Things have changed, but the fun continues at the Reitz Union Game Room.
The game room closed in March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Nearly four months later, on Aug. 12, it reopened its doors to continue serving as a recreational space to the UF community. But now staff and visitors are following new policies and procedures to keep everyone safe.
Currently, only four out of 14 bowling lanes and six out of 10 pool tables are open every day from noon to 4 p.m. and 6 to 10 p.m., and tabletop games are no longer offered, wrote Jessica Inman, associate director of the J. Wayne Reitz Union, in an email.
The game room closes from 4 to 6 p.m. each day for deep cleaning; pool balls, cues, shoes, lanes and tables are sanitized between every use, Inman said.
To promote physical distancing and keep up with UF’s and CDC guidelines, Inman said the game room has plexiglass barriers at its counters and is currently a cashless location, meaning visitors can pay with either checks or credit cards only.
“Most of our patrons have followed all of UF's policies and have been extremely respectful of the updates to our facility,” Inman said.
The game room also has hand sanitizer stations as well as sanitizing wipes for patrons to use upon entering and throughout their visit, she said. Staff do not take the temperature of people visiting the game room.
However, Inman said the place has signs showing UF policies, including the use of masks at all times, respect of social distancing — with a maximum group size of four people per activity — and self-monitoring for any COVID-19 symptoms.
The rates to play have also changed, Inman said.
Before, bowling prices were per game, per person, which would allow a group to bowl for about one hour, but now they pay per hour, per person: UF students pay $5 and non-students pay $7. And to play pool per table, per hour, UF students and non-students now pay $4 and $6, respectively.
In addition, when bowling, visitors must pay $2 for shoe rental or $4 to buy “bowling buddies,” which are disposable shoe covers people can now use if they would prefer playing in their own shoes, Inman said.
Inman said the game room is not taking any reservations, which means no student organizations can host large parties, events or socials at the venue.
“This has allowed us to be open for the UF community and to serve students with their recreation and leisure needs,” Inman added.
If the room reaches its 40 person capacity, people are put on a waiting list and are notified via text or call when a table or lane is available.
“Because of physical distancing, there is space for small groups or ‘quaranteams’ to spend time with one another and enjoy a break from coursework and studying,” Inman said.
Before the pandemic, the game room was open daily: Sunday to Thursday from noon to 10 p.m.; Friday from noon to 1 a.m. due to Gator Nights; and Saturday from noon to midnight. The place also offered foosball, table tennis and board games, said Kerina Singh, a student employee at the game room.
Singh, a 20-year-old UF educational sciences junior, has worked at the Reitz Game Room since her freshman year and said it is still a place where students come to have fun.
“Even though we are in the midst of a pandemic, everybody is always having a good time in the game room,” Singh said.
Employees keep track of the numbers of visitors every 30 minutes. During the day, there are usually less than ten people, and on a busy night, about 20 people, Singh said.
Usually, two to three employees are at the game room assisting visitors. They give information, take care of money transactions, make sure the bowling lanes are working properly and clean equipment after each group is done playing, Singh said.
The employees at the game room must clean and wipe each bowling ball and the holes where people put their fingers in, she added.
Other than cleaning and making sure everything runs safely and smoothly, staff members at the game room like to talk to people when they come inside. Singh said this semester, most of them are freshmen who visit the place to have a break from schoolwork and Zoom.
“It's an adjustment period,” Singh said, “and we're just getting used to all the adjustments.”
Aurora Martínez is a journalism senior and the digital managing editor for The Alligator. When life gives her a break, she loves doing jigsaw puzzles, reading Modern Love stories and spending quality time with friends.