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Athletics attempts to increase student usage of facilities in the Bear

ELENA COPPELL The climbing wall is open for students to use during the regular Bear opening hours.
 The climbing wall is open for students to use during the regular Bear opening hours. Photo by Elena Coppell

By Tommy O’Donnell

The Charles Benson Bear ‘39 Recreation and Athletic Center offers a wide variety of facilities for all students to use, yet many of these facilities are not being utilized as much as hoped.

Andy Hamilton, Director of Athletics and Recreation, believes that more needs to be done to advertise all of the spaces available. “This is an area we struggle with, we don’t do a good job of marketing and promoting,” he said. “It’s typically by student word of mouth … we do some promoting with faculty members so that they can push it out to their students … this is an expansive facility … trying to figure out ways to utilize it better and have students utilize it better is important for us.”

One of the less well-known spaces in the Bear is the climbing wall. Run by members of the Grinnell Outdoor Recreation Program (GORP), the climbing wall is open from 4:15 p.m. to 6:15 p.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Thursday. Max Tetrick ‘19, the student climbing wall manager, plays an important role in keeping the facility functional by hiring students and creating time schedules.

Tetrick was quick to point out that any students who are interested in using the wall can come and try it out, regardless of prior experience. “I would say the majority of the students that come to the wall have no experience climbing, they’re just kind of curious about it and show up … we can provide any sort of training they need, whether that just be very basic training to come and climb easier things, or more intense training if they want learn how to belay and belay their friends.”

If these times do not fit a student’s schedule, the bouldering wall is also available for students to use during the Bear opening hours. Currently, the climbing wall has a relatively low usage rate. Tetrick said that approximately 50 students per week use the wall.

In an attempt to increase participation rate, GORP members put on events every semester to give students the opportunity to learn more about using the facility. “One event that we usually try to do every semester to increase the number of people coming is called ‘Wallapalooza’ … it’s basically an event when we buy a bunch of snacks and try to advertise it a little bit more and that usually helps increase our numbers a bit,” Tetrick said.

Another underutilized facility in the Bear is the dance studio, situated above the Russell K. Osgood Pool. Although many students know that this space is available in the Bear, the overriding reason for its low usage rate is the fact that students are unaware of how to book the space.

For students wanting to use this space, Hamilton said “They [students] need to go to the equipment cage, they could also ask at front desk … and the nice part of that is there is access to music … and there is also some fitness equipment in there.” Students must note that they cannot use the facility on their own; at least two students must be inside the space at any point due to health and safety reasons.

For students who want to find a new place to study, the Bear also offers a number of different spaces to work in. “There would be three places that I could recommend. One is down by the concessions stand in the below ground level, there is a little lounge there with the high chairs. The other two places are the upstairs classrooms on the second floor … if you go immediately upstairs and pass by the fitness center, there’s two very large classrooms and there’s access to technology … those are two classrooms that aren’t normally utilized and they’re always unlocked,” said Hamilton.

Hamilton said he wants to make sure that all of these spaces are more accessible to students to improve their college experience. “I would hope that we can create an environment and a welcoming atmosphere for students to use the Bear for their own personal wellness. I think … the ‘how’ is maybe more due to getting the information out and letting people know of the great opportunities … we strive to let everybody know that everybody’s individual access has the same equity … its a matter of communication and getting the message out better.”

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    Grinnell ParentFeb 22, 2019 at 2:01 pm

    My impression is lack of time (rather than advertising) is more the issue at hand. Maybe if Grinnell academics were not based on 48 hours a week and say a more sustainable 40 hours, students would have an hour a day to dedicate to exercise. Me thinks a more healthy balance.