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Rec center closes for swimming championships

BY BENJAMIN TOWAR | MARCH 23, 2015 5:00 AM

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Students and others will have to find other places to exercise because the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center will be closed this week.

In preparation to host the men’s NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships, the University of Iowa Rec Center will close its doors today to March 29.

“We understand that the [center] is a very popular place on the university campus and that a lot of people have it integrated into their daily routine,” said Justin Holman, the assistant director for marketing and membership services for UI Recreational Services. “We know a lot of people are upset, but what we’re trying to emphasize that it really is an honor to have this event here.”

The championship will start Thursday and end on Saturday.

Recreational Services staff will close the Rec Center to the public when the last patrons clear out of the building at 8 a.m. today, said Michelle Harder, a senior associate director of Recreational Services.

Many patrons remain “put off” by the facility’s weeklong closure, said Matthew Getz, assistant director of events management for UI athletics.

“It’s cool that we’re having this competition here,” UI freshman Leon Grund said. “But there are going to be a lot of people coming to the Field House and Fitness East. That means it’s going to be a longer wait for machines.”

To accommodate those who regularly visit the Rec Center, other fitness centers such as the Field House and Fitness East have extended their hours. Several Rec Center staff members will also move to these areas to work, if they choose.

“The [negative] feedback that we got really speaks volumes to how great a facility it is,” Getz said. “If we closed it down and nobody really said anything, then maybe we have a lackluster Rec Center, but that’s not the case. That’s one really positive aspect to the closing — that we’ve got something really great … and we’re glad to offer it to the visiting teams.”

Exercise equipment on the first and second floors will either be moved out of the building or behind curtains to make room for hospitality areas.

In past years at other universities, the championship competition pool has been situated in a separate building apart from gymnasiums and exercise areas.

However, with the center’s natatorium pool being joined to the rest of the facility, Recreational Services staff will have to overcome unique obstacles related to spacing before the start of the championship.

By the start of the championships, the facility will be “transformed,” Harder said.

Void of treadmills and other exercise machines, the fitness areas will be fitted with more chairs and tables for athletes and coaches.

Massage tables will line the hallways leading to the locker rooms from the check in desk.

In the natatorium area, the sauna and steam room will still function, but the hot tub will be turned into a “cold tub” for ice baths that allow swimmers to better recover from races.

The natatorium was also the competition pool of the Big Ten Swimming Championship in February.

Getz said holding the Big Ten meet lent them much-needed insight on how to prepare for the NCAAs, despite the NCAA’s stricter guidelines.

Getz said the bid to host the NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships was submitted in July 2013. The UI won the bid in December 2013 and has since waited with anticipation for the swimming meet.

Tickets for the championship meet sold out nearly a month and a half before the starting date. To accommodate the large number of spectators, the second floor gyms will have bleachers to allow fans to view the meet from above.

The multi-activity court, which has long since been closed because of the damage from a sprinkler, will be transformed into a dryland area for divers, with a diving board and mats occupying the gym area. Further repairs on the gym will continue into the summer.


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