Student Rec Center will look much different, how the director plans to react

One student crosses the ball between his legs during the opening week of Fall classes. Photo by Matt Siciliano-Salazar | The Signal

The Georgia State Student Recreation Center is arguably the heart and soul of the Atlanta campus, with hundreds coming through every week. Students from different universities in the city spend time in the building just to play on the basketball court or work out in the weight room, among other things.

But this will not be the case for the foreseeable future.

When Georgia State canceled classes back in March, the once loud and lively rec center became a ghost town. The rec center will operate at 25% for the fall semester. Not working at full capacity will be a hindrance to the school, especially for its student employees.

Timber Hines, the director of Recreational Services at Georgia State, has been at the forefront of the challenges caused by the pandemic. A significant pressing matter of hers has been the ability to open up safely when students returned in the fall.

Like many other gyms, the virus has dealt a huge blow to the system and procedures to the rec center. No longer will students be able to use their thumbprints to enjoy the amenities, such as the game room or aforementioned open gym. Instead, they will have to swipe their card for access, similar to the library’s new method.

Routine interactions with students and the staff, such as signing out a basketball with a PantherCard, will no longer be in place for the foreseeable future. Courts will only be available for individual use, and students are “strongly encouraged to bring their own equipment,” according to Hines.

Staff are also being more careful than ever, with new screens installed to protect them from germs. 

“We have increased the frequency of cleaning throughout operating hours,” Hines said. “We have enhanced our first aid kits and are following new American Red Cross guidelines for COVID-19 response.”

Even with cases in Georgia declining overall, gyms are potential hotspots for transmission, and Hines cannot take any chances. 

“[We’ve] had to rethink each of our entire processes and procedures,” Hines said. “We removed the biometric finger scanning at the Student Recreation Center, so all students will need to bring their PantherCards.”

In addition to maintaining the Atlanta facility, Hines looks after the ones on the Perimeter campuses as well. The constant uncertainty of the University System of Georgia fully committing to keep its students on campus and the blended learning for the entire fall semester also does not help reduce the pressure for Hines. 

If the USG were to suddenly put all students into virtual learning, it could spell bad news for the staff at any of the campus’s facilities.

Even bringing in new staff has become more difficult as training on-site is more difficult due to social guidelines by the Georgia Department of Health and CDC.

“It’s been difficult,” Hines said. “We’ve had to adjust to a new way of doing things … and conduct virtual interviews and training.”

With the gyms operating at such a low capacity, the use of some staff is no longer needed and they have been cut to save cost. The harsh realities of what the rec center has been enduring is inductive of many gyms around the country.