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The Scarlet & Black

Explore how “the cage” works with Ron Cooper

The cage is responsible for hundreds of bags of laundry every night. The hours are odd, but it’s always interesting. Photo by Mahira Faran.
The cage is responsible for hundreds of bags of laundry every night. The hours are odd, but it’s always interesting. Photo by Mahira Faran.

In the basement of the Bear Athletic Center lies the heart of Pioneer athletics — the equipment room, also known as the cage. This week, I ventured in to figure out what the cage is all about, and was welcomed by Ron Cooper, equipment manager. He has been working here for nearly 40 years and knows everything there is to know about the cage.

The cage’s name is derived from its previous building.

“The cage originally was in the building across the street. There was no air conditioning, and we used chicken wires to lock it up from the outside. It was literally a cage,” Cooper said.

At the center of the cage is a set of washing and dry cleaning machines. Their job is simple: to do laundry for all athletes every day, seven days a week. After that, Cooper and his student helpers fold the clean clothes and put them back in their designated lockers so athletes can wear them the next day. There are two student helpers per shift. In total, there are two full time and four part time equipment managers, and various student helpers throughout the day.

Every day, Cooper deals with fourteen to eighteen loads of laundry and usually stays until 10 p.m. to finish all of his necessary duties. “It takes about three to three and a half hours to do all the laundry,” he said.

Apart from laundry, the cage is home to all varsity teams’ equipment. The equipment managers issue equipment to all varsity athletic teams, and also to intramurals. Through the front window, students can always borrow equipment to play recreationally, regardless of whether they play a sport. In addition, it also does laundry for Grinnell Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP).

Like most jobs, being the cage’s manager has its frustrations. The source of it, surprisingly, comes not from the machinery but from student-athletes.

“[What frustrates me the most] is when athletes don’t bring the laundry to the cage in time. I’m on a time limit like everything else, so if it gets in here late it makes me late.”

Cooper sometimes can’t help but reminisce about the original cage, where he worked for thirty years before moving to its new and current location back in 2010.

“I feel sad that I outlived that building. [This new building] is better, but it’s also bigger and harder on me.”

For better or for worse, Cooper’s journey here at the equipment room has been nothing short of a wonderful ride, and there’s no doubt he’s enjoying every bit of it.

Outside the cage, though, Coop keeps a garage that’s “like a record store.”

If students want to check out Coop’s garage sale, in which he’ll be selling records, vintage hi-fi equipment and “lots of cool retro stuff,” they can head to 1214 Summer Street Friday, Sept. 29 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 30, 10 a.m.

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