University Y reopens amidst COVID-19 regulations

Having had a soft opening on Sep. 6, the UW Tacoma’s University Y Student Center has officially reopened. In accordance with Washington State’s COVID-19 guidelines, the University Y is currently operating at 25% capacity. Further, in order to access the facility and its equipment an appointment is necessary to work out, a face mask is required and anyone intending to use the facility must undergo a health screening. 

Michael Marquez, executive director of the University Y Student Center and virtual experience, explained all of the different things which were done to ensure the University Y was in compliance with the state mandates. This includes creating 17 feet of separation between machines and workout areas, enforcing the use of face masks while not doing strenuous exercises and workouts, routine sanitization of machines and continuously having University Y employees walking around to ensure the safety of those using the facility.

“We’re following all of the state mandates,” Marquez said. “Almost all of our equipment is spaced out 17 feet. So, when you’re not working out the social distancing guidelines stay in effect at six feet, and when you’re working out it’s 17 feet. Here, most things are 17 feet apart. We have a couple of pieces that aren’t, so the staff have been really well communicating with members to just talk to each one another and work it out.”

Some activities and amenities in the University Y are currently not in use. Water fountains can only be used to fill up water bottles, half of the basketball courts have been converted into more workout space, use of showers in the locker room is prohibited and the rock climbing wall is closed down until further notice — although Marquez stated that they hope to reopen it fairly soon.

According to Marquez, the aspect of the University Y most affected by COVID-19 has been their intramural sports, especially basketball. The University Y has discontinued their sports programs until further notice and pickup games of basketball have to be monitored to guarantee they do not break state rules.

“We’ve decided that until the restrictions ease up, it’s just too difficult for us to be able to educate members and force the rules on students and basically not play pick-up games,” Marquez said. “You can play a pick-up game of groups of four or less spaced out six feet apart. Basketball here is really big at the U Y … as soon as the restrictions ease up, basketball is back.”

Looking forward, Marquez believes that the biggest challenge for the University Y is the uncertainty of when they can open up the center to allow more people as more and more come back to use the facilities. He foresees the availability of their cardio machines might become an issue, as they have a limited amount of machines and they are the most popular ones members use. However, Marquez stated the facility is ready to take on the challenge and be there to serve the community.

“If anybody can be COVID ready, it’s the U Y.” Marquez said. “I’m excited to see more and more students come back … the best part about this is the energy the students bring [and] the diversity. It just really has a great thing when everything is firing on all cylinders.”