University News

Satellite gyms lack funding

Staff Writer
Friday, November 12, 2010

Despite this year’s addition of a $64 athletic fee for all students, satellite gyms are underfunded, according to Director of Athletics Michael Goldberger and Assistant Athletic Director of Physical Education, Intramurals and Club Sports Matthew Tsimikas.

The new fee did not add to the athletic budget, although it did “reduce the amount of dollars that we were asked to cut,” Goldberger wrote in an e-mail to The Herald. He wrote that the fee went to paying for athletic competitions, operating athletic facilities and running intramurals, among other costs.

The satellite gyms — Bigelow Gym, Emery Gym and the Bears Lair — have a budget of about $35,000, of which $10,000 has already been spent this year on repairs to fitness equipment, Tsimikas said. To replace all satellite gym equipment would cost about $300,000, while 10 new treadmills would be about $75,000.

Most of the satellite gym equipment is seven years old, although some pieces in the Bears Lair are up to 10 years old. Typical cardiovascular equipment lasts three years, Tsimikas said.

“On any given day, a piece of Brown’s equipment will break,” Tsimikas said. “We’re throwing good money on old equipment.”

Efforts to improve student gym facilities are currently focused on the new fitness and aquatics center, scheduled to open in 2012, Goldberger wrote.

Including the three satellite gyms, the University will then house five separate fitness centers, Tsimikas said.

Tsimikas said that at that point, the University may need to reevaluate how much funding goes to the gyms — and if it even wants to keep the satellite gyms open.

“The University needs to determine whether it wants to support five areas, and if so, you need to have the financial resources to do so,” Tsimikas said.

The athletics department is hiring a fitness center recreation coordinator over winter break, Tsimikas said. Though the coordinator could help improve satellite gyms by overseeing their maintenance, he said, such improvements would only be within budgetary constraints.

Tsimikas said most schools in the Ivy League face similar challenges maintaining gym facilities.

“We try to budget for replacement of ‘groups’ of cardio equipment (i.e. treadmills) every several years, but this is a constant challenge in difficult financial times such as these,” wrote Duke Diaz, Yale’s director of intramurals and recreation, in an e-mail to The Herald.

Diaz wrote that Yale allots a “modest” amount of its operating budget to maintain fitness equipment. Citing Yale policy, he wrote that he could not disclose specific numbers.

Robert Scalise ’71, Harvard’s athletics director, said he imagined all schools in the Ivy League face similar fitness constraints.

“If you did a study, every school would be slightly or significantly deficient in the amount of space for recreational use,” Scalise said.

The Undergraduate Council of Students also conducted a recent audit of Brown’s satellite gyms.

Chris Collins ’11, chair of the council’s Admissions and Student Services Committee, said the audit revealed what UCS suspected — that atmospheric elements of the gyms, such as lighting and carpeting, made the gyms “uninviting.”

 “It kind of kills our ability to get new equipment, because all of the money that could get new equipment goes to refurbishing old equipment,” Collins said.

Satellite gyms are also maintained by student employees rather than the custodial staff, Collins said.

“Not to knock any of the student workers who do it, but most students are doing really exciting things outside of cleaning fitness equipment, so it’s so low on their priority list that they don’t do a very good job,” Collins said.

The council’s audit of the Bears Lair cleaning supplies cabinet found a couple of bottles of disinfectant and a binder where students wrote down when they cleaned, he said.

“It’s very clear that satellite gyms aren’t maintained by professionals,” Collins said.

Goldberger also wrote that he believes understaffing and underfunding are issues “across the board” in the athletics department.

“This is a very difficult time for the University in areas that extend beyond athletics,” Goldberger wrote. “We understand that and try to make do.”

Tsimikas characterized the budget shortfall as a “tough” situation.

“The end result is to have clean equipment, functional equipment and relatively new equipment for Brown students,” Tsimikas said. “Getting there is the challenge.”

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