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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Interim gym spaces raise concerns about accessibility

The Rec Center construction started this semester.

With ongoing construction of the new Wellness and Recreation facility, students have temporarily lost access to the Helfaer Recreation Center and are instead being directed to other buildings on campus, such as O’Donnell Hall and the Rec Plex in Straz Tower, to utilize short-term gym facilities.

University President Michael Lovell announced the construction of a new Wellness and Recreation facility on Marquette’s campus just over a year ago, in March 2022. The center, set to be available to students beginning in 2025, will seek to combine different parts of student wellness — a medical clinic, counseling services and gym facilities — to create a one-stop building for student needs.

In the meantime, several buildings on campus are being used as interim gym facilities. However, some of these spaces are not easily accessible for everyone.

O’Donnell Hall, a former residence hall on campus, for example, is inaccessible due to its lack of elevators.

The building also does not currently meet the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act, which provides rules and regulations for making buildings physically accessible for people with disabilities. There have been no renovations to update the building to include an elevator.

However, since O’Donnell Hall meets the accessibility standard that was required at the point of its construction in 1952, it is exempt from meeting the current requirements. 

As Marquette enrollment dropped, O’Donnell was taken out of commission as a residence hall, and when space was needed for interim gym facilities, the first floor and basement of the building was cleared out to make room for equipment, said Associate Director of Recreational Sports James Friel. 

Currently, students enter O’Donnell hall off 19th street, and enter the lobby to workout. Students may also take stairs down to the lower level for more running and weightlifting spaces.

After injuring her ankle during her first season on Marquette’s soccer team, Kate Gibson, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, thought she was recovering. However, when using the court in the Marquette Gymnasium this spring, she slipped and re-injured her ankle.

Gibson said that with the interim gym facilities, there has been an influx in demand for teams to use a limited amount of space.

“The court is pretty slippery sometimes, especially in certain spots, so I was always pretty hesitant when we’d play on it,” Gibson said. “It’s not the same to take care of a court for track and sometimes soccer than it is for many other programs that are going to use it … It’s nobody’s fault, but it’s different. It requires more care. Who knows if it was clean, maybe I wouldn’t have slipped.” 

Gibson said she also remembers struggling when she was first injured, saying that during the first weeks of training, she had to wear a boot and struggled with accessibility.

Friel said that his team did not have much of a hand in planning these interim facilities. 

“It was kind of like, here’s what you can get, here’s what we have and make the most of it,” Friel said. 

Jack Bartelt, director of Disability Services, said that the positives of getting a new building also come with the struggles of what to do in the meantime. 

“On a historic campus, we know that not every building is going to be equal in terms of everything it can provide, but we need to make sure that our programs are accessible,” Bartelt said. “Rec Sports has been able to do is make sure that we do have equipment even if each space is not built exactly the same, that everything that is offered within the program is at least in some part in an accessible building.”

Friel said that he and Bartelt have done their best to think outside the box and make areas that may seem inaccessible, accessible. 

“We are here to do what we can for every single person on campus and in the community, so whatever accommodations or things we can possibly do, let’s do it. We have a couple staff members that are in wheelchairs and power chairs, and we’re able to use the service elevator at the Rec Plex,” Friel said. 

Both Bartelt and Friel encourage students to come forward with any concerns related to the accessibility of these buildings. 

“We’ve always had the policy that if students come to us and say ‘Why aren’t you doing this?’ or ‘Why haven’t you done this?’ We’re not going to say ‘Because it’s the way we’ve always done it.’ We’re going to think about it, we’re going to have conversations,” Friel said. 

Bartelt also said that although the new gym building will be built to the newest ADA compliances, the conversation is far from over. 

“Building expectations change over time … The building we’re building right now is probably going to need some accommodation too (many years from now), so that accommodation conversation never ends,” Bartelt said.

Bartelt encouraged students to come forward with any concerns about the gym facilities.

“We haven’t heard from any individual students, and maybe that’s because they’re already finding spaces that are meeting their needs,” Bartelt said. “If we’re not hearing from them because they just didn’t know they could reach out to talk about this, this is a great opportunity.”

This story was written by Briana Nelson. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Briana Nelson
Briana Nelson, Copy Editor
Briana is a Copy Editor at the Wire. She is a junior from Colorado Springs, CO studying psychology and journalism. In her free time, Briana enjoys hiking, spending time with her dog and reading. This year Briana is looking forward to learning more about editing and getting to know other staff members at the Wire.

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