Last spring, Binghamton University opened its brand new Campus Recreation facilities and, in typical BU naming fashion, dubbed it the East Gym. For those of us who suffered through “classroom” gym, which boasted two ellipticals, one cable machine and some other useless crap, the day the East Gym opened was a glorious one. “Woah! Like 20 treadmills! Actual weights! And some weird bar thing! I don’t know what it does! That’s so cool!!”
Who can forget the first day on the machines that moved you as you exercised? Or when you stepped on basketball courts at Binghamton and didn’t slip? These were great moments, moments of bliss for the occasional gym goer and meathead alike (I heard Phi Psi had a group masturbation session that night before going out).
However, it has been a year since that day and the honeymoon period is over. People, including myself, are quickly realizing the hard truth: the East Gym kind of sucks. It is the fitness center for the entire university; students, faculty, staff and community members (fancy word for townies) all use the facilities.
Its client base is literally the entire city of Binghamton. So why is it so small? At peak hours, wait times are astronomical. SUNY New Paltz, a school of 6,582 undergraduates, has a 6,800-square-foot gym, for a ratio of 1.03 square feet per student. Binghamton’s ratio is .68.
New Paltz boasts four Power Lift racks, which allow for major powerlifting and Olympic-style lifts like deadlifts and “clean and snatch.” At Binghamton, we have none. Our floors are concrete with a thin layer of painted rubber. If you drop your weights, the floor cracks and you get dirty looks from employees and the occasional stern word. Thousands of dollars were spent on the unused “Roc-It” machines. We have three bench press stations, four squat racks, and a bathroom-sized dumbbell area — all for 14,000 students.
The basketball courts aren’t much better. Hundreds of kids come every day to the courts to shoot around or play a pick-up game. However, we only have one full court and two “mini courts,” neither of which have college-regulation three-point lines. The two mini courts are shorter and skinnier than the full court, which makes it impossible to get a full game. Because of this, there are sometimes hour-long wait times and the intramural program still has to use the West Gym courts, which scream liability.
I could deal with the facilities if not for one major, major flaw: we have to buy a membership. Even students who work for Campus Rec have to pay $50 per semester to run on the treadmills they just cleaned. I have visited many SUNY and out-of-state colleges and almost all of their recreation facilities are free for undergrads. The only other university I have seen that makes its students pay is Boston College, which provides extra amenities like a sauna, a hot tub, an indoor track, indoor tennis courts and FIVE full indoor basketball courts.
The East Gym is the product of an out-of-touch governing body. A bunch of crusty old guys sitting somewhere decide that Binghamton needs a new gym, but have no idea what that means. Instead of knocking down and rebuilding like they’re doing with East Campus housing, they’re keeping the oldest, shittiest building on campus and renovating it. Since the East Gym building was built in 1954 (1954!), the student body has grown tenfold. It is painfully obvious that a new building was needed for our new gym, but pennies were pinched on our fitness facility, in the second fattest city in the country. C’mon, man….
I do use the gym; it’s cheap, convenient and if I go at the right time I can deadlift wherever I want. However, I know plenty of students, even FitSpace employees, who do not use the gym but opt to utilize other gyms in the area. As the honeymoon phase winds down, I find myself sometimes thinking that this is still the temporary gym and that we will soon be cutting the ribbon to the real University gym.
I dread to think what this place will look like down the road when the floors are shit and still no one knows what that weird bar thing is (it’s called a “back and forth Smith machine”…what?). Soon enough, the student population will be calling for a new gym, but their cries will fall on deaf ears because, as it’s been shown, those crusty old guys don’t give a fuck.