Heat wave forcing adjustments in exercise center hours

July 21, 2011

The current heat-humidity problems in Indiana and many other states have led the Division of Recreational Sports to adjust facility hours to help ensure the safety of those exercising, says director Howard Taylor.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, DRS closed the Turf Recreation Exercise Center (TREC; pronounced T-REC) in the early afternoon because conditions reached an unsafe level. At the same time, the transitional facility in Tarkington Hall, which was closed for the summer, was reopened to provide an air-conditioned site for a workout.

Tarkington will stay open 3-9 p.m. Monday-Friday through Aug. 19, Taylor says. In addition, during the summer, on any days that TREC must close, if that is before 3 p.m., Tarkington will open when TREC closes and stay open until 9 p.m. Each weekday, the heat index in TREC -- which continues to open at 5:30 a.m. weekdays -- is being monitored closely, Taylor says.

"We use a 95-degree heat index, based on our research on a safe level for exercise," he says.

Also Tuesday, the heat index in the East-West Gyms reached 94 degrees, he says. That facility, though physically connected with the rest of the Recreational Sports Center, which is under renovation, is structurally independent and has remained open during the project with its own entrance.

"So far the East-West Gym has been able to remain open during the heat wave, but we are continuing to monitor heat levels in that space as well," he says.

But the East-West Gyms may yet have to close for a time, Taylor said about noon Wednesday: "Weather reports indicate that Thursday [today] could be the worst day, but there are indications that we will see some tapering off after that."

The forecast was showing a high of 99 for today with a heat index around 110 and continued overnight lows in the upper 70s, then a slide to a high Monday of 86 followed by a low of 64.

The Boilermaker Aquatic Center is maintaining its normal hours, Taylor says, and the building is air-conditioned, but even there people are reporting feeling noticeably warmer than usual.

Hours of DRS facilities are posted at www.purdue.edu/recsports/facilities/hours_calendar/index.php. Sign-up for the DRS Listserv is at www.purdue.edu/recsports/about_us/rec_sports_news/index.php.

Taylor says the absence of air conditioning in TREC reflects a carefully considered decision about allocation of resources.

"TREC was not part of the original project plan," he says, "but it became evident there was a need for a transitional facility during the 18 months of construction." TREC opened in January.

After some debate, the design committee chose not to include air conditioning, which would have cost a half-million dollars to purchase and install, Taylor says.

"We'd lose a half-million dollars from the renovation," he says in describing the committee process. "The decision was to keep that money for the central project."

In addition, he says, it's expensive to operate A/C in a "big box" such as TREC, which has 35,000 square feet of surface and a 40-foot ceiling -- totaling about 1.4 million cubic feet.

After the completion of the renovation-expansion in fall 2012, all of the exercise equipment will be moved to the renovated building, and TREC will get synthetic turf. Activities there will not be ones that necessitate air conditioning.

"The good news is that the new building will be air-conditioned," Taylor says. "We're looking at the long-term solutions."