The Recreation Center: a social hub on campus


Bella Pacinelli

The entrance to the rec center is so open that visitors can see and hear almost everything there is to do: basketball, soccer, rock wall climbing, running, lifting and more.

Bella Pacinelli, FEATURES EDITOR

It is hard to miss the large purple eagle in front of the dome-shaped building that is Ashland University’s Recreation Center.

Students are greeted with a ‘hello’ from the customer service employee, the sound of basketballs hitting the gym floor and the faint smell of chlorine from the pool that is visible from the atrium.

Looking up is the jogging track, busy with people running, cycling, or stretching. Ping pong and pool tables greet visitors downstairs, with the fitness center just behind the equipment checkout counter.

The fitness center is full of workout equipment such as treadmills, ellipticals and various weight machines for zeroing in on certain muscle groups.

Down the hall is the entrance into the pool and sauna, an aerobics room bright with colorful free weights and mirrored walls and two racquetball courts.

AU’s rec center is considered to be the social hub of campus, both for obvious reasons and for the plethora of activities to take part in.

Assistant Director Justin Fletcher – with a focus on Aquatics and Student Development – sees the rec center as social in nature.

“It is more than just coming in and lifting weights by yourself,” Fletcher said. “It is coming in and playing a game of pickup basketball or soccer with friends. It is playing pool or ping pong, or going swimming with friends or playing racquetball against somebody.”

This social aspect is essential in making the rec center what it is and offering a place on campus for students to go after classes.

“People have to go to convo to eat, they have to go to the library to study or check out books,” Fletcher said. “They have to go to the student center for this or that, but people come here because they want to be here.”

Fletcher placed an emphasis on the importance of seeing students happy when they come in and also when they leave.

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There almost always someone on the lower level of the rec center playing ping pong or pool with their friends.

Director of Ashland University’s Recreational Center, Janel Molnar, agreed with what Fletcher had to say.

This is a “good place on campus where students can come to relax, workout, hang out between classes with other students, but also be intermixed with faculty and staff,” Molnar said.

Both Molnar and Fletcher aim to provide a place of wellness for students. This indoor gathering space is undoubtedly a popular spot for students to unwind. Fletcher also believes that being apart of a community is a vital part of wellness.

“Community helps because people can come here to relieve stress, work on their fitness, and can have that sense of belonging,” Fletcher said.

Fletcher explained that promoting wellness is not just about providing a place to lift weights, but being a haven for emotional and social wellness.

The Ashland University Department of Recreational Services mission statement involves the development and maintenance of an active and healthy lifestyle by enhancing mind, body and spirit.

The three different parts of wellness are important to the employees of the rec center.

Molnar feels that the AU rec center provides various active opportunities that promote wellness.

“Whether you know your wellness routine or if there is someone that needs to help motivate you, we try to offer both of those things,” Molnar said.

A unique aspect of the rec center is that involvement in these opportunities is free to members. It does not cost extra to take part in Group X classes or intramural sports.

“We just try to provide all these opportunities that are accessible because we just want people to be a part of it,” Molnar said. “We don’t want a cost to prohibit someone from wanting to do that.”

The variety of equipment and availability of group exercise classes coupled with the indoor sports facilities and fitness options makes it easy for students to find something that works for them.

“Hopefully students can try out different things and then figure out what they like and then stick with some kind of fitness plan while they’re here in college and then after they leave as well,” Molnar said.

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Students can also often be found on the lower level of the rec center lifting free weights.

Molnar also mentioned that the climbing wall and golf simulator are very unique for a collegiate recreation center. And “with a campus our size, to have the facility we do have is pretty amazing.”

Molnar stressed the significance of creating an environment that is welcoming and comfortable.

“Providing a positive atmosphere for people when they are coming in and they are leaving is one of our goals,” Molnar said. “That’s why it is so fun to work here.”

Fletcher’s position includes close interaction with all the student employees of the rec center. He emphasizes the experiences they get from having an on-campus job.

“We really focus on increasing their awareness of the skills they are learning that is going to help in their professional development,” Fletcher said. “We really encourage them to be a part of different communities on campus and to balance everything that goes along with the college experience.”

The Ashland University rec center is one of the largest employers on campus.

“We think it is one of the best places to work on campus because the shifts are short and fit within class schedules and aren’t too much of a time commitment,” Fletcher said. “We understand that all of our employees are students.”

Molnar also commented on the importance of having an on-campus job.

“Jobs like these are going to help you prepare for going out and getting a full-time position,” Molnar said. “The experiences gained while having a job in college prepare students for the life that is to come after.”

When it comes to starting a new fitness routine, Molnar suggests coming into the facility during non-peak times.

“You can kind of play around with some different machines,” Molnar said, “and always challenge yourself to try new things.”

Molnar and Fletcher encourage students to download the Fit Degree app.

“With the app, you can see how busy the facility is in each one of the areas,” Fletcher said.

This is useful in choosing the right time to go to the rec center, whether you are planning on walking the track or playing Mario Kart. Any members with “ideas, comments, questions, concerns, we want to make sure that we can provide a great experience for any of our users,” Fletcher said.

Sophomore Public Relations/Strategic Communications major, Matt Giffin, is a Group X instructor at the rec center, and he loves what he does.

“I have had a pretty good turnout for all my classes, so that means I must be doing a good job or they wouldn’t come back,” he said.

When he is not teaching other students, his favorite thing to do at the rec is play pool and basketball with friends.

“The rec is a happy place,” Giffin said. “Even if you’re not really into the whole fitness scene, it’s just a nice place to be.”