East-West gym welcomes Columbia students back after pandemic restrictions

By Zoë Takaki, Staff Reporter

Brian Vega dribbles two basketballs at once as the sound echoes in the silent gym court as he trains. Irvin Ibarra

This fall semester, Columbia students have access to the East-West University gymnasium with the return of Renegades practices, open gym and events like kickball matches and jump rope competitions.

As of now, the gymnasium’s 20 hours per week for Columbia students are divided between Renegades practice time and open gym. Open gym, which is open to all Columbia students, is open Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. – 5 p.m. and Renegades practice time will occur on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 7:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m., and on Fridays from 4:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. Renegades teams will practice at specific times that are assigned by Columbia’s Student Athletics Association.

Mark Brticevich, coordinator of wellness, athletics and recreation at Columbia, said this schedule is subject to change because the Renegades may need more indoor practice time as the weather starts getting colder; but the changes will be communicated via SAA’s social media.

Since the start of the pandemic, Columbia students have had little to no use of the East-West gymnasium due to COVID-19 restrictions and legal conflicts. Brticevich said during the pandemic, East-West’s management changed, and the new management was not willing to negotiate with Columbia’s legal department regarding student liability.

The prior management ended up returning to East-West, allowing the legal conflicts to be resolved, Brticevich said.

“This current management, they were there in the past. We always had a great relationship. I am so happy they’re back,” Brticevich said. He said the current contract is for the fall semester and he hopes it will be renewed for the spring.

The gym space and basketball court at East-West University provides Columbia students an additional place to train and play basketball. Irvin Ibarra

Brticevich said when the Renegades lost access to the gym, their participation dropped.

Before COVID-19, SAA had about 400 students participating in athletics, Brticevich said, but since the pandemic, participation dropped to under 100 people.

Caroline Keenan, one of the captains of the Renegades Dance team, said once the team moved online, they had about “zero to five” members showing up to each Zoom meeting, far less than the roughly 18 members they had in the fall of 2019.

“It was really hard … I missed dancing. I missed being a part of a team,” Keenan said.

Brticevich said access to East-West’s facility brings hope for participation to increase. Currently, SAA has 15 active organizations, ranging from dance to Quidditch.

The gym is located at 829 S. Wabash Ave. on the second floor. Students can access the gym with their Columbia ID card.

Masks are not required in the gym following East-West University’s COVID-19 guidelines.

Tommie Posley of East-West University’s basketball team, the Phantoms, oversees trainings with his office door open directly in view of the gym’s basketball court. Irvin Ibarra

Members of the Columbia community are not the only ones excited about this collaboration. Tommie Posley, head coach for the East-West men’s basketball team, the Phantoms, and East-West’s athletic director said he “likes the idea” that Columbia is “finally” coming back, and is encouraging Columbia students to “just come, have fun, work hard, and get better.”

Colin Gaines, president of SAA, said there will be bi-monthly events in the gym called “Renegames” which will be hosted by SAA and open to all students. Gaines said the games will include capture the flag and other childhood favorites. The first “Renegame” event will take place Saturday, Sept. 24 from 3 to 5 p.m.

A large event that takes place annually at the East-West gym is SAA’s Halloween costume dodgeball competition, which is open to all students. The event will take place Oct. 20, and includes prizes for both the best costumes and the best players.

If students have questions about the East-West gym, they can contact SAA through the Engage app. Updates about practice times, Renegames and other East-West gymnasium events will be posted on SAA’s Instagram and Engage accounts.