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Josh Kelly

When working out, students must wear a facial covering.

How the Rec Center is adjusting to COVID-19 challenges

August 30, 2020

Since returning to campus for the 2020 Fall semester, NKU students and staff members have been met with a lot of unfamiliarity within campus buildings and school operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many students have seen all of their classes shift to online delivery through Zoom and other virtual meeting spaces. Students who live on campus have been adjusting to new guidelines and restrictions, including changes to dining areas and housing.

One of the more noticeable differences that students may spot upon returning to campus is the changes that have been made to the Campus Recreation Center in an attempt to allow students to safely and effectively stay in shape.

Facilities and equipment changes

The Rec Center is the place to go on campus if you need to get a workout in—equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment for NKU students and faculty, as well as the Northern Kentucky community to use.

“We’re trying to educate folks as much as possible,” Pat McGrath, Associate Director of Facilities at the Campus Recreation Center, said in regards to the protocols that the Rec Center has put in place.

Among the new protocols that have been brought on by COVID-19 is the mandatory wearing of masks or facial coverings while inside the facility. A mandate from the state of Kentucky regarding the use of masks does, however, come with an exception.

“There is an exemption from wearing masks if you are actively working out and still at least six feet away from other people,” McGrath said.

Another noticeable change to the Rec Center this semester includes equipment placement in an effort to effectively keep people socially distanced.

“The state mandate for us right now is that the “Central Operating Area”, which means a bench to [another] bench or the center of the treadmill to the center of [another] treadmill has to be six feet apart, which let us spread out a lot of our equipment,” McGrath said.

One of the most popular activities during the course of a day at the Rec Center is basketball, either in the form of intramural leagues or just recreational pick-up basketball.

Due to state mandates, NKU is unable to open basketball courts at this time.

“Basketball courts have been in big demand, but per the state [guidelines] right now, we just cannot have open recreation basketball,” McGrath said.

Safety and cleanliness procedures

In order to keep the Recreation Center as contactless as possible, students can download the Rec Center app on their devices turning their NKU All Card into a barcode that they can scan to enter the building. However, students can still bring their all card to swipe at the front desk. 

The Facility Manager for the Campus Recreation Center Caige Geiger, a senior Business Management major at NKU, said that “students are required to wear masks when entering the building and when they are not actively working out.” 

The Rec Center is working to stay open and keep students safe by “putting out sanitizing wipes that you can throw away after using it on a machine. We are asking people to wipe down machines before and after using it,” Geiger said.

In compliance with CDC guidelines, the Rec Center has removed tables and chairs, so that it reduces the amount of people coming in to hangout and not actively working out.

“I’ve always loved working here because there were always so many people hanging out,” Geiger said.

The Rec Center has also added facility assistants that make sure everything is kept clean. 

“There’s an assistant at the front desk, and we usually try to have at least one assistant in the downstairs weight room and in the upstairs weight room as well,” Geiger said. 

With certain parts of the Rec Center being closed, the maximum occupancy of the building has not changed.  

What comes next for the Rec Center?

Due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability of the Rec Center to continue to stay open and operate smoothly isn’t a lock, much like many of the operations around NKU’s campus at the moment.

However, the Rec Center remains flexible in going about their daily operations and finding creative uses for the space, including using the open space for classes.

“We started fitness classes this week. We offered them on Zoom all summer, which was great, but being able to get folks [in person] has been fantastic,” McGrath said.

There was even talk about using the main gym space for more academic classes and lecture halls to accommodate social distancing guidelines, though so far in the semester that plan has not been necessary.

“We were prepared to host a Biology class in the main gym if we had to. I’m hoping they found a way more suitable space for it, but we were always happy to help out,” McGrath said.

A positive note to come out of the new protocols and guidelines being put in place to combat COVID-19 has been the improved collaboration between departments and directors.

“It’s been a good, collaborative effort between academics, campus planning, and us [at the Rec Center], and a lot of good has come from it, in terms of relationships that we have built across campus,” McGrath said.

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