U Student Life Center Reopens with Changes Amid the Pandemic


Eccles Student Life Center on the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City. (Chronicle archives.)

By Porshai Nielsen, Investigative Editor


For the first time since its opening in 2015, the Eccles Student Life Center in the heart of the University of Utah’s campus was forced to close its doors due to the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States.  The pandemic in the spring semester of 2020 forced students out of their dorms and classrooms, with campus facilities such as gyms, following suit. The Student Life Center closed for the remainder of the spring and summer, offering online classes.

While campus activities are limited at the moment, the Student Life Center has reopened.

Student gyms have become increasingly popular on college campuses across the country. Building a recreation center is an investment in students by making a commitment to supporting students in health and wellness, which is attractive to prospective students. 

Not only does it benefit mental and physical well beings, but there is evidence exercise correlates with higher grade point averages. In a study conducted by Purdue University, the Division of Recreational sports found students who visit the France A. Cordova Recreational Sports Center 16 or more times a month earned a 3.10 or a higher. They also concluded that even students who visit only a few times a month still had a GPA above 3.0.

The Student Life Center at the U is very similar to Purdue University’s, offering students a variety of exercise options including swimming, cardio and fitness classes. 

“After the closure of the gym, it became quite clear that access to physical activities is crucial for life on and off-campus. Restricted access and not being able to use gym facilities has greatly decreased my participation in physical and social activities. This has made it more difficult to maintain my success and mental health as a student,” said Daniel Crockford, fourth year chemical engineering student. 

Students are now allowed to be back in the gyms and can take fitness classes such as yoga, tennis, cycling, and CrossFit, but going to the gym now comes at an unexpected cost; the risk of contracting COVID-19.

Throughout the summer, the student life center took time to decide what would be the best plan of action for bringing students back safely. The plan includes precautions such as masks and hand sanitizer, work-out time slots, alternating machines and closing off the most “high-risk” or hard to clean areas of the gym. 

“You can no longer workout in groups due to distancing and sanitation rules. I feel completely safe being there since everyone is wearing masks and the equipment is being cleaned more than ever,” said Andrew Garrow, a third year civil engineering student. 

Areas remaining closed include the locker rooms, outdoor pool, spa, the Cher Ami Lounge and the rope climbing wall. All other areas are open with limited capacities due to social distancing.

The Student Life Center website includes a live update of how many people are in each area of the gym in real-time. Each area is calculated through a circle chart that gives a percentage of how full that area and the exact number of people there. You can view the pool, cardio/functional fitness, basketball and racquetball courts among the bouldering wall which requires reservations. 

Other requirements for going to the student life center include wearing a face mask at all times, limiting workouts to 60 minutes and no sharing of equipment. Students and faculty experiencing any type of flu symptom should refrain from coming to the gym until their symptoms have subsided.

There are more specific requirements for the Crimson Lagoon, Summit Climbing and Group fitness classes that you can find here.


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