No Room To Sweat at Mac

Students complain about crowds

John S. Luna ’03 said he stopped going to the Malkin Athletic Center nearly two weeks ago because the crowds and long waits for cardiovascular equipment were too much to bear.

Despite the introduction of a new paper-based scheduling system last April—which allows patrons to sign up to use a machine up to two hours in advance—the facility continues to be regarded by both students and university officials alike as inadequate.

Mac attendance data indicates 7,000 to 10,000 visits each week, with daily figures peaking at 1,500.

But nearly nine months after a report commissioned by former Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles quantified the recreational space crunch at Harvard, administrators are still developing plans to increase such space in the Mac.

Luna, who said he waited up to an hour and a half for a 30-minute treadmill session on multiple occasions, now sticks to the Kirkland House fitness room for his workouts.

“Maybe I’ll go back if they replace the [scheduling] system,” Luna said.

Brendan F. Petri ’06 said he thinks it would be hard to eliminate the long lines.

“The system is a little annoying, but they’d need a lot more machines to cut down on waiting time,” Petri said. “It might be easier if they didn’t use the time system [because] people don’t always use all 30 minutes, and it gets confusing whose turn it is.”

However, many students and administrators said that the lack of recreational space for additional machines, not the scheduling system, creates the long waits.

Allison K. Rone ’06 recommended “strategic” planning to avoid a long wait for the popular machines, the elliptical trainers and treadmills.

“If you come spontaneously it’s almost impossible to get a machine within two to three hours,” she said.

Director of Athletics Robert L. Scalise said he intends to present recommendations—including drawings of the proposed changes to the Mac and other athletic facilities and a projected price—to Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby by the end of March.

Pending Kirby’s approval, the Department of Athletics would begin a capital campaign for the creation of a new Mac, one devoted entirely to recreational sports.

Before any Mac renovations can begin, however, the varsity volleyball, fencing and wrestling teams must find new homes across the Charles.

“You can’t knock down walls until you vacate the building,” Scalise said. “And you can’t just cancel a season of wrestling.”

“These are multi, multi-million dollar decisions,” said Scalise, who projects that an opening would be years to come.

But some students who like the scheduling system don’t see a pressing need for change.

Cheryl-Lyn D. Bentley ’06 likes the sign up system. “You can plan out what you’ll do, and you know when someone will get off,” she said.

One woman liked the sign up system so much that she asked Mac facility managers to create a similar system for the weight room. The woman requested “one minute slots,” according to Joanna White ’01, a manager and reception supervisor.

—Staff writer Sarah L. Park can be reached at slpark@fas.harvard.edu.