Following months of anticipation, the Cal Poly Recreation Center had a soft opening morning after approximately four years of planning and construction.
University Union Advisory Board Chair Karen Mesrobian, a philosophy senior, said Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) carefully orchestrated the opening to allow users the best experience throughout opening day.
“It gives the students a pleasant experience the first time they walk in the facility,” she said. “If they’re waiting in line for a really long time or if it’s really crowded, they’re not going to get the customer service from our staff or the time to just kind of look around.”
One student was already in line at 6 a.m. when the center opened, and Mesrobian said there was a slow stream of additional users coming in throughout the morning. Traffic picked up in the afternoon, with more than 100 curious students entering the facility every hour. Some were ready to workout, but many wore street clothes and carried backpacks between classes.
ASI assistant director Greg Avakian said Tuesday afternoon that the evening would bring more traffic. More than 2,000 students were expected to use the Recreation Center before it closed at midnight.
“It’s great to have people back in the building,” Avakian said. “The best part has been seeing their reactions.”
Mesrobian said the feedback coming from students has been overwhelmingly positive. She said it has been rewarding watching people with wide eyes and smiles walking through the center.
Biomedical engineering freshman Nikki Waniek said she looked at recreational centers at every college she visited before deciding to come to Cal Poly. None of them even come close to the new Cal Poly center, she said.
“It was amazing,” Waniek said. “It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I’m obsessed. It was like going to Disneyland.”
Mesrobian said she was surprised how quickly some students went into their normal workout routine. She said if she were to use it, she would be “like a kid in a candy store.” But Avakian said students have had no problem learning how to use the new center.
“People jumped right into it,” he said. “It wasn’t a big learning curve, they just went ahead and used it.”
The project, which students approved in a 2008 vote, was originally brought about by a lack of available space in the old Recreation Center. The newly opened center has approximately triple the amount of space for weights, totaling nearly 21,000 square feet.
“It’s a gorgeous facility, it’s amazing state of the art equipment,” Mesrobian said.
The expansion includes one spin studio, as well as two multi-purpose studios. There is also a Multi Activity Center (MAC) that has the capacity to seat 730 people and will be used for small events such as movies and concerts. An indoor track changes directions each weekday, and basketball courts there are always open for informal use. The outside of the center contains beach volleyball courts, a leisure pool and areas to barbecue.
Recreation Center classes, such as yoga and spinning, will begin next Monday and are free to students.
Mesrobian said students would not have to wait for exercise machines on the opening day due to the large amount of usable space and the three different weight rooms within the building. Forestry senior Jaclyn Lim, who came to the center after seeing her friends post about it on Facebook, agreed.
“It’s really well thought out,” Lim said. “They have plenty of machines, so you don’t have to wait for anything.”
Poly Escapes, which ties into the athletic theme of the center, will relocate from the Julian A. McPhee University Union to the new Recreation Center in the spring.
“(Poly Escapes is) going to have a really front and center location,” Mesrobian said. “I think it’s going to help them get more people on trips and everything else they do.”
Poly Escapes will have a 42-foot rock climbing wall and 10-foot bouldering wall on the side of the building. There is no known date for the climbing park opening.
Although the Recreation Center is up and running, some of the technology is still being worked on.
For the first two weeks the center is open, ASI will not require students to use the HandKey security system, Mesrobian said. Instead, users will sign a waiver upon entry into the Recreation Center. Once they pass through the turnstiles, students can register for the HandKey system.
The MAC is also closed until the end of its construction, and the leisure pool is closed until crews can clean away magnesium and iron residue found last week.
ASI shut down the Pre-Rec Center, which housed workout equipment when the Recreation Center closed last fall, immediately after the new facility opened.
Video produced by Travis Khachatoorian/CPTV