Frustrated students are dreaming of a better fitness center


Cassie Long

Because athletic teams often use the Mabee fitness center for group workouts, non-athletes sometimes have difficulties finding an appropriate time to work out. Image by Cassie Long.

I am not a student athlete. I am fortunate to attend Baker University with enough scholarship money even though I do not play sports. Baldwin City is my favorite place in the entire world thanks to Baker University, and because of this, I dread the day that I will graduate in May.

The benefits I’ve gained from going to a small liberal arts university have been invaluable. Over my four years, the little quirks about going to such a small school and #BakerProbz have become endearing.

I love our older buildings and sometimes out-of-date technology. I’ve grown to appreciate the lack of accessibility to amenities that would be common at a larger university, such as not having a coffee shop open late at night. In general, the benefits far outweigh the negatives.

There is one place in our little haven, however, that is absolutely unacceptable. That is the fitness center in Mabee Hall.

I entered my freshman year bright-eyed and ready to maintain the intense workout regimen I had developed in high school. I was determined to avoid the “freshman 15.”

After the first week of using the Mabee fitness center, I knew I was in trouble. Yes, Mabee had all the necessary pieces of equipment to stay in shape. Yes, most of it at least functioned enough for use. The first problem was I could never use it. Whenever I went to work out, entire teams were there sprawling over most of the usable equipment.

I almost never could find an available treadmill, and if one was open, it was because it didn’t work. There was only one upright bike, and I felt lucky if I had a chance to use it.

Four out of my first five visits resulted in an incomplete workout, then other frustrations started to build up. The floor was never clean, and all my workout tops had black lines of dirt up the back from when I would do abdominal work on the ground. Weight machines would work one day and malfunction the next. The hours were inconvenient with my class schedule.

I decided to join the Baldwin Athletic Club. I was able to afford the semester price and I never regretted it. Fitness center woes were no longer my problem.

After the closure of the BAC this summer, though, I have been forced to use the Mabee fitness center again. Not much has changed or been updated since my freshman year.

As an accounting major and a bean counter, let me just give you some numbers. During the week of Sept. 18-24, there were two broken ellipticals in the corner. There was one broken rowing machine. There were three working treadmills that were only partially functioning (one’s incline does not work and another cannot sense if a user is on it when it goes above a certain speed).

In addition, there are countless mismatched dumbbells. There are no medicine balls, and I have to bring my own yoga mat to stretch or do abs.

Can we just talk about the fact that a campus of nearly 1,000 undergraduates needs to share three partially functioning treadmills?

We are far behind the schools we compete with when comparing fitness centers. One of our primary competitors, Benedictine, boasts on its website that it has a 42,000 square-foot student recreation center with “a hanging track and a turfed field” along with “multipurpose rooms for aerobics and spinning classes, as well as an extensive cardio and weight room.”

After 19 consecutive years of enrollment growth, Benedictine is now up to 1,930 students, approximately twice the number for Baker’s Baldwin City campus. Benedictine offers extended hours for recreational facilities from 5 a.m. to midnight daily. There is an entirely separate weight room just for student-athletes in order to prevent the traffic that we non-athletes work around on a daily basis at Baker.

If Baker expects to continue competing with schools like Benedictine and Avila, which also has a renovated fitness center, we need to step up our game and upgrade our workout facility.

Not only are we putting athletic teams at a disadvantage by not having adequate equipment, we are depriving non-athletes of a crucial opportunity to maintain their mental and physical health.

Some student-athletes have told me privately that they do not feel comfortable speaking up about the workout problems at Baker because their coaches would become upset at them.

I’ve emailed coach Miguel Regalado, the fitness center director, requesting simple service calls for the treadmills several times. To his credit, he has responded. On one occasion, he answered with the following: “2 of the 4 work, Lauren. There is a service call for the others. Have a phenomenal day.”

I also have emailed Dean of Students Cassy Bailey and Athletic Director Theresa Yetmar. Both seem to understand the issues the fitness center faces. I know I may be annoying, but if athletes, who comprise more than half of our student population, do not feel comfortable speaking up and pushing the issue due to fear of punishment, I will.

I know that the university is not financially able to provide a full-scale renovation at this point, and that is understandable. A good starting point would be some new stretching mats, medicine balls and working treadmills.

Because I am a senior, I know I will not see an upgrade to the fitness center in my time here at Baker. But because I love this university and the opportunities it has given me, because I care about the future enrollment numbers, and because I care about the mental and physical health of our students, I will continue to push for improvements that could happen soon after I graduate.