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The Mass Media

Why UMass Boston needs a new recreational center

The+Beacons+Ice+Rink+doors+remain+closed+this+season.

The Beacons Ice Rink doors remain closed this season.

UMass Boston is the only public university in the city of Boston. The school represents an affordable route for many students across the world to continue their education after high school while being in one of the most vibrant cities in the United States. The student body is grateful to be under the leadership of new chancellor Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, who acknowledges the importance of diversity, inclusion, and student engagement. The Chancellor is committed to leading UMass Boston in its “becoming a leading anti-racist and health-promoting public research university” [1]. While I do not doubt the Chancellor’s vision for our university, the current recreational amenities at UMass Boston pose a serious threat to the University’s ability to realize this vision. Recreational activities are one of the most important things about any university, especially UMass Boston. The health benefits and contribution to campus culture are undeniable, yet vital resources like the basketball court and the Beacon Fitness Center are hard to access due to either athletics teams using the space or overcrowding, and intramural teams face accessibility challenges given that fields are located off-campus.
The main function of a university is to help its students develop personally, as well as academically. Academic development comes in the classroom, but the development of well-intentioned and purposeful members of society comes from outside of the classroom. Students venture out to try new things, testing their abilities in the many different fields and communities that are typically centralized within a university [2]. One of the best avenues for personal development at any college is through extracurriculars, especially recreation-based extracurriculars like using the school fitness center.
Through the pursuit of an interest, a student who works out at the Beacon Fitness Center is surrounded by other students who love to work out as well. When in an environment like this, the shared interest of a recreational activity unites people from all different walks of life, creating bonds that otherwise may never have been realized, and growing both as students and as people. By being engaged with a community at a school campus such as recreation, students develop much more motivation to do well at that university, which makes them much more likely to stay at that university.
Improved recreational facilities will motivate more students to use them, which will make more students involved on campus, which in turn will make the students healthier, which will aid in their personal development and academic success. The physical benefits of recreational activities are widely known, but what is often overlooked are the benefits to mental health and overall student success that are linked to recreational activities. Students who are involved in recreational activities at their school have been shown to experience an increase in the quality of sleep they get, which leads to further health benefits like increased energy [3]. What is even more enticing is that through involvement in recreation, students will increase their social engagement and interaction, and thus have more chance of forming meaningful relationships [4]. This all means that students are getting an increased sense of belonging, which makes them more attached emotionally to the school, and thus makes them want to succeed more at the school academically and personally, both for themselves and the community they have found.
Recreational amenities and activities are especially important to UMass Boston’s extracurriculars because they represent the easiest way for a student to get involved and interact with other students at UMass Boston. This is because recreational activities are a way for students to participate in an activity that interests them, like an intramural sport, but without significant distraction from academics and without the long-term commitment of other extracurriculars [5].
This is why recreational amenities play such a big factor in whether a student will attend a school or continue attending a school. College students are predominantly young adults who are still figuring themselves out, and this makes the prospect of a non-committal activity like pickup basketball more enticing than more committal extracurriculars. Students recognize the importance of extracurriculars, specifically recreation-based extracurriculars, and are factoring the importance of recreational facilities into their decision of where to go to school and whether they should continue attending a school. A 2014 study surveying over 33,000 college students identified that 74 percent of students said that the recreation facilities at a school played a role in their decision to keep attending a university [6]. Another 2006 study from the APPA Center for Facilities Research found that nearly one-third of college applicants, 32.9 percent, said that it was important to see a school’s recreational facilities before choosing to attend.[7]
The current recreational amenities at UMass Boston, unfortunately, pose many roadblocks to student participation. The Clark Athletic Center is home to 18 athletics teams, yet it is also home to one of the most popular and important recreational resources for UMass Boston students: the basketball courts. Walk through Clark at any time past 10 a.m., and there are usually multiple intense, full-court, sweat-inducing five-on-five games being run, usually until the courts are closed. However, for as popular as the courts are, most of the student body is often restricted from using them due to the fact that multiple sports teams practice on the courts daily.
The men’s and the women’s basketball teams practice every day, with their seasons lasting practically the entire school year, from mid-October through mid-March. Both teams practice every day, but only one will use the court at a time, meaning that the courts are reserved for basketball practice at least a couple of hours every day. The courts are restricted for other teams as well, as the volleyball team practices on the basketball court, and many other outdoor teams like soccer, baseball, and softball will practice on the court if there is inclement weather. The constant use of a vital recreational resource like the basketball court by athletics teams means that most of the student body is restricted from using it, providing a considerable barrier to the health of many of our students.
This may not seem like a big deal, but it is important to remember the nature of the student body at UMass Boston. There are a lot of commuters, and most students have personal responsibilities outside of school like work or family obligations that take up considerable chunks of time. Thus, for many students, the courts not being accessible for hours means that they have missed out on their chance to participate recreationally before they left campus for the day. Given that teams usually practice at the same time every day, if a student cannot fit their schedule around the available court times, they have basically been robbed of participating in a recreational activity they should have access to.
The Beacon Fitness Center may pose even more roadblocks to accessibility than the basketball courts. Unfortunately, the BFC is far too small and is thus overcrowded for a school of 16,000, making participation less enticing than it should be, and thus making it harder for more students to get involved on campus. The Beacon Fitness Center, probably the most popular recreational resource at UMass Boston, is overcrowded to the point where it is hard to get a workout in from the hours of 10a.m. to 5 p.m. Anyone who has tried to work out during those hours can attest to how overcrowded the fitness center is. While those who are experienced gym-lovers may go about their workout regardless of obstacles, people who are new to working out can be intimidated by the number of people, and thus discouraged from using a school recreational resource.
Intramural and club sports are also negatively affected by the lack of accessibility of basic recreational resources, as intramural sports that require a field are forced to play off-campus, meaning students must find transportation and fit the extra time of transportation into their already busy schedules. Intramural sports are another recreational activity that should be as easy to access for students as possible, due to their social aspect, as well as their importance when considering personal development.
Intramurals provide another avenue for students to grow personally, particularly with their leadership abilities, ability to persist, life goals, and overall confidence. Since recreation is often student-led, recreational activities like intramural or club sports represent a way for students to gain valuable leadership skills [8]. Having to work together as a team to solve a problem, come back when losing to win a game, or even just to schedule and agree on a date and time for practice, students are developing the resilience and personal responsibility that their lives post-college will require. The ability for a student to respond to a bad call in the heat of a game, or the harsh reality of coping with a bad loss, prepares students to better handle the disappointment that will inevitably come in their future [9]. One can give their all in an intramural basketball game, and they still may not get the desired result. Yet they will still show up for their next game, and they give it another shot to try to win, teaching them valuable skills of resilience and coping with failure.  
The chancellor’s vision for the future of UMass Boston can certainly be achieved, but it will not be achieved until the state of its recreational resources is addressed. Given the importance of recreational amenities to a school and its students, and considering the current state and accessibility of vital resources like the basketball courts, the BFC, and the intramurals fields, it is my belief, as the Athletics and Recreation Officer of the Undergraduate Student Government at UMass Boston, that the construction of a completely new recreational facility is a necessity for the future of the university. That is why I have started a petition which outlines a proposal for a new recreational building at UMass Boston. If you would like to sign this petition in support of the fight for better recreation amenities, you can find the link below this article, or on my Instagram page, @johntesson.  If you would like to reach out and discuss the petition, you can email me at [email protected]
https://www.change.org/build-a-new-rec-building-at-umass-boston


