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Gym-goers seek to expand strength training facilities in John Wooden Center

The John Wooden Center, UCLA’s flagship gym facility, is pictured. The campus group Bruin Coalition On Recreation Expansion advocates for the increase of strength training equipment on campus amid the planned 2024-2026 renovations to the center. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Henry Pratt

Feb. 14, 2024 4:55 p.m.

In response to long wait times for strength equipment at UCLA recreational facilities, gym-goers founded the Bruin Coalition On Recreation Expansion (BCORE) to provide a forum for students to advocate for gym improvements.

Created in April 2022, BCORE primarily focuses on strength facilities in the John Wooden Center (JWC). While the facility functions as UCLA’s flagship student gym facility, many students associate it with long wait times for strength machines.

According to BCORE’s Strength Space and Health Equity Report published in May, the average wait time for bench press machines in the JWC was approximately 21.44 minutes. Average wait times for squat racks and deadlift platforms were 20.74 minutes and 21.36 minutes, respectively. BCORE conducted this survey during JWC’s peak operating hours, from 3 to 9 p.m., according to the report.

“If you go to any recreation center, not just the JWC, after 4 or 5 p.m, you’re going to struggle to find especially squat racks, bench presses, deadlift platforms,” said Steven Price, a third-year physiology student and BCORE co-founder.

JWC and other UCLA recreational facilities do not reflect current trends among gym-goers, specifically the rising popularity of strength training, Price said. Founded in 1983 through a student-led referendum, the original JWC facility did not prioritize space for strength training equipment, instead opting to allot space to activities like racquetball, Price said. However, interest in these activities has declined since the 1980s, while student interest in strength training, particularly women, has increased, according to BCORE’s Strength Space and Equity Report.

“You could walk by the (racquetball) courts, and there’s always at least two or three that are either empty or people are just in there hanging out,” said Imri Frenkel, a UCLA graduate student. “There’s nothing wrong with that. I think people should have spaces to do that.”

In response to heightened interest in strength training, which has been compounded by the concurrent rise in enrollment, BCORE seeks to establish more space for strength training through the JWC’s scheduled seismic renovations. Set to start this fall and end in 2026, the renovations will update the JWC in accordance with UCLA’s seismic safety standards. BCORE hopes to direct some of these construction efforts to expand strength training spaces, Price said.

BCORE also sees an opportunity to renovate UCLA’s strength facilities through the 2028 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Los Angeles. During this time, athletes will live in UCLA dorm facilities. The games may boost donor support for gym renovations in UCLA recreation venues, Price said.

[Related: LA to host 2028 Summer Olympics, athletes to use UCLA facilities]

“We’ll have campus support, we’ll have donor support, and, with the Olympics coming, we might even have Olympic support, because the eyes of the world will be on UCLA,” Price said.

The JWC lacks space for many different recreational activities, including volleyball, basketball and badminton, said Elisa Terry, the associated director of UCLA Recreation, in an emailed statement. Satellite gym facilities such as the Hill’s Bruin Fitness Center and the Kinross Recreation Center also lack recreation space to accommodate student needs, Terry added.

“UCLA Recreation does not have adequate indoor or outdoor space for the healthy pursuits of physical activity for a campus this size, and I consider this the biggest public health threat on campus,” Terry said in the statement. “The FitWell team and I are frustrated and disappointed that we have yet to find the clear path that would lead us to completely ‘remaking’ the John Wooden Center.”

Throughout the course of his advocacy, Price has found that UCLA administrators are sympathetic to BCORE’s mission for better strength facilities on campus.

“One thing that’s been emphasized to me at every single level of administration, not just recreation, all the way up to the chancellor level, is that administration does listen to and conform policy around student voices,” Price said. “Advocacy through BCORE does have an impact tangibly … on what happens.”

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