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Guide to Using Sparks Post Quiet-Period Closure

Jett Starr

Contributing Writer

Photo by Minna Zhou

With the quiet period over and Sparks opening once again, students not familiar with the facility may be wondering how exactly to make use of it, especially with some of the new COVID-19 restrictions in place. This guide is here to help.

After swiping into the front entrance of Sparks Fitness Center, you will see a front desk to check into the gym right in front of you, the gym to the left and a bust immortalizing the beautiful bald head of Lestle Sparks, whom the building was named after, to your right. Through the lobby, you will see a ramp ascending to the right and into the doorway of Cone Gym where the basketball and volleyball teams play. Behind the brick wall protected by ol’ Lestle is a classroom mostly used as a locker room for visiting teams. It was also used to test people who weren’t symptomatic for Covid earlier this semester. Behind you and to your left as you stand in the doorway is the Prothero classroom, a glass walled classroom the University sometimes has away teams hang out in before a game.

If you are in Sparks for reasons other than to gaze into the metallic eyes of Lestle Sparks, then you will likely be most interested in the gym. Before entering the gym, you must swipe your ID card. If it is your first time using the gym, there will be a quick waiver for you to fill out. The waiver addresses mask use and general gym protocol. The waiver was introduced during the pandemic as a means to ensure everyone was accountable for participating in safe Covid practices. Next, the Fitness Center employee will hand you a bottle filled with disinfectant and a wipe rag. You are required to spray down all of your materials after using them. This is a policy that began with the pandemic, but it also helps give the gym a clean vibe that many gyms don’t seem to emulate. The first thing you will see when walking into the gym is a storage room with another Fitness Center employee sitting at the desk. This room is where you can find a wide array of fitness equipment. Oliver Kushen (‘23), facilities staff coordinator for Sparks said, “we have jump ropes, we have resistance bands, we have weight belts, we have, like, mini hurdles that people can borrow and check out. We have basketballs, soccer balls, I’m pretty sure we have footballs.” There is a whole list of available equipment, all you need to do to receive anything is ask.

Once you’ve made it past the front, you can find a whole host of fitness machines that do lord knows what. There are also two multipurpose rooms that offer a way to do kinesthetic workouts without being surrounded by so many people. On the top floor, there is also a section of the gym that is almost unseen from this middle section of the gym. Part of the bike and cardio section is here. Kushen said that, “we have a lot of really nice bikes…a lot of the machines in the back of Sparks I think get under utilized, a lot of them are pretty new too, we have some that we just got this year.” The Sparks gym has a lower level too. This part of the gym is mostly free weights and squat racks and similar equipment. There is also a matted section for doing body weight exercises. On top of that, there is a rock climbing machine that rotates so that you can climb forever if desired.

Once you're done working out, you leave through the doors downstairs where you can put your dirty towel in a bin and your spray bottle on the table with the others. If working out was your only intention on your trip to Sparks, then you can leave the building out the doors to your left. If, however, you want to see what other trouble you can get up to in the Sparks basement, you can take a right. Down the hallway in the basement, there are two basketball courts, a training room for athletes with excellent physical therapists, and a pool. All students are allowed to use the basketball courts and pool - assuming it is during an hour of operation and there are no swim, basketball, or volleyball practices happening in their respective venues. The rest of the basement consists of locker rooms for our athletic teams. There is one general use locker room on this floor as well, but it might take a bit of exploring to find. You can always ask a staff member for help navigating the building if necessary.

This sums up our athletic facility and leaves us only to discuss the one problem with using the gym. There are so many athletes in that building constantly, hoards of them. They regularly use the gym at the same time and crowd the gym in ways that can frequently intimidate and put pressure onto other students who may not be as comfortable in the space. This is a problem that Kushen has recognized and hopes to mitigate in the future: “We are about to start posting schedules for when teams will be using the space, so when a team lift is going to be, or when a team is practicing in Henkle…so if people do want to use the space when a team is not there, they will be able to start checking that at the front door.” The goal of this initiative is, “to make the space more inviting to everyone on campus…I’d like long-term for everyone to feel comfortable enjoying the space.”

Hopefully, this great Athletics resource will become more and more comfortable for all of us to use, and this guide on how to navigate the Sparks Fitness Center will help our campus out with that.

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