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John Wooden Center construction presents relocation issues for clubs, activities

The John Wooden Center is pictured. The UCLA administration announced seismic improvements on the center would be conducted in phases in an emailed statement. (Daily Bruin file photo)

By Dylan Winward

June 9, 2024 1:42 p.m.

This post was updated June 10 at 9:46 p.m.

UCLA Recreation announced it will begin construction on the John Wooden Center starting in October.

The changes will expand weight training facilities, reconfigure activity spaces and make cosmetic changes to the building’s facade, according to a campus-wide email from Director of UCLA Recreation Erinn McMahan. The expansion of weight training facilities follows student complaints about wait times associated with strength equipment.

[Related: Gym-goers seek to expand strength training facilities in John Wooden Center]

McMahan had previously told the John Wooden Center Board of Governors — a majority-student advisory committee — that student use of the center has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic, but use of the facilities by paying members has decreased.

The expansion to the John Wooden Center is necessary to ensure the university can continue to meet the demands of students, said Steven Price, a third-year physiological science student and co-founder of the Bruin Coalition On Recreation Expansion (BCORE). He added that since the John Wooden Center was built in 1983, there has been a significant increase in demand for strength exercise.

BCORE — an organization Price runs — has been lobbying the UCLA administration for an expansion of Wooden’s strength facilities for nearly a year, Price said. While most of the groups demands seem likely to be met, the group has not yet received final confirmation, he said.

Price also said he wants to see further expansion of the university’s fitness facilities, adding that BCORE is hoping to call a referendum to increase student fees for UCLA Recreation. He added that the fees students pay for facilities is lower than at some other UC campuses.

“We do the best that we can with this facility, but what we really need is a second or a third John Wooden Center, realistically speaking for the size of our campus,” Price said.

The building will not close entirely. Instead, the construction will happen in phases, McMahan said in the email.

“To mitigate the impacts from each phase of the project, programs and services will be relocated within the John Wooden Center and other Recreation facilities to ensure our community continues to have access to various fitness and wellness activities,” she said in the email.

Daniel Limas, the president of UCLA Boxing, said the reconstruction will likely force his team to train outside the John Wooden Center, adding that he believes moving off-campus would cause club attendance to diminish by decreasing accessibility.

The club will also need to find funding so they can train at an indoor location rather than at Drake Stadium, said Limas, a third-year sociology student. He added that the need for clubs to train off-campus also might impact the availability of car rentals for club sports teams.

Limas also said there has been no communication about when the club will have to train elsewhere, even though they were first contacted about the plans last September. He added that he wished UCLA offered more support in mitigating the impacts of the move.

“The club sports people are working with us as best they can, and they communicate what they do, but the school is shaky in the plans themselves,” Limas said. “What we’ve been told is that space will be more limited, so it’ll be harder for club sports to get those practices in the Wooden Center next year.”

The email also said the construction of the Wooden Center — which suffered damage in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake — will involve making seismic improvements.

The university has already started similar improvements with the Arthur Ashe Student Health and Wellness Center and Powell Library. The $17 million reconstruction of the library was due to be completed by February 2024 but has not yet been completed.

UCLA Media Relations did not respond in time to requests for an interview about the delays.

[Related: Powell Library to remain under construction for seismic safety till early 2024]

The John Wooden Center first opened in 1983 after being designed in conjunction with a majority-student committee. The building served as a training site for gymnastics at the 1984 Olympic Games and was expanded through construction in 1997, 2001 and 2004.

Currently, the UCLA Gymnastics team practices at the center and the Men and Women’s Volleyball teams also use it as a home venue.

The statement from McMahan also asked for students’ patience as the construction is ongoing.

“Coach John Wooden, a figure synonymous with excellence both on and off the court, stipulated a simple condition for lending his name to a UCLA building: it must be open to all students,” she said in the statement. “This principle of inclusivity and community has been the cornerstone of the John Wooden Center since it opened in May of 1983.”

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Dylan Winward | News editor
Winward is the 2024-2025 News editor and an Arts, Copy, Photo, PRIME and Sports contributor. He was previously the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. Winward is a third-year English and statistics student from London in the United Kingdom.
Winward is the 2024-2025 News editor and an Arts, Copy, Photo, PRIME and Sports contributor. He was previously the 2023-2024 features and student life editor. Winward is a third-year English and statistics student from London in the United Kingdom.
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