The whir of a stationary bike, the clank of weights, the swish of a basketball net, deep yoga breaths—after more than a year of silence the UMass Amherst Recreation Center was again alive with the sound of students when it reopened with all COVID-19 safety procedures in place on March 17. Other Campus Recreation offerings are up and running as well, including intramural sports, the Curry Hicks Pool, and the Mullins Center tennis courts.
At the Rec Center, students are overjoyed to have a safe space to exercise on campus. “They have been dealing with the stress of school and the added stress of COVID, so they are very happy to have a place to blow off that steam and stay active,” says Justin Mantrana ’21, building supervisor for the Recreation Center. The center’s workout floor and cardio machines are open and fitness classes, including spin and yoga, are underway inside, outside, and virtually.
Students can sign up for 75-minute slots to visit the Rec Center, where the staff is taking COVID-19 protocol, including social distancing and masking, seriously. There are blue x’s to show patrons where to work out, plenty of hand sanitizer, and a separate towel and spray bottle for cleaning every piece of equipment. “In the gym it can be pretty tempting to lower your mask when you’re out of breath, but our floor monitors make sure students are following the safety rules,” says Justin.
Spin instructor Carlie Mannai ’21, program assistant for group fitness, feels safe and says the mood is upbeat in her classes. “Everyone is happy to be inside this building again,” she reports.
Nyindu Kabangu ’21, intramural sports program assistant, says that the campus recreation staff and his friends are excited to see the return of intramural sports. “We’ve been missing the competitive aspect and the social side of playing with our closest friends,” says Nyindu, who plans to play flag football and volleyball this spring.
Already 58 intramural soccer teams, 29 softball teams, and more than 60 four-on-four flag football teams have signed up for spring games. For almost all these students, it will be their first time on the beautiful new, lighted turf recreation fields across the street from Boyden Gymnasium and the Recreation Center. “It’s great to have the rec turf,” says Nyindu. “The surface feels fantastic and the fields drain well so we won’t get rained out.”
Campus Recreation offered numerous options for fitness and fun throughout the academic year, including virtual classes, nutritional advising, video game tournaments, and resources for outdoor recreation, but for UMass students, it feels fantastic to be back in the state-of-the-art Recreation Center and to sprint on the new rec turf. Play ball!