By Nancy Koeneman
For UI staff and faculty members who want more exercise than a hike from the parking lot to their office, a good sweat is close at hand.
The Division of Campus Recreation has facilities throughout campus in which faculty and staff members can swim, take fitness classes, use weights and other fitness equipment, and even borrow outdoor recreation equipment.
"The opportunities here for faculty and staff are tremendous," said Dale Carruthers, associate director of campus recreation. "The same services available to students, with only a very few exceptions, are available to faculty and staff."
The cost for use of facilities and services is the same as the current student activity fee: $170 this year. That cost also can be broken down and paid by semester, Carruthers said. Faculty and staff members also may get the same access to facilities for their spouses or partners for the same fee, he said.
The UI has five swimming pools, an ice arena, indoor and outdoor basketball and tennis courts, rooms with exercise bikes and step machines, an indoor archery room, indoor track, weight rooms (with both Nautilus and Cybex machines), aerobic and dance/exercise rooms, a combat room for teaching and practicing martial arts, handball and squash courts, and an outdoor center from which outdoor recreation equipment can be borrowed. These services and equipment are found in buildings throughout campus, including the Intramural-Physical Education Building (IMPE), Freer, Kenney and Huff gymnasiums, Campus Recreation Center East and at the new Campus Recreation Outdoor Center at 51 E. Gregory Drive, Champaign.
The programs offered -- from fitness classes to clinics -- are sometimes inspired by input from students and faculty and staff members, Carruthers said.
Some of those ideas have translated into clinics on horseback riding, scuba diving, canoeing and in-line skating. Through the Campus Recreation Outdoor Center, the UI also offers trips that cost from $50 to $350, including cross-country skiing in Wisconsin, backpacking in the Grand Canyon, and canoeing in Utah.
"The costs are fee-based; they are not-for-profit," Carruthers said. "We break even on them. Food and transportation are all included [in the price]."
An outdoor recreation director researches the trips and organizes all the details, Carruthers said.
The response to all the Campus Recreation programs and facilities has been very good, Carruthers said. There are many faculty and staff members who regularly use them, he said, but there's plenty of room for more.
Burks Oakley II, professor of electrical and computer engineering, is a recreational swimmer who has been using the IMPE pool almost every day for about 13 years of his 16 years at the UI.
"I didn't know it existed for the first three years," Oakley said. "I was at a conference at another school and saw their facilities and wondered if we had one. I found this. I wasn't much of a swimmer then, but now I'm getting pretty good at it."
He travels frequently, especially in the past year, and said the UI's facilities compete with, or are better than "the best of facilities anywhere." Oakley was involved in the campus recreation advisory committee and was exposed to a wide variety of the programs available here, so he has a first-hand knowledge of what is on the UI campus.
"The personnel [at campus recreation] are really superb people. They really care about the student users and faculty and staff users and about their staff," Oakley said. Staff development programs help to keep everyone at the leading edge of fitness and fitness facilities, he said.
Frank Rusch, director of the Transition Research Institute in the College of Education, has been using the weight rooms at IMPE for 18 years. He also uses the racquetball courts and some of the other fitness equipment.
He works out four days a week and is impressed by the accessibility and facilities.
"It's unsurpassed really," Rusch said. The fee for use of recreation facilities is "more than reasonable," he added.
While the hours vary in some buildings, patrons can get in to swim or work out as early as 6:30 a.m. and some buildings are open as late as 11 p.m.
At any hour of the day, a fitness class is being held at one of several locations on campus, Carruthers said.
For those who don't know where to begin or what their needs might be, a fitness director is available to consult with patrons about their personal physical fitness needs, he said. There is no additional fee for the service for those with a recreation pass. Call the DCR at 333-3806 for more information.
Carruthers said he believes the fitness and exercise opportunities for faculty and staff members are excellent at the UI. He's understandably proud of what campus recreation has to offer.
"For their fee, faculty and staff members and students are allowed the use of approximately $100 million in facilities," Carruthers said.