Kent State Rec Center hopes to offer stress relief for students during unusual semester

The outside of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, recently reopened in August.

Kenzie Johnston Reporter

After closing in March of 2020 due to the university closing, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center reopened to the public Aug. 17 but had limitations in place to keep members physically distant from each other and safe. The leadership team at the Rec also continues to monitor the pandemic situation closely to be able to adjust as needed. 

“Our biggest priority is keeping everyone safe,” said James Kraus, the center’s marketing coordinator. “We have had to make a lot of changes, but luckily those changes have allowed us to keep our doors open and provide students with some sense of normalcy during this strange time.”

Some of the main changes include the spacing out of the equipment, requiring people using the space to wear face masks at all times, the installation of plexiglass shields at desks and consistently wiping down areas such as handrails, door knobs and pieces of equipment. The facility has continued to operate under these conditions since reopening, only closing down for the holiday break, Dec. 19 through Jan. 4. 

“We spread out all of the equipment to allow for appropriate physical distance among members and ensuring that six feet distance,” Kraus said. “We fortunately had the ability to do this by moving equipment around and also putting a lot of it spread out across the multipurpose room.”

Other changes include barcode scanners at the entrance to allow members to scan in contact free, markings on the floor in walkways and stairs to keep traffic flowing one way and closing the showers and sauna.

Kraus said roughly half of the “normal users” they see are coming in to use the center. Basketball courts are now limited to only three players at a time, the hot tub can have two people at once and the lap pool is limited to one person per lane. On Feb. 22 facilities such as the racquetball courts and volleyball courts reopened.

By following proper protocols and making the necessary changes, Kraus said the center has been able to deliver the same experience to students while also making them feel safe. 

“I feel completely safe when at the Rec,” said Talia Diaz, a junior speech pathology and audiology major. “Before COVID, I always came to the Rec to work out and I’m glad that I can continue to do that. It is a part of my day that I always look forward to.” 

Diaz said she visits the center three to four times per week.

A major focus for the center remains the training of the staff, Kraus said. To make sure all employees are up to date with COVID-19 protocols, the staff underwent a virtual training which was followed by small group training. 

The staff is also frequently reminded of cleaning and sanitization needs and the importance of social distancing and mask wearing at all times. 

How the center will operate in the future remains a continued conversation, Kraus said, because as the pandemic continues, it will continue to make changes.

“We have plans for the future, but nothing is set in stone. Obviously, anything can change at any minute, so we just want to be prepared. We have different ranges set in place so we can adjust as needed,” Kraus said. “Our number one priority is making sure everyone is safe, while also delivering the experience that students come to the Rec for.”

Kenzie Johnston covers health and fitness. Contact her at [email protected]