During the winter months, cold weather forces winter sports teams to practice indoors, causing a power struggle between winter and spring sports teams with students caught in the middle.
With St. Thomas’ eight winter sports teams and eight spring sports teams controlling a large portion of the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex’s availability when snow is on the ground, AARC facilities manager Dave Lepp said it can become difficult for non-student athletes to find time to reserve the AARC.
“When you’ve got eight sports teams looking for two, to two-and-a-half hours of practice time a day, you can’t make everyone happy,” Lepp said.
Even with the new complex, Lepp said students are still struggling for playing time.
“This time of year, even with this new facility, it didn’t change our problems,” Lepp said. “But, we also have more options for students … We have the dance studios, the better weight room and the cardio room.”
Part of the problem is that all spring sports began their practices two weeks earlier than last year, causing even more conflict over time.
Students return to campus after January Term expecting to have the same access to the AARC that they did over the fall semester. Unfortunately, this is not possible since spring and winter programs have a large period of overlap.
“When people first come back in February, they don’t realize that the whole schedule has changed,” Lepp said.
Students who aren’t prepared for this new schedule can expect a rude awakening.
“The fall is not so bad, but the spring gets pretty bad,” senior Aaron Becker said. “It’s kind of upsetting in the afternoon when you want to play basketball. You can’t just play a pickup game. It makes it a hassle.”
While there is no limit on how much time the teams can control the AARC for, Tommie teams usually occupy it for about 11-12 hours each day in the spring, compared to about five hours a day in the fall.
The best chance to get some free time in the AARC is during the week between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m.
“Anytime after 3 p.m., it’s pretty booked for the rest of the night,” junior Ryan Forsman said.
One way the university tried to alleviate this problem was by remodeling McCarthy Gym in 2011. The gym’s pool was even covered with a wood floor to accommodate sports like badminton, basketball and volleyball.
Students know of this option, but would rather use the AARC.
“That’s just a pain,” Forsman said about walking down to McCarthy Gym to play.
Because the AARC is a desirable place to exercise and play, Lepp said the school is taking steps to try and keep students happy in other ways.
“We try to keep one gym open at McCarthy Gym,” Lepp said. “That’s the recreational gym this time of year.”
One way students can assure themselves some weekly playing time is by forming or joining an intramural sports team.
St. Thomas Intramural Sports Commissioner Zack Johnson said the university offers a wide range of intramural sports and students are encouraged to join.
“Getting an intramurals league together is really quite simple,” Johnson said. “Anybody can participate. We have more than 2,100 members signed up.”
However, while any student can participate in the intramural leagues, those teams are still taking up more time in the AARC.
“We have 70 men’s basketball teams, so that’s at least 500 guys who are actively participating,” Johnson said.
While all students help pay for the AARC, varsity sports teams will always get first choice at time in the facility.
“The varsity teams do get first priority,” Johnson said. “That’s why they build these big facilities, they are the revenue producers.”
In the meantime, students will have to deal with the busy space.
“It makes sense that teams get first pick,” Forsman said. “If the (field house) is busy, it kind of sucks.”
Trevor Walstrom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.