By CARISSA ECONOMOS
Last year, the University of Tampa announced that they would be building a new recreation center, expected to open spring 2016. What an exciting time it was to be a UT student. At the time, the gym was comparable to the size of a shoe box, and it was surprising if all 10 machines were actually functioning properly. The thought of a new gym that could hold more than 20 of its 8,000 students was beyond exhilarating, truly a rush like none other. Although the grand opening of this beautiful new rec center was delayed by almost two semesters (spring and summer), when the automatic doors to this alluring facility finally opened, it was well worth the wait-or was it?
Walking into the smell of freshly painted walls and brand new tile was a nice touch, but when looking around at what the gym has to offer I was a little surprised and found myself saying that’s it? We waited a full school year and then some to for this brand new gym, which- don’t get me wrong- is a much needed upgrade from the last one, however I still found it lacking in many areas. For starters, it doesn’t have new cardio machines, just upgraded ones. Instead of 5 treadmills, there are 50. The same goes for ellipticals, which we also had at the old gym. But instead of investing in stairmasters, UT chose to go with the same semi-elliptical, semi-stair machines that the old gym had, just newer versions. Although it is nice having 300 ellipticals to choose from, it would have been nice to have other cardio machines, and not just more of the same ones we’ve had.
Going up to the second floor, the weight machine section at first glimpse was jaw-dropping. All the weight machines were brand new, just sitting in their spots patiently waiting to be used. But when walking around, I noticed that there were repeats of the same machine, and there wasn’t a lot of options if you wanted to work the same muscle but use a different machine. When taking a step back, the area that holds those weight machines seemed rather small, and still not efficient enough for UT’s growing population.
I was especially excited for the locker rooms. Is there going to be a steam room? A sauna? Perhaps an indoor jacuzzi? I wasn’t completely surprised when I lapped the whole building and realized that none of this was included in the new gym’s design plan. While the budget for this 60,000 square foot gym remains unknown, the real question is what else could UT have spent this money on besides a new gym?
After the university announced it’s new housing policy last school year, many students including myself were given a choice to continue living on campus without upgrading to the nicer dorms meant for upperclassmen, or to simply move off campus — which is not so simple. I, along with many other people I know, chose to move off campus. I did not have a car in college for my first two years, mainly because I lived on campus and a car was not necessary. Now that I was to move off, I had to bring my car from home, because there was no way I was going to bike two miles to school every day in the Florida heat or in the rain. UT changed its parking policy, allowing the centrally located Thomas Parking Garage to be reserved for commuters. Although this was a nice attempt at a peace offering for essentially pushing us all off campus, it wasn’t taken into account that all those who decided to become commuters would most likely be getting cars. I have to leave almost a half hour before class even though I live 5 minutes away because there are hardly any parking spaces available.
Instead of even having to change the housing policy due to lack of housing and an overflow of incoming students, UT could have built more dorms. The university was once considered a small-size campus, and has graduated to being labeled a medium-size school. Its quick expansion will soon have it named a large campus. It can’t continue to accept more students than it can house without building more dorms for not just incoming freshman, but on-campus apartments for upperclassmen and grad students..
- 24/7 Library
A lot of universities around the country have a library that is open 24/7 for students to access at any time of the day or night. At UT, the library closes at 1 a.m. at the latest, which doesn’t give students other places to study besides their own room. On top of that, the library was opened on October 19, 1969 and was meant for a school with about 2,000 students, not four times that. There are not enough large spaces for groups to work and the desk spaces meant for individuals are often too small to spread books and laptops across. Hiring more staff so the library can remain open 24 hours and expanding the library to accommodate more students would make this building more suitable for a college campus.
- Post Office
The post office waiting times hit a new high this semester, and thankfully I personally did not have to deal with it, but I know many others who did. The lines for the post office were out of control, often times having upwards of a 30 minute wait and a line out the door. The reasoning was that the post office did not have sufficient employees to help out, and they did not anticipate the high volume of packages. They also don’t have a space large enough and well organized to handle the overflow of packages.
- On-Campus Dining
While UT does offer a variety of on-campus dining options, the quality of food is questionable. I cancelled my meal plan because I moved off campus, but I occasionally find myself caving and purchasing food from school. Each time I do, I find myself getting sick sometime afterward because my stomach isn’t used to the quality difference. Natural ingredients and fresh food from local farms can be pricier, but without the new gym it could have been possible.
I am not saying that a new gym shouldn’t have been built, because it was due for an upgrade. However, with the amount of money that the school probably spent to design and build it, other more necessary changes could have been made. The recreation center is beautiful and adds to UT’s already gorgeous campus, but there are other parts of UT that you can’t see from just driving by, and those parts desperately need fixing.
Carissa Economos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org