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Photo by Alex McKenzie

The RAC has got to go

It is no secret that the Retriever Activity Center is considered one of the worst places to work out on campus and yet, it is the only place to do so. From the small and cramped cardio balcony, which always seems to run out of ellipticals, to the scuffed and blacked walls of the multipurpose floor that is constantly occupied by one guy having a shoot-off with himself, to the suffocating weight room, where all of the 25-pound weights are missing, the RAC leaves much to be desired from the students of UMBC.

Every corner of the RAC shows its former glory days of housing UMBC’s division one athletics. With its empty locker rooms that used to house the varsity teams and the locked merchandise window, the RAC used to be a place for not only the student-athletes but for the general students as well. Times have changed though: the posters around the indoor “track” that boast about being one-tenth of a mile and whose surface will instantly give you shin and knee pain show their age through their faded colors and unfamiliar player faces.

First built in 1972, the building was dubbed the “Field House,” and with its most recent addition in 1999, the RAC does not even compare to other universities’ student gyms. Looking at George Mason University, a school similar in size, cost and funding to UMBC, their gym includes new equipment and brightly lit floor space, highlighting UMBC’s outdated facility. GMU updated their gym in 2009, meaning that it is not even the most updated gym out of all the schools, like UMBC, yet their facility is far more superior than RAC.

Comparing the RAC to the new work out spaces for student-athletes in the Event Center only further emphasizes the RAC’s age, putting into question why the same facility renovation has not been given to the rest of the student body. Yes, the student-athletes are working out every day and need all of the nice equipment and spaces they have, but does that mean that the regular student body should have to deal with a grimy and small space provided by the RAC? While UMBC is not known for its general student body’s athletic prowess, they still deserve a nice place to work out when they choose to do so.

The new Event Center also gives reason to say that the lack of renovation on the RAC is not due to inadequate funding. UMBC invested $85 million into the Event Center with money coming from savings, a contribution from the University System of Maryland, gifts and borrowing. If we can churn up that much money for the Event Center, a building that is only useful to the average student on game days, then why not get a fraction of it to help renovate something that almost every student utilizes? The RAC would hardly need that big of a budget to transform it into the space that students deserve; construction and renovation only have around 70,000 square feet to work with compared to the 172,000 square feet of the Event Center.

While UMBC is still working to pay off the costs of the Event Center, a new academic building, the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building, is near completion. This building, once finished, is estimated to cost $123 million, further proving that UMBC has the money, or can at least get the money, to build such great facilities like the Event Center and the Interdisciplinary Life Sciences Building. So, again, why would it be so difficult to get the funds to renovate the RAC to further improve UMBC students’ experience at the university?

The RAC is one of the first buildings that students and visitors alike see when arriving on campus, so would it not be a disservice for UMBC to not put its best foot forward and update the RAC? Putting the funds and energy towards upgrading the RAC would not only enhance the experience of UMBC’s visitors but it would also prove to them, as well as the student body, that the university cares about more than just their academics. With a modern RAC, UMBC would show its students that they care and value their health and general experience at the university. After all, college is about more than just a degree; it is also about making connections and establishing habits that will last through adulthood. With such a terrible experience afforded by the RAC’s run-down facility, it is no wonder why students never work out.