“Things are going in waves and trends. You see it in fitness, you see it in sports, you see it in fashion. And there is always a possibility that racquetball will be revitalized,” said Jason Townsend, director. associate of Joe Frank of Mississippi State University. Sanderson Center.
The Sanderson Center is home to a total of eight racquetball courts. With the pending approval of the increase in student activity fees from $ 5 to $ 25, significant changes could happen to the center, including the upheaval of several of these courts dedicated to a supposed “dying sport”. The desperate need for change, as well as space, is growing too quickly.
MSU first built the Joe Frank Sanderson Center in 1998, when the university had a student body of around 15,000 students. It now exceeds 22,000. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a continuous increase in the number of incoming freshmen each semester.
As a recreational sport, racquetball started to gain popularity in the 1970s, and it gradually lost its appeal over the following decades. When the Sanderson Center first opened, the company predicted racquetball would be the “sport of the future,” according to student association president Garrett Smith. As its popularity waned in the 2000s, MSU managed to keep racquetball alive with its operating sports club offering walk-in games.
Surprisingly, according to Townsend, the courts have been used more in recent months than usual due to the need to distribute students due to COVID-19 regulations on social distancing. People always check rackets and goggles to play; people reserve the grounds for other activities, such as dodge ball games or dance practice. As a result, the courts have become another accommodation that students can use when the other spaces in the studio are in use.
So racquetball courts are still used, but not for racquetball. So why have them at all?
“Then comes the good problem of needing more space. More use of space for programs, be it fitness, competitive or intramural sports, or space. outdoor adventure, ”Townsend said.
It’s hard to just give up on a dedicated studio because of the needs of student groups and other bookings that can be used for college recreation revenue streams. When wall enlargement is not an option, people will use the courts for other purposes, reducing the use of readily available studio space.
Of the eight racquetball courts, the Sanderson devotes only three to the sport. The center converted one of those on the lower level into The Box, a kickboxing studio. Upstairs, another courtyard had its glass walls removed and training equipment pushed inside. Two others had weight training equipment placed inside. The fitness center has not made any renovations or structural changes; the center has just transformed the space into private and personal training rooms.
“They need space. They need space for general strength training and space for cardio training, but no space for racquetball, ”SA President Smith said.
To realize this space, UREC decided to completely replace the racquetball courts with a brand new training studio. The finished project would be approximately the size of the weight room on the first floor.
UREC should devote various resources to such a project. Employees must consider not only the demolition aspects, but also the aesthetics and structural theme of the Sanderson Center.
“It’s kind of a blessing to have fees and to get this help and support from the student association,” Townsend said.
In addition, UREC and SA do not want to completely eliminate racquetball because part of the campus practices this sport and uses the courts frequently. UREC intends to keep the option available to all students who wish to reserve the field space for recreational activities or to play racquetball.
At the Sanderson Center, students had a wide range of opinions on the issue. Most said they were in favor of the removal, although a few said they did not support it at all. Even some believe that something completely new should replace the racquetball courts, not another weight room. Randy Flatness, a second year computer engineering student, said he rarely saw all of the parts in use.
“I only see three used at a time,” Flatness said.
UREC has also noticed this and has taken it into account in its renovation plans.
Based on the current plan, three racquetball courts will remain after the center completes the changes. Many UREC employees have said they hope to see the start and achievement of this goal within a few semesters. SA President Smith shared his views on this issue.
“At the end of the day, if we’re not using the eight, we have to use that space more wisely,” Smith said.
The renovation of the racquetball field is not the only project to be hoped for in the future of the Sanderson Center and the fitness on the MSU campus. Other changes that students might see in the future due to the increased activity fees for students are a climbing cave, a grass training area, an overhaul of the old intramural fields , new walking, jogging and biking trails; formal markers for 5K routes, reinvestment in new intramural areas and the start of a 10-year plan to bring recreation closer to residences.
The sole purpose of improving fitness options is to keep the physical and mental needs of the student body at the forefront, Townsend explained.
“I think that’s an important thing right now: health and wellness. Mental health, physical health is key right now,” Townsend said. “Anything we can do as a department and then in collaboration with other departments like health and wellness promotion and the student association, to make things better with healthier opportunities; all of these things are a plus. So we keep fighting for these things. “