As Amanda Pogorzelski’s feet thud against the treadmill at Gregory Gymnasium, she feels like she can escape the four walls of her Jester dorm room.
“I like running, so this clears my head, which I know is kind of a stereotypical thing to say,” said Pogorzelski, a youth and community studies freshman. “After a long day of working on Zoom calls, it’s nice to get away from the computer screen.”
Gregory Gym reopened Aug. 17, 2020 after closing in March due to COVID-19, but not without new strict safety protocols. To limit the number of guests in the gym at a time, a new reservation system has been implemented. All gymgoers can reserve time slots for a swim lane, weight room or the climbing wall.
Cecilia Lopez Cardenas, senior assistant director for communications at RecSports, said the reservation system is crucial in keeping the RecSports facilities safe for its members. Currently, RecSports sees about 20% of usual pre-COVID-19 traffic in their facilities.
“All of this is in order to maintain our capacity levels on point,” Lopez Cardenas said. “Since we’re operating on reduced capacity, (we’re) making sure that we’re able to accommodate everyone in advance.”
With every adult in the state of Texas now eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, Pogorzelski said she is hoping to be able to lift with friends when she goes to Gregory Gym.
“Gyms are kind of seen as superspreaders because a lot of people touch a lot of things, but I think Greg does a great job of cleaning procedures and enforcing masks,” Pogorzelski said. “I hope next year or next semester that more equipment is available … and that more students come.”
Some students miss the camaraderie of playing team sports, so RecSports has seen more interest in games such as cornhole and volleyball.
“We had quite a few teams for cornhole because it’s nice and leisurely,” said Kaitlyn Dougherty, history senior and RecSports intramural supervisor. “It’s very flexible to a lot of people, and you can still have that socialization.”
Although RecSports would like to open up more so students can play contact sports again, they want to make sure every visitor will be safe when they begin lifting restrictions.
“It’s really important to UT as an institution and for RecSports as a part of that institution to make sure that we are not being frivolous with people’s safety or their lives,” Dougherty said. “It’s important for us to make sure we protect our community (in the long run).”
While students will have to wait for Gregory Gym to follow UT’s lead on when to return to a pre-pandemic normal, some students have grown accustomed to the new gym reality and appreciate the level of cleanliness.
“COVID kind of pointed out to me how dirty things can be,” Pogorzelski said. “(Gregory Gym has) bottles and (you can) even check out towels if you don’t bring yours, but it’s nice being able to clean your station and know that what you’re touching isn’t full of germs.”