Student usage increases in Leonard Center in past year

By Emma Westrasmus

Since opening in August 2008, the Leonard Center has seen what Assistant Athletic Director Ron Osterman described as “an extreme surge in usage” from students, faculty and staff who are eager to take advantage of the improved athletic facilities on campus. In the first month of school this fall, 15,673 entries into the Leonard Center were recorded. While the Athletic Department does not have data from the old Field House, Assistant Director of Athletic Facilities Jarrett Yehlen, who oversees the data generated by the card swipes, said that “the usage of the old athletic complex was not nearly as high,” and “a much smaller percentage of students used it regularly.” In addition to use of the fitness center, the usage figures also include students attending physical education classes, intramural and club sport participants, athletes meeting with their coaches and teams, as well as students using the Health and Wellness Center.

Much of the increase in usage of the facilities, particularly the 9,000 square foot fitness center, has come from a swell of non-student athletes, and new features of the Leonard Center such as dance studios and a general increase in space has attracted more students as well.

Nelli Thomas ’10 cited the increase in fitness machines and equipment in the Leonard Center as a positive improvement that has encouraged more frequent use. “I use the new athletic center much more than I did the old center that was here freshman year,” she said. “The Leonard Center is larger and, more importantly more accessible to people who don’t participate in organized sports. Both the building’s layout and the new management make it easier for people who haven’t been there before to use it.”

Ben Langworthy, a member of the Men’s Golf team, noted that the team uses some of the Leonard Center’s more unconventional features such as the indoor 5-hole putting green. “I really enjoy the facilities at the Leonard Center, particularly for golf we can use the batting cage nets to practice our swings and the putting green to practice our short games,” Langworthy said. “The Leonard Center improves our ability to practice and be prepared for the spring season after not being to able to go outside during the winter.”

In addition to a wider variety of equipment and services, the Leonard Center also now offers passes to alumni and a limited number of community members living within a three block radius of Macalester for a $240 annual fee. Alumni with a pass may use the facilities during any time of the day, while community members are subject to time restrictions, and can only use the facilities Monday through Friday, from 6 a.m. until 10:30 a.m., and on weekends. Neither pass-holding alumni nor community members can receive a locker due to the heavy demand for lockers from students, faculty, and staff.

Osterman said that the reaction from students and the Macalester community towards the Leonard Center has been “overwhelmingly positive,” and the shortage of lockers is the only complaint he has heard about the new facility. Osterman noted that while it is unfortunate to not be able to provide lockers to all who would like them, “the demand has increased so much,” he said. “In the old facility there was always an excess of unused lockers. It’s a good problem to have.