Monday, July 24

Throwback Thursday: The humble beginnings of the John Wooden Center


The John Wooden Center opened around 34 years ago. (Daily Bruin archives)

The John Wooden Center opened around 34 years ago. (Daily Bruin archives)


A watershed moment occurred 34 years ago at UCLA, at least for us gym junkies: the John Wooden Center officially opened to the public.

On May 2, 1983, the Cultural and Recreational Affairs Department ran a full-page advertisement for the newly opened center with twelve general questions students might have about the Wooden Center.

The ad’s Q&A starts out with a question about where the entrance to the center is – as if the doors right at the front of the building aren’t visible enough. It goes on to talk about reservations for equipment, which were a bit different back then.

Students could only make in-person reservations for handball, racquetball and squash between 7:30 a.m and 8 a.m. If you didn’t want to get up so early in the morning to make a reservation, though, you had to present a recreation card in-person and call the center between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on a weekday to make the reservation.

Today, you just need to call the center – no reservation card needed, to make a reservation.

The ad also points out that there are no lockers available in the Wooden Center. Luckily, 34 years later, the center has lockers. Actually, hang tight: they’re old-fashioned ones that only take in quarters if you want to lock them.

Other features advertised include a weight room with “the best in universal weight training equipment,” the Blue and Gold Rooms for martial arts and dancing and a games lounge on the second floor.

The working hours are probably the biggest difference between the Wooden Center of the 1980s and the present-day Wooden Center. It used to be open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Monday to Friday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the weekend. Now, thanks to the Social Justice Referendum, which passed in spring 2016, the center is open 24 hours a day between Tuesday and Thursday.

It’s worth noting at this point that if you’re going to exercise at 3 in the morning, you’re probably not improving your health.

Today the Wooden Center is still an important part of the campus, even though students have an alternative in the form of the Bruin Fitness Center, which opened in 2015. The Wooden Center boasts an impressive array of equipment and has retained its image as the more hardcore gym.

The ad closes out by boastfully declaring that the “Wooden Center will stand for much more than 10 National Basketball Championships.” Thirty-four years later, it’s safe to say that when it comes to usefulness, the Wooden Center easily punched above it own weight.

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Abhishek Shetty is a Daily Bruin opinion columnist. He writes about a variety of issues, but focuses on USAC and administration.


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