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‘Just trying to be flexible right now’: Overcrowding strains Nelson

U. implements occupancy tracker after students experience congestion, lines

Students have recently noticed an uptick in the number of people exercising in the Nelson Fitness Center, leading to overcrowding, difficulty accessing equipment and lines when the gym reaches its max capacity. In response, the University has launched an online occupancy tracker students can use to see the Nelson’s current occupancy.

Over winter break, the Nelson underwent upgrades to include a turf area, five squat racks and new deadlift platforms, The Herald previously reported. Amy Dean, Brown Recreation fitness and wellness manager, cited these changes as the reason for recent overcrowding in an email to The Herald.

To address crowding, Brown Recreation, which manages the University’s fitness centers and the Olney-Margolies Athletic Center, has “created an occupancy tracker available online for all to check before coming to workout at the Nelson Fitness Center,” according to Dean. 

Dean noted that there are more students using the facilities now than there were during the same time last year. “In fact, we have seen a 14% increase in participation by our student population,” she wrote.


According to Chas Steinbrugge ’24, the Nelson has been more congested in recent weeks than in previous semesters, sometimes even hitting its 194-person capacity. “Some of the leg press machines are definitely pretty crowded,” he said. “Getting access to dumbbells (and) bench presses can sometimes be a little bit tough.” 

“We are aware that on occasion there have been lines at the Nelson,” Dean wrote, adding that the lines have occurred during the Nelson’s busiest time of day — between 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. — and that there have not been any lines since Friday, Jan. 27.

“The tracker is definitely helpful, but I wish that we had more gym capacity so that it wasn’t necessary,” Steinbrugge wrote in a message to The Herald. Steinbrugge has campaigned on social media for expanded fitness options on campus.

Brown Recreation is “exploring existing spaces within the Nelson Fitness Center to create additional opportunities for training,” Dean added.

Adam Lalani ’26 said that he appreciates the additional bench pressing racks and squat racks that were added to the Nelson over winter break, but still feels that there is a need for more equipment. “I don’t know why they have so many elliptical machines,” while the availability of frequently-used equipment is limited, Lalani said.

“Definitely some people want to check out the upgrades,” said Emma Pearlman ’25, adding that, in her opinion, crowding is also likely due to the start of the new semester. “School hasn't fully ramped up to its fullest yet.”

She added that she finds herself sharing equipment with other students more often this semester than she had previously. “I’m just trying to be flexible right now,” she said.

Steinbrugge suggested that equipment such as free weights could be added to other fitness facilities on campus, such the Graduate Center gym, to ease capacity pressures at the Nelson.

Lalani added that he would find it helpful to have a gym in the southern part of campus. “This is an issue that’s here to stay,” he said.


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