UF gymgoers’ ears, typically filled with blood-pumping, high-tempo beats, are now subjected to the sound of power tools as Southwest Recreation Center continues construction.
The shrill drills and banging hammers are not just loud noises, but a promise of increased student amenities. The weight room’s sonics and temporary partial closure drove some to abandon the popular on-campus gym, while others still attend despite distractions.
The $3 million project is expanding Southwest Rec’s weight room from 14,000 to 21,000 square feet and adding a turf area, squat racks, deadlift platforms, weights and gender neutral washrooms.
University surveys determined what renovations students most desired within the next decade. Estelle Gyimah, RecSports assistant director for fitness, said the plan is 10 years in the making; it was approved in October 2020, started in February 2022 and is set to be completed by January 2023.
Expansion began by temporarily closing a portion of the weight room, causing an already cramped space to feel tighter. The room’s west wall was replaced with a sheet for two weeks, which took away about six feet of space.
Nirali Patel, a 19-year-old UF dietetics sophomore, looks forward to the expansion but feels cramped in the chaotic compact weight room amid gym rush hour. She typically goes around 9 a.m. to avoid the crowd.
“If I don’t workout in the morning, I’m not going to get a good workout in,” Patel said. “There’s just too many people.”
Sam Hernandez, a 19-year-old UF applied physiology and kinesiology sophomore, said he was already frustrated with the weight room’s size. He said that, as someone who hates training legs, even he thinks that the gym could afford to add equipment for those muscle groups. He has to wait anywhere from 15 to 20 minutes for a machine to open up, he said.
But it was the construction’s cacophony that ultimately drove him to sign up for a Crunch membership in Fall. He said he was thankful to have his noise-canceling headphones to get him through the Summer.
Other weightlifters were more wary of UF’s lack of communication than the construction itself.
The gym has signs stating the weight room will be expanding, yet do not disclose the details of the expansion.
“I was a little upset,” said Ethan Jenkins, a 21-year-old UF sports management senior. “They didn’t really tell us what was going to happen, and then I thought it was going to be like that until they completely finished.”
Though the project is on schedule, weather poses a massive burden to the project. The construction takes place outdoors, where it is subject to rain and summer storms. Too much rain will put construction behind schedule, but too little rain will soften the soil too much, Gyimah said.