Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Rudolf Fitness Center (RFC) has had its doors open the entire semester providing students with a safe workout environment. The RFC saw great success in preventing any transmission of the coronavirus within its facilities.
RFC Director Jose Hernandez said he was elated with how the semester went citing the amount of work he and their staff put in to create a “robust” procedure to keep all students and employees safe.
“We are so happy and grateful that we were able to be open for the students that work here and have an opportunity for them to work and make some money, but also to give them some sort of normalcy,” Hernandez said. “But mainly for the community that we were able to have the fitness center open, something that is so integral, the glue of the campus.”
Gonzaga senior and RFC employee Tricia Vowles echoed Hernandez’s sentiment regarding the success of the semester for the RFC.
“Given the circumstances of this semester and the fitness center being open amid a pandemic, I think the RFC did a really great job of being able to provide a workout space for students and the opportunity for intramurals,” Vowles said.
The process for being able to use the facility was very different this semester than in year’s past. Students had to sign up for limited time slots online while also filling out their ZagCheck to prove they did not have any COVID-19 symptoms.
The gym also looked completely different from before with workout machines spread out through the entire facility including the basketball courts. There were also roped paths to ensure students maintained their distance from each other while entering and exiting the RFC.
GU junior Lilia Perez frequented the RFC two or three times per week in the latter half of the semester and was impressed with the system and procedures that had been implemented to keep the space safe.
“I thought they did a really good job of spacing out all the machines. I never felt like I was too close to anyone and I never felt uncomfortable not having my mask on,” Perez said.
As the semester went on and working with the Spokane Regional Health District, the RFC was able to slowly expand the number of machines available for use and began to incorporate some in-person fitness classes as well as certain intramural sports.
“I thought it was really safe and I thought it was really cool that they tried to include the fun things that people love about the RFC like the fitness classes and the weightlifting competition and stuff like that,” Perez said.
The focus now shifts to the spring semester, but there are some obstacles in the way with Gov. Jay Inslee recently enforcing some new statewide guidelines to address the spike in COVID-19 cases. These new regulations forced the RFC to shut down right before the Thanksgiving holiday, but Hernandez is optimistic that his staff will be up to the challenge to recreate the safe workout environment come January when the semester begins.
“We are going to take a close look at how we did this semester, but I can guarantee you that come spring semester, if we start this way [with cases up in the country] that it looks like we are going to, we will be ready,” Hernandez said.
The impact on the GU community of having the RFC open is not lost on Hernandez. He said that he wants to stay constantly engaged with the student body to keep everyone optimistic despite everything going on in the world.
Vowles also understands the importance of the RFC to the GU community. She too is hoping the RFC can open up more to regain some of what has been lost of campus life due to the virus.
“The RFC is a hub of campus, I think, so we can hopefully start to open up the basketball courts and things that make it more of a community feel when cases go down," said Vowles.
At the end of the day, the RFC was able to have its doors open to this point without being forced to close down due to a positive test within the facility. Students felt safe and Hernandez and the rest of the RFC staff were able to provide the community with a clean workout space to use.
“We are super happy to do what we did: come every day, make sure everything was clean, did not take any shortcuts and as a result we did the job that was required,” Hernandez said.
With the spike in cases, the RFC seems to have been not affected and students feel it is just as safe as at the beginning of the semester.
“I still feel very comfortable going to the RFC with everything going on and I just feel like they made it as easy and best that they could given the circumstances,” Perez said.
The RFC provided a great service to the community and with their hard work, the semester was labeled a success by Hernandez and Vowles. Even so, Hernandez maintains that it would not have been possible without the students.
“I want to thank all the students, especially those that were committed to coming here, for their trust and resilience,” Hernandez said. “We are very grateful that all the students give us a chance to serve them.”