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Safe and Structurally Sound, Walker Gym Reopens

Thomas R. Karlo -- The Tech
After repairs were made this summer the Walker Memorial gymnasium, seen here prior to renovation, is now open for students' use.

By Ramy A. Arnaout
News Editor

Sporting a newly-refinished floor and a team of student supervisors, Walker Memorial gymnasium reopened in September, nearly a year after safety concerns forced its closing.

The decision to close the gym last year was primarily designed to put an end to non-MIT residents' use of the facility, said Director of the Campus Activities Complex Phillip J. Walsh. But concern that the floor might be unsafe due to the age of the building was also an important issue, he said.

"It was felt that the floor was very old and in a deteriorating condition that required the removal of the top planking as well as the sub-flooring," at a projected cost of about $60,000, Walsh said.

Luckily, when the floor was actually pulled up to check the condition "we found that we could actually sand the floor down and refinish it, and that was the work that was done over the summer," Walsh said. "A new finish was put on the floor, with new lines." As a result, the total cost of the renovations was only $13,300, he said.

All in all, both students and administrators are pleased with the reopening, and called the work to reopen the gym a collaborative effort.

"I felt that the action taken by the CAC to refurbish the flooring and re-open the gym was a display of good response to student requests," said Jason Olson '95, student captain of Walker gym. Olson is in charge of the group of students who will be supervising the gym's use, and reports to the CAC.

"Several students were very upset when the gym closed. The CAC heard their complaints and did something about it."

For his part, Walsh credits east-side students for pushing hard for the reopening. "The expectation on our part was to at some time get the gym back open," he said. But reopening the gym was not a priority until "the student governance of East Campus and Senior House came forward and said, this is important to us."'

The third-floor gym, which doubles as a testing hall during the week, is open for basketball and volleyball on Friday nights and weekends, Olson said.

The gym is scheduled for open use on Friday and Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons, and by reservation for the rest of the weekend.

Security was another concern for the CAC. "We were having increasing problems with non-MIT people showing up and using the gym," Walsh said. The problem was made more immediate by a feeling that crime was rising on campus, he said.

"A serious issue was developing and we had to address that. [Security] really became the dominant issue," Walsh said. "I felt from my position in consultation with others," such as the Campus Police, "that the decision to close the gym really needed to be made."

The final decision to close the gym last year resulted from a long period of discussion and consultation, Walsh said. While students were not consulted on the closing, due to what Walsh said was his group's mistake, they took part in discussions on the reopening in a series of summer meetings, said East Campus President Parag Gupta '95.

In response, the new arrangement for gym use provides for greater security. Groups wanting to use the gym must reserve a time with the student supervisors, who report to the CAC, Walsh said. As an added measure, when the gym is not in use, the hoops will be locked.

In addition, a student will oversee the gym during open hours, Walsh said. To help these student supervisors, part of the summer's renovations included installing a gym phone that the student can use to report or ask for help in case of injury.