Now What?

By Jazzy Davenport

The recent closing of Roosevelt’s fitness facility sent many of Columbia’s faculty, staff and students into an uproar. However, the people who utilized the fitness facility and gym the most, Columbia’s athletes and coaches, do not seem quite as concerned-for the time being.

“As of right now, most of our athletic teams are outside playing and practicing, so it really hasn’t affected us right now, but come fall, we’re going to need space,” said Mark Brticevich, Columbia’s fitness and recreation coordinator.

There had been several conversations and rumors over the years about the closing of the Herman Crown Center at Roosevelt University, but the exact date it would be shut down was never clear.

“The dates kept changing,” said Ryan Knight, president and captain of Columbia’s baseball team. “Finally we were told that the gym wouldn’t close until the end of the semester so that we wouldn’t get ripped off and we would get our money’s worth.”

But waiting until the end of the semester was not possible. Roosevelt’s Herman Crown Center, which had been mostly vacant for more than a year, failed to meet code regulations and contained asbestos.

Because of these issues, it became unsafe for students to occupy the building. Given the health and safety issues, Roosevelt gave the students a one-week notice that the Herman Crown Center, and its fitness and gym facilities, would be closing on April 3, said Mike Vander Heyden, Roosevelt’s coordinator for fitness and wellness.

“We were using Roosevelt to practice during the winter months because the weather was too bad for us to go outside, but it’s not such a big deal, because when the gym closed the weather was starting to change,” said Tony Nawrocki, president and captain of Columbia’s lacrosse team, The Renegades. “But we’re a bit worried about what’s going to happen in the fall.”

Roosevelt plans to replace the Herman Crown Center with a new facility, which is expected to be completed by September 2011. Vander Heyden said the new building will contain classrooms, residence space and a fitness center, but it will not contain a gym.

“The new building will not have a basketball court, so either way, we have a problem,” Brticevich said. “We had a lot of students that didn’t necessarily want to be on a team. They just wanted to come in and play a game of basketball or volleyball whenever they wanted to, and now we don’t have a place for them anymore.”

Columbia has been looking for alternative spaces to use for their team’s practices and a place that all students can utilize.

“We have been working together with schools such as Robert Morris, Roosevelt and Jones College Prep because we all have the same problem,” Brticevich said. “We have been pooling our efforts to find outside gym space. We are going to talk to schools like UIC and DePaul and even [elementary] schools that have gym space and talk about possibly renting it out.”

In the meantime, Columbia’s students have access to the fitness facility at the Residence Center, 731 S. Plymouth Court, if they would just like to use exercise equipment.

“Because Roosevelt’s gym is no longer there for us to work out and run in the gym, most guys lift weights on their own now,” Knight said. “And when we run, we do it in Grant Park.”

Because of the relationship that Columbia has had with Roosevelt for more than 15 years, Columbia is negotiating an agreement to give Roosevelt’s students access to the Residence Center facilities as well.

“There is absolutely no way that we could say no to Roosevelt,” Brticevich said. “They have opened up their doors to us for 15 years, so we’re going to reciprocate a system. We’re getting all of the legal paperwork completed, so, realistically, they should have access to our fitness center by the fall.”

However, because the fitness area at the Residence Center is solely paid for by student activity fees, neither faculty, staff nor alumni of either Columbia or Roosevelt will be able to use the equipment. As for The Renegades, they will still need a place to practice.

“We were fortunate that the gym closed when it did,” Knight said. “However, this issue needs to get resolved as soon as possible. It will be a big issue if it’s not taken care of by the time students return for fall semester.”