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Crime log: Subject barred after shoplifting at bookstore
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 26, 2024

Lerner reopening disappoints students with lack of equipment upgrades

Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor
Students said they wanted to see officials reconfigure Lerner, noting the “cramped” layout of the center that leaves little wiggle room during high-traffic periods.

Updated: Nov. 14, 2022 at 1:00 p.m.

The Lerner Health and Wellness Center’s renovations stopped short of the equipment upgrades and physical reconfigurations that officials first advertised before shutting down the facility for five months in May.

Officials reopened Lerner last week with an updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, but officials announced in May that the renovations may also include “equipment upgrades” and a redesigned layout with more versatile spaces. Students said they struggled to identify any physical changes in the space post-renovations after finding rundown equipment and “cramped” spaces to be lingering issues upon the facility’s reopening.

“The closure is necessary to safely perform extensive HVAC work throughout the entire building,” Andre Julien, the director of the Lerner Health and Wellness Center said in an email in May. “It is also an opportunity to use the downtime for equipment upgrades and to reconfigure the building to offer more flexible and collaborative spaces.”

Julien said officials replaced outdated and non-functioning HVAC units and performed an “extensive preventative maintenance program” on all of the facility’s equipment during the closure. He said due to supply chain issues officials paused their plan to repurpose the third-floor racquetball courts into a more “functional” fitness space during the closure, including new flooring and high-intensity equipment.

He said although officials do not know when those updates will be finished, the renovations will not require Lerner to be closed again.

“We do not have a timeline yet on when we will be able to complete these improvements as we are waiting on updates from our suppliers,” Julien said in an email Monday. “When we do start this project, we do not anticipate having to close the building, however the Racquetball area will be offline while the work is being performed.”

Julien also said paid group fitness programs will be returning to Lerner in the spring.

Students said while Lerner was closed, they improvised in-dorm exercises or paid for memberships at off-campus gyms, opting out of the free gym access on the third-floor room of the University Student Center and the West Hall gym on the Mount Vernon campus.

Lerner offers a three-lane lap pool on its lower level and free weights, weight machines and cardio machines on the ground floor. The building also has six squash suites, four courts for basketball, volleyball and badminton and a gymnasium with a suspended track on the third and fourth floors.

More than 25 students said they have used Lerner since its reopening and recommended officials replace older, rundown weight and cardio equipment that is missing safety features with newer models. Students also said they wanted to see officials reconfigure the space, noting the “cramped” layout of the center that leaves little wiggle room during high-traffic periods, especially when popular equipment like weight benches frequently have lines of students waiting to use them during busy hours.

Seven students said they saw minimal change in Lerner post-renovations and noted the lack of new equipment given officials’ previous messaging and the length of the closure.

Senior Ennosen Yen, who studies interior architecture, said she thought officials would upgrade equipment during the closure and recommended they install more machines on the building’s third and fourth floors to spread out students and address the lack of space.

Other than the track and multi-purpose courts, Lerner’s third and fourth floors lack free weights and only feature various cardio equipment on the top floor.

“This is like a four- or five-floor building, and I don’t think it’s being used to the potential that it could be being used at,” Yen said. “So, more machines, more weightlifting, more utilizing activities on each floor.”

Freshman Erica Kong said there are a few popular exercise machines, like weighted squat machines, which frequently have lineups of students waiting to use them. She said she has had to wait at least twice for multiple students to use the machines before she can go.

“The leg machines like the hip abductors and the weighted squats one, those are really popular, but it’s kind of one at a time because there’s only one of each,” Kong said.

Freshman Rohan Singh said some exercise machines seem rundown and require maintenance or replacement because they lack safety measures like grips, making them painful or unsafe to use.

“Machines don’t have grips on them anymore,” Singh said. “It’s just like ripping your hands on bare metal, and they’re just quite old machines, like 15 years old.”

Sophomore Asli Bereketoglu said the weight room is “small” and has dated equipment that appears to not have been updated since before the closure. She said officials should update or better maintain the exercise machines, pointing to the cardio equipment that creaks when in motion.

Exercise machines generally have a lifespan of about 10 years including ongoing maintenance checks, according to a 2016 report by Allianz Risk Consulting.

“I feel like the equipment is so old,” Bereketoglu said. “They have to change the equipment because the equipment makes so much noise when you use it.”

Students said there is a lack of space in Lerner’s cardio and weights section even after officials had stated that they planned to reconfigure the space to be more “flexible.”

Freshman Eugenia Wincey said the lack of space in those sections makes the space feel “cramped.” She said the space isn’t large enough to accommodate all the students using the facility during its most crowded periods in the afternoon.

“I think that the space where there’s the walkers and the weights is a bit small for the magnitude of the student population,” Wincey said.

Junior Nicky Danilich said the only improvement he noticed upon reopening was freshly painted white walls in the lobby and the fitness center. He said the gym’s closure wasn’t “worth” it for him because he had to find an alternative gym off-campus and didn’t notice any major physical renovations upon the center’s reopening.

“I don’t know if that was something they had to do, but it was kind of annoying having to go to Gold’s Gym in Rosslyn instead while it was closed,” Danilich said.

This post has been updated to include an email statement from Andre Julien. 

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About the Contributor
Cade McAllister, Events Editor
Cade McAllister is a sophomore double majoring in international affairs and political science from San Diego, California.  He is The Hatchet's 2023-2024 events editor.
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