remedy the spike, Taylor said the Rec will better utilize underused spaces in the gym to divert the flow of students through repurposing. One project in the works is building a rock climbing wall to replace a former racquetball court.

Taylor noted that people are checking out more equipment, especially basketballs, to the point where they have run out and have had to turn people away.

Souza encourages students to make use of other facilities besides the Rec. He said the other fitness centers on campus like The WELL and The FIT are other viable options for students’ fitness needs.

“[An influx of students] is what we typically see … I’d love to have an expansion plan, but it’s going to cost a significant amount of money,” Souza said. “I wish I could double the size but we just have to wait until we have the means to do that.”