The students and staff at DePaul’s Lincoln Park campus have always known the convenience of having a full workout center nearby. DePaul affiliate or not, the three-floor, 123,000-square-foot Ray Meyer Fitness Center is impossible to miss on Sheffield, with students regularly flowing through the doors.
But there is a lesser-known fitness luxury tucked away downtown for those students residing in the Loop campus
Neatly hidden in the basement of DePaul’s College of Computing and Digital Media building, The Loop Fitness Center made its debut to campus this fall quarter, offering all full-time students, staff and faculty members an opportunity to get a workout in the downtown area.
Weeks into its opening, the new facility has already seen positive feedback for its location from DePaul students who live far from Lincoln Park’s Ray Meyer facility.
“I think having the center here is great because people get a chance to exercise wherever they are,” DePaul student Vadim Yunchuk said. “It’s a chance for people to do something during their down time, especially because most of the classes in the Loop are technical and people spend a lot of time behind a computer.”
For DePaul sophomore Tony Holloman, the Loop Fitness Center is not only an easier location to exercise, but a money saver as well.
“I commute to DePaul from the suburbs so I would normally go to the gym near home. Now I can definitely come in early before classes to get a workout in,” Holloman said. “It helps students be more active because they don’t have to pay any extra fees to use this facility and it’s convenient.”
“Anything to help improve people’s health is a good thing.” Courtney Griffin, assistant director of Fitness and Wellness for Campus Recreation at DePaul, agrees.
“The benefits that this is going to have to the DePaul community are endless,” Griffin said. “Now we can hopefully reach the entire campus to create a community around health and wellness.”
This isn’t the first fitness facility that DePaul has housed in the Loop — or in the CDM building, for that matter.
Before the Loop Fitness Center opened, students in the Loop could work out at the Loop Fitness Studio, which resides across the hall from what is now the Loop Fitness Center and was originally a McDonald’s storage unit. Less than 750 square feet, the Loop Fitness Studio wasn’t highly marketed to students because of its size and its difficulty to accommodate all who wanted to use the facility, Griffin said. The studio was once nicknamed “Joey Meyer,” the son of Ray Meyer, who also coached basketball at DePaul, though his career was nowhere near as successful as his father’s.
Swapnil Gavade, a DePaul grad student, regularly used the Loop Fitness Studio last year and said that the new facility is a major improvement. Though the new Loop Fitness Center just opened, he sees himself using this center just as much if not more than the Loop Fitness Studio.
“At (the Loop Fitness Studio), I would have to wait for machines in the mornings and it would be very crowded. With a larger space, more people can come get a workout in,” Gavade said. “This allows people to take better care of their health.”
The Loop Fitness Studio will still be used for stretching purposes and for fitness classes that Campus Recreation will hold beginning this quarter. Campus Recreation hopes to provide more fitness classes in the winter and spring, depending on how the classes are attended.
And though the Loop Fitness Center has nearly double the amount of equipment that the Loop Fitness Studio had, along with a few more pieces of equipment that are still on its way, some students are still critical of the Loop’s shoe-sized version of Lincoln Park’s Ray Meyer facility.
“The center is missing some key machines I like such as the bench press and chest press,” Aksit Mahajan said. “But other than that, I love coming to this facility because I am always downtown. I would definitely come here regularly throughout the quarter for my workouts.”
The opening of the new fitness facility in the Loop comes after Campus Recreation studied students’ exercise habits and its correlation with education performance at DePaul. Over the last few years, they found that the more frequently a student used The Ray, the higher their grade point average was, said Maureen McGonagle director of department leadership and management for Campus Recreation.
“There is so much evidence that exercise is important for your physical and mental health,” McGonagle said. “It’s really important to have a place on campus where students can connect with each other. The Loop Fitness Center contributes to the overall wellness of our students, faculty and staff.”
The creation of the Loop Fitness Center was a team effort by many. Chatter about opening a new fitness center in the Loop began last spring and by the summer, major plans were put into motion. The DePaul administration, Facility Operations and the Campus Recreation all teamed up to work together to create The Loop Fitness Center.
The center underwent major renovations, designs and remodels before becoming a workout facility and there are still more additions to come. With over 2,000 square feet, the center has more than 31 pieces of workout equipment, including machines for cardiovascular health and for strength and conditioning training.
Full-time faculty, staff and students can access the center by swiping their DePaul ID card. Because there are no staff members administrating the facility, Campus Recreation will use this system to monitor the center’s usage.
“This process has been really exciting,” Griffin said. “If you’re downtown and you cannot make it to The Ray, you can still get a workout in. It feels wonderful to provide this opportunity for not only students, but for faculty and staff on both campuses.”