Augustana’s Elmen Center is a community hub for all things athletics, fitness, recreation, wellness and team sports related. Since opening in 1989, the 81,000 square-foot facility has been the host of more than 100 annual events and averages availability exceeding 110 hours each week.
This semester its operations for students have not returned without a number of COVID-19-related policies, protocols and adjustments.
“We have made a number of decisions regarding COVID-19 protocol that were made to foster a safe, healthy environment for students,” Mark Hecht, director of Recreational (Rec.) Services, said.
Be it the mask policy, continual cleaning of equipment or adjusting the location of cardio equipment, the Elmen Center and Rec. Services have remained determined to facilitate normal operations and offer access to all students to pursue their fitness and recreation needs on campus.
“Moving group fitness classes to a different location / time, continuing to offer a wide range of intramural activities, Augustana Outdoor Program (AOP) activities, group fitness classes [and] late night activities would all be examples of our commitment to providing an environment where students can get the most out of the Elmen Center this fall,” Hecht said.
Although Rec. Services aims to maintain the health of those who visit the Elmen Center, the changes have caused confusion for some.
Kasey Buse says that people are continuing to adjust to the new workout registration system rather than just walking over whenever convenient.
“Our campus has always been able to reserve cardio equipment in advance, so that is not a new policy,” Hecht said to address any confusion. “A new policy this fall is that people need to reserve a time slot to come use the weight room.”
Weeks before students returned to campus, the Elmen Center took sanitation and cleaning seriously — but still had to close to combat COVID-19.
“There was initial frustration with how sudden the closing was,” said senior wrestler Ethan Cota. “It seemed that the Elmen closing this summer affected all of the athletes the same, at least to my knowledge, as no one was able to get workouts in at the Elmen.”
Regardless of previous issues, Hecht said that Rec. Services is committed to provide for the Augustana community.
“We are offering a full slate of activities this fall,” said Hecht, who mentioned that co-rec sand volleyball officially begins on Sept. 8, followed by the start of the men’s 7 versus 7 flag football league on Sept. 10 and pickle ball Sept. 20.
“These are just a few of the intramural options,” said Hecht, who also shared his enthusiasm for the Augustana Outdoor Program (AOP) and all that its coordinator Ryan Brown plans to accomplish.
“AOP-wise we have already hosted a hike at Great Bear and one climbing event at the Palisades,” Hecht shared before mentioning the kayaking trip that occurred at Lake Alvin Sept. 4.
In addition to the AOP offerings, group fitness classes have returned this semester and are available for students who seek that workout push.
“You will see that we offer 15 classes each week,” said Hecht. “We have changed locations on some classes that used to be in the back alley.”
He added that each student is required to wear a mask in order to participate. Registration for these classes is mandatory.
“We do a lot more cleaning and take more precautions to make sure to limit contact with users and whatever items they come in contact with,” Buse said.
“We have also had to place limits on how many can attend each group fitness class,” said Hecht, who said that students who don’t sign up risk the possibility that the class is at capacity “and would not be able to come to the weight room or attend the class.”
Elmen Center staff also want to make it known that the 25-yard indoor pool is still available for open swimming and hydrofit. Though the schedule for the pool varies throughout the week. Students can find the pool hours by visiting the Rec. Services website.
“The Elmen is open, and we are taking every precaution to offer the safest environment we can offer to the AU community,” Buse said. “I am adjusting to the changes, and it is very different from last year, but I am happy we can still offer a service to the AU community.”
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