Walking into the Freeman Athletic Center, you are greeted by a sign-in sheet and the familiar sight of a hand sanitizer station. As you make your way to the Anderson Fitness Center, the halls, once bustling with athletes going to and from the locker rooms, are now desolate and empty. When you arrive at the fitness center, you will wait outside until your designated time slot begins. Slowly, your fellow gym attendees walk in as you wait in silence. Finally, the monitor on duty opens the doors and greets you as you file inside one by one. They ask for your name and check you off their list. Inside the fitness center, most things remain familiar; however, “do not use” signs hang on every other cardio machine to maintain the six-foot social distancing requirement. After each piece of equipment you use, you spray it down with a bottle of pink disinfectant solution that is readily available at various locations around the fitness center.
The Freeman Athletic Center opened to the University community on Sept. 14, 2020. However, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the facilities at the Freeman Athletic Center are operating quite differently than usual. Anderson Fitness Center, Bacon Field House, and the Wesleyan Natatorium are all open for student use, but the locker rooms remain closed. Students who wish to use the Athletic Center are required to register for a time slot via Microsoft Bookings, located on the Wesleyan Athletics website.
The protocols vary slightly for each of the facilities, but the same basic guidelines apply: students are required to maintain six-feet social distancing and wear face masks at all times, the only exception being while in the water. All students must register with a monitor or coach before using the facilities. Students must also sanitize before entering the Athletic Center and must disinfect all equipment used with the provided disinfectant spray.
“It used to be super crowded,” Hannah Docktor ’24, a first-year softball player, said in an interview with The Argus.“And now it’s really just not all that crowded because like you have to schedule the time to go in there and there’s also disinfectant everywhere, and like people are just kind of spraying everything down frequently.”
With regards to specific facility guidelines, students using Bacon Field House are permitted to partake in activities that maintain six-foot social distancing, such as basketball passing and shooting; however, only two people are permitted to use the courts and batting cage respectively at a time. Per state guidelines, only one person per swimming lane is permitted and it is encouraged to swim in the opposite direction of the swimmer in the lane next to you when at the Natatorium.
The maximum capacity for Anderson Fitness Center is 22 people, while the maximum capacity for Bacon Field House and the Natatorium are 25 and 18 respectively, including staff members. Each time slot is generally 50 minutes long, but 80 and 90-minute sessions are available on select days for Bacon Field House and Anderson Fitness Center.
The Freeman Athletic Center has seen a successful reopening largely due to the planning of a committee of athletic administrators that met routinely over the summer. The 50 minute workout time limit was one of the decisions made by the committee in an effort to best align reopening proceedings with COVID-19 safety protocol. Each session must be limited to 50 minutes to ensure proper cleaning time, reduce the amount of traffic in the area at a given time and to maximize the amount of students who would have access to the Freeman Athletic Center facilities.
The time slots are highly regimented, so students are strongly encouraged to arrive early to maximize their time. There is also a five-minute warning signal to give students time to wrap up their workouts. Between each session, staff members sanitize any shared touch-points in the facility, and each night, the University’s custodial company Service Management Group (SMG) completes their routine cleaning.
“They sent you an email beforehand actually like before I got there, a quick outline like here’s how to come in and stuff like that so like there’s not really anything I can think of that wasn’t covered in that, except like, bring your own water, and stuff like that,” Docktor said.“They don’t have any foam rollers and bands, so if that’s something you need to bring that on your own.”
Assistant Director of Athletics Stephanie Scarpato, also attributed the predominately smooth reopening process to the student body’s cooperation with the Athletic Center guidelines.
“I think we are in a good spot right now with Freeman and the current operations plan,” Scarpato said in an interview with The Argus. “We are really grateful to be able to offer the facilities to our students, as we know how important it is to so many. In the first few days of operations, there have been some minor bumps along the road, but we are learning and improving every day and feel that the plan we have in place will greatly reduce the risk to both our students and staff. It has also been so great to see how well the general student body has responded and has been following all of the new procedures both at the athletics center and across campus. It is clear that the students want to be here, want to do the right thing, and are understanding when things aren’t operating perfectly right away. This has definitely contributed to the success we’ve seen so far at Wesleyan.”
More information regarding the Freeman Athletic Center Guidelines as well as opening hours can be found on the Wesleyan Athletics website.
When asked if she had any advice for University students considering heading to the gym, Scarpato recommended exploring existing buildings now being used for new workout purposes.
“Don’t be intimidated,” Scarpato said.“The fieldhouse—this is the first year we’ve had any cardio machines in there—so check out the Fieldhouse as an alternate option. It’s a great open space,” Scarpato said.
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