A return from fall break left Fairfield University’s RecPlex with unexpected adjustments that have stirred mixed emotions among university students. 

Concerns with overcrowding have become a characteristic of The Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Recreation Complex in the past year. With increased student enrollment over the past two years, Fairfield University amenities have experienced an evident struggle with accommodating the large masses of students. The RecPlex has not been exempt from this issue. 

Assistant Director of Facilities and Events Brian Kabel expressed that these new renovations are meant to keep up with the relentless crowds noticed in the gym.

“We’re tasked with, ‘how can we have the building set up in such a way that it’s more easily accessible during [peak] times?’” said Kabel. “It’s really just an opportunity for us to redo the layout a little bit and hopefully optimize efficiency, create some more open space.”

Instead of finding four squat racks in the main weight room, students can now find one rack in its back, right corner and the remaining three downstairs in room LL5. The new weight room layout has additionally moved the free-weight section to the left side wall and has added two new pieces of equipment. 

Kabel noted that, with the rise of at-home YouTube and TikTok workouts, many students only require a few square feet of space to complete their exercise routines.

“Hopefully, again, it just creates a little bit better of an atmosphere as far as people [not being] packed in,” he said. “Our goal is to maximize the usage of the building, especially during peak hours.”

Director of Recreation and Wellness Eli Olken-Dann added that the shifts were partly to accommodate the new pieces of equipment, and reaffirmed that students still have one squat rack to utilize upstairs.

An overpopulation crisis was not the sole prompter of these changes. Kabel explained that squat racks create a substantial amount of noise when their weight plates are dropped on the floor; this noise has acted as a disruption to the numerous fitness classes taking place on the floor below. By moving the squat racks to the same floor as these classes, the overhead distraction is removed and a better atmosphere for Fairfield’s yoga and spin classes is established.

Despite the intended benefit for students, many have expressed frustration and discontent with these alterations. Several of these students have taken to the app “Fizz” to express their concerns. On Oct. 10, one student posted the question, “Who [is] responsible for this awful redesign,” with an attached picture of the shifted layout. Another submission stated, “Upvote to bring the squat racks back,” followed by a crying emoji. An “upvote” signals agreement with a Fizz post.

A Tire Flip 180 and a Vertical Crunch machine are the two advanced assets of the RecPlex’s repertoire. The Tire Flip 180 introduces students to CrossFit exercise in a more controlled environment. The tire is stationed to the ground with one-half able to flip back and forth and by two to four people at once. 

Battle ropes are attached to the tire for multipurpose exercise, and resistance levels are able to be increased. The vertical crunch machine offers a two-in-one exercise opportunity for downward and upward crunches. This machine is plate-loaded and includes a swivel for more side-unique exercises.

“Going forward,” explained Kabel, “if we get more new equipment we can then easily get rid of pieces that replicate the same thing.”

The RecPlex receives most of its equipment from its partner, The Abs Company. The unique element about The Abs Company is that all of their products are patented and remain specific to them.

Still, students are not thrilled with the chosen additions. One Fizz post stated, “Nothing [the] RecPlex needed more than another ab machine and a tire.” Previously, students have voiced complaints about a lack of bench presses in the weight room. To some relief, a second one was added to room LL6 earlier this year. 

The surge of Fairfield students moving to off-campus gyms, such as The Edge Fitness Club, showcases a disagreement with Olken-Dann’s statement that the RecPlex “offers incredible options” in terms of equipment and resources.

Because of its square footage, Olken-Dann stated, the RecPlex is not particularly able to uphold vast quantities. Nonetheless, he believes Fairfield is “right up there” with other university campuses, complete with machines that work every part of the body as well as cardio options and strength training. 

“I think we are above average in terms of what we offer,” Olken-Dann stated. 

However, as uncontrollable as it is, size may be the determining factor in a student’s choice of gym. Junior Marie Fanizza reported that she stopped attending the RecPlex because “it’s too small.”

Kabel acknowledged this unchangeable lack of space in comparison to Edge Fitness’ growing popularity and quantity. Although their amounts of equipment may not be equal, the RecPlex does their best to keep up with their variety of equipment. 

While The Edge Fitness Club offers extra resources such as saunas, personal training and a green flooring mat, it does come at a cost inapplicable to Fairfield University’s RecPlex, which is free for all students.

Moreover, Kabel emphasized that RecPlex faculty are more concerned with matching their peers at other university centers rather than off-campus facilities. The Tire Flip 180, for example, was an idea taken from Quinnipiac University. Kabel stated that, “We are constantly going to other universities, looking at their fitness centers, talking to our colleagues and keeping up with the best trends.”

“We try to leave no stone unturned” concluded Kabel. He commented that the RecPlex also values feedback given to them by major fitness companies. On Oct. 12, a representative from partner Life Fitness toured the RecPlex to provide them with this type of professional insight. 

In regards to the eliminated space in room LL5, Olken-Dann asserted that this move was not a sacrifice, but more of a “reallocation of resources.” According to Olken-Dann, the room did not hold as much as LL6 to begin with, and noted there is still space behind the squat racks to partake in various other exercises, along with rooms LL1 and LL2. 

“We still have a racquetball court that students can use for multipurpose use,” reminded Olken-Dann. “We looked at it that we took pieces of equipment that we currently had up in our weight room and moved them downstairs, and that allowed us to bring in additional pieces of equipment that we didn’t already offer.”

Olken-Dann hopes to remind students that these changes are meant to be positive steps to benefit their fitness journeys. The RecPlex continues to seek improvements in its overall atmosphere and student experiences. 

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