Marist Students Balk at South Field Gym Tent

Separate gym facilities for athletes and students, an indoor track, and drastically expanded locker room space are all amenities students can look forward to upon the completion of the McCann Center renovation in 2019. For students of Marist’s senior class, all they will get is an inconvenient rebuild.

In December 2017, Marist announced the Poughkeepsie based non-profit J. McCann Charitable Trust granted the college $2 million for this renovation and expansion. The college’s Spring 2018 Update from the office of Marist President David Yellen states that this, “generous grant will allow us to improve and significantly expand the auxiliary gym and fitness center for our entire student body.”

In February, Tim Murray sat down with the Student Government Association to present specific information on what the completed project would look like. The highlights will include an elevated track, additional basketball courts, more locker rooms, a café, and an ESPN Control Room. Most significantly, the college responded to growing complaints about gym crowding by announcing that the finished product would have segregated facilities for student and athlete use.  

“Overcrowding between students and athletes was definitely the biggest issue [last year], so it’s great that that is being addressed,” said Jake Reinhardt, Marist Rugby President.

“I think we were responsive to the feedback we were getting from the students [about the Grey Gym] in how we’ve designed and built,” Athletic Director Tim Murray added.

The McCann renovation and expansion is estimated to take 18 months. Photo by Matt Rzodkiewicz.

While Marist offered a potential solution to the overcrowding issue in the long term, it may have doubled the problem for the next year and a half.  An August 10 email from Vice President of Student Affairs Deborah DiCaprio to the entire student body provided specifics on what students could expect in the short term.

In the email, DiCaprio announced that the project had been scheduled to take 18 months to complete. With the project starting this past June, the completion is slated for December of 2019, although Murray believes that it could be finished earlier in the fall semester barring any setbacks. There has been no indication that students will be allowed in before then. This means anyone graduating in the next year and a half may never gain access to the updated facilities as a Marist student.

With any undertaking like this there are bound to be growing pains, so DiCaprio attached Marist’s “steps to ensure there is adequate work-out space for all students” for the 2018-2019 school year in her August email. A heated tent on the South Field adjacent to the baseball field is acting as the main workout substitute for students and athletes. It includes the majority of the weight lifting equipment that once filled up the McCann Fitness Center.

“When you look at actual square footage, its slightly below what we had last year,” said Murray. “But the equipment that’s available for the students is almost the identical to what was available last year.”      

Inside the tent on the South Field. Photo by Oscar Fick.

While this is technically true, the accessibility of these machines has changed drastically. From 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, only student athletes are allowed access to the facility. Anyone else is turned away at the door and left to work out only from 6 p.m. until 1 a.m., except on Friday when it closes at midnight. The weekends are open to all Marist students. That is twelve hours a day, or sixty hours per week, where the vast majority of weight lifting equipment is closed to the average student.

“I understand that athletes have priority and whatnot, but to give students the time slot of 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. is ridiculous and I think a lot of people agree with me,” said senior Owen Diaz. “Especially for seniors, who have developed certain study patterns and fitness patterns, who don’t workout at 10 p.m., people with a normal sleep schedule, I don’t think it is very accommodating.”

“I think the tent is definitely a viable replacement for having the gym and is actually a lot nicer than I thought it was going be,” said senior Katherine Sutton. “But I think the hours for students are kind of ridiculous especially because most people workout during the day or in the morning.”

“The Marketplace gym is really, really nice. They did such a good job redoing it, but the two of them are just too small and really can’t hold the student body. A lot of times I’ve been to both of them they’ve been really overcrowded,” Sutton added.

Student Body President Ted Dolce has been actively reaching out to the student body through social media and other means to see how the majority of students feel about the tent.

“For the most part, the feedback has been negative,” said Dolce. “A lot of the students, especially the non-athletes, have issues with the hours because they don’t feel like they were prioritized.”

Inside the tent on the South Field. Photo by Oscar Fick.

In an effort to supplement the tent, Marist expanded workout areas in the Upper West Marketplace on the east end of campus and in Building D on the north end. In the Marketplace, a bench, a few workout machines, and several cardio machines have been added along with one set of free weights, up to 50 pounds, and two TRX workout bands. In Building D, more cardio equipment has been added along with a stretching area and studio for workout programs, such as Yoga class.