[1] “The University.” University of Massachusetts Boston, www.umb.edu/the_university/chancellor/communications/lets_keep_the_conversation_going
[2] Milton, Paul R., et al. “Recreate and Retain: How Entrance Into a Campus Recreation Facility Impacts Retention.” Recreational Sports Journal, vol. 44, no. 2, 2020, pp. 90-91., doi:10.1177/1558866120964818.
[3]  Guan, Shu-Sha Angie, et al. “Sleep, Stress, or Social Support?: Exploring the Mechanisms That Explain the Relationship between Student Recreation Center Use and Well-Being.” Journal of American College Health, vol. 68, no. 2, 2018, pp. 130., doi:10.1080/07448481.2018.1535493.
[4] Milton, Paul R., et al. “Recreate and Retain: How Entrance Into a Campus Recreation Facility Impacts Retention.” Recreational Sports Journal, vol. 44, no. 2, 2020, pp. 91., doi:10.1177/1558866120964818.
[5] Blumenthal, Kent J. “Collegiate Recreational Sports: Pivotal Players in Student Success.” Planning For Higher Education, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 56, 2009.
[6] Dyk, Chad Van, and W. James Weese. “The Undeniable Role That Campus Recreation Programs Can Play in Increasing Indigenous Student Engagement and Retention.” Recreational Sports Journal, vol. 43, no. 2, 2019, pp. 131., doi:10.1177/1558866119885191. 
[7] Blumenthal, Kent J. “Collegiate Recreational Sports: Pivotal Players in Student Success.” Planning For Higher Education, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 56, 2009.
[8] Blumenthal, Kent J. “Collegiate Recreational Sports: Pivotal Players in Student Success.” Planning For Higher Education, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 56, 2009.
[9] Milton, Paul R., et al. “Recreate and Retain: How Entrance Into a Campus Recreation Facility Impacts Retention.” Recreational Sports Journal, vol. 44, no. 2, 2020, pp. 90-91., doi:10.1177/1558866120964818.