Blomquist, Patten hit by SPAC overflow

Abbie VanSickle

Construction at SPAC has forced Northwestern students to look elsewhere for a place to shoot hoops, leading to increased demand at Patten Gym and Blomquist Recreation Center.

Work on a $10 million expansion forced the Sports Pavilion and Aquatics Center to close its indoor track and basketball courts, which are also used for recreational tennis.

When finished in fall, the Combe Tennis Center will provide a home for varsity tennis teams. For years, they have been practicing on an outdoor court with a plastic bubble over it. The expansion also includes the addition of a three-court basketball gymnasium and other improvements.

But the current construction has forced Patten and Blomquist to accommodate an unusual number of students. Although Betty Scott, a director at SPAC, said the other campus gyms are both being used more, most of the overflow has gone to Patten on North Campus, rather than Blomquist, which is farther south.

Charles Murray, assistant director of intramural sports and facilities, said he has noticed a sharp increase in the use of the Patten basketball courts.

“We have been getting a lot more people. I’ve noticed it, especially on weekend mornings. (Patten) was even open over Spring Break and still had a good crowd.”

Paul Eaton, a Weinberg senior and Blomquist employee, said he has been playing basketball at Patten, where “there are way too many people on the three courts.”

Although the construction has drawn more people to Blomquist, Eaton said, the crowding is worse at Patten. “I don’t think Blomquist has gotten too many people from SPAC. First, there is no parking. If I lived north, I wouldn’t come south. Besides, Blomquist is already filled to capacity as it is.”

Eaton said SPAC has long been NU’s “premier facility,” leaving Blomquist unequipped to handle crowds.

Sean Field, a history graduate student, also said Blomquist has not been as greatly affected by the construction. Although he will continue to play basketball at Blomquist while SPAC is closed, he said he has not noticed many others choosing Blomquist over Patten.

Scott, the director of the sports pavilion at SPAC, acknowledged the increased use of Patten and Blomquist. But she said no students have complained to her about the construction, which began on a smaller scale Fall Quarter.

The Combe Tennis Center, sponsored by a donation from Ivan Combe, an NU Life Trustee and former varsity tennis player, will be the new home court for the NU men’s and women’s tennis teams. It will include six courts, locker rooms, coaches’ offices, and training and meeting rooms.

The added space also will allow for the addition of several cardiovascular machines and improvements in court lighting, the basketball gym and an elevated track. Both the new courts and track will remain closed until the grand opening of the tennis center, which is projected for Fall Quarter.