“We wanted to make [McCann] not your only option,” said Murray. “I think we’re providing fitness equipment that’s really on par with last year with the expectation that we could be in the new building in as few as 14 months.” Students feel differently.

“The other gyms aren’t big enough. They’re nice facilities but they’re definitely not big enough for everybody to be using.,” said Senior Lindsay Trobel.

“A lot of students feel that they are not sufficient enough supplements,” Dolce observed from his interactions with the Marist student body. Though both expansions will be quality accessories to the McCann Center in the future, current students do not feel they alone provide an ample substitute for the lost gym space.

Discontent with the current accommodations has led one student to reach out directly to the administration. “The first people I thought to reach out to was financial aid to see if I could get some form of reimbursement,” said Diaz. “I was thinking that it was an impact to the student life and I figured that, if I couldn’t get access to the facilities I’ve had access to the past three years, maybe I could get some money back.” He added, “I realize looking back that it kind of is a little unreasonable.”

Nevertheless, Diaz persisted. After a follow up email, he said, “The Director of Student Affairs [Deborah DiCaprio] and Athletic Director [Tim Murray] both emailed me back and they both provided a kind of generic, post-card response I guess you could say of, ‘this is what we did with the South Field Tent and expansions to Upper West and Building D’ and kind of broke it down for me.” There would be no tuition reimbursement, but he was not finished.

“Since the email exchange, I’ve realized that a lot of people share the same frustrations as me, so I felt the best thing to do in this day and age is create a digital petition,” said Diaz. “I think that this is the best way to show Marist Athletics that tweaks need to be made, and I would be fine being the person that talks about that with them in reasonable fashion.”

In four days, the petition has accrued 140 signatures. He hopes this number will shoot up soon. “I’m also working on circulating it through the class of 2020, 2021, and 2022 Facebook pages once I gain access.”

The petition can be found here.

The description of the petition states that, “The benefits to you as a full-time student have been dramatically reduced.” Later, it says, “The three supplemental facilities have insufficient equipment and/or hours of operation.”

The hours and supplements have students searching for solutions off campus. “A very small amount of the [rugby] team actually works out at the tent,” said Reinhardt. “Most of them workout at [Mike] Arteaga’s.”

Located just across Route 9, Mike Arteaga’s Health and Fitness Center offers Marist Students deals at $15 every two weeks, $110 for three months, or $140 for four months. Similar deals are also available at Crunch Fitness and Planet Fitness which are each a 10-minute drive from campus. Marist students paying the $39,000 tuition and $15,000 room and board fee are not thrilled about paying a gym fee as well.

“It would be nice if Marist could maybe help us out with a membership across the street at Arteaga’s or something like that,” said Trobel.

“They should have offered discounts at like Planet Fitness, Crunch, or Arteaga’s,” suggested Reinhardt. “They should have worked something out for regular students to have proper gym equipment, proper gym environment.” Diaz added, “Maybe [a portion of tuition] could go towards a gym membership outside the college.”

Dolce has taken note of the student dissatisfaction and reached out to Marist Athletics. As a result, the Student Government Association scheduled an Instagram Live event for Wednesday, Sept. 12 so Marist Athletics and the SGA can hear and respond to student complaints.

“We’ve been working with Deborah DiCaprio and Tim Murray in a couple of meetings, so on Wednesday we’ll roll out a couple of the initiatives that we’ve been working on and some of the modifications to what we’ve been working on,” said Dolce. “Nothing is final, as we’re working on the best for everyone. We know it’s a frustrating situation.”

“I think that we’re trying to be as responsive as we can within reason,” said Murray. “But at this point we’re not going to add a new weight room.”

“I think the end goal is to adjust what is offered in those locations—whether it be Building D or the Marketplace fitness areas—and with the South Field Tent, just adjusting the hours, within reason, of course,” said Diaz. “I’m not saying that we need another southfield bubble for students or anything like that, just being reasonable.”

When the big red ribbon on the front of the spectacular new McCann Center is cut, students of the current senior class will have moved on with their lives. Until then, there are 28 weeks of class left—leaving plenty of time for a solution to be found this year.

“The administration will not ignore the voices of the students. They’ve been very accommodating as to meet with myself and some of the other members of SGA,” said Dolce. “There will be changes going forward.”

Edited by Marco Schaden and Matt Rzodkiewicz

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