Nadkarni: New athletic facility should foster campus unity (and house a water park)

Rohan Nadkarni, Assistant Sports Editor

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About a month ago, Northwestern announced plans for new athletic facilities to reside on the north end of campus, presumably on the lakeside.

Considering I’m friends with Jim Phillips, the vice president of athletics and recreation (A blatant lie, but I have emailed him a couple times), I thought I would throw him and the board of trustees some suggestions on what to include in the new facilities.

My first suggestion would be to house an indoor, Wisconsin Dells-inspired water park in that giant building.

You may wonder what possible benefit an indoor water park could have for Big Ten athletes, but imagine the team bonding that would occur if Drew Crawford helped Dave Sobolewski conquer his fear of those dark tunnel tube rides. When Sobo hits Crawford with a behind the back, no look, under the legs, 360-degree alley-oop from the length of the court — you’ll know where they developed the chemistry.

Also, a late-night dining option in the athletic facility would be nice. Seriously: I’ve lived on South Campus my two years here, and we have Plex late-night. Where do people up north eat late at night?

Does “The Great Room” really exist, or is it part of the imagination of FBI special agent Dale Cooper? And I love Lisa’s as much as the next guy, but when a science and/or engineering student decides to pour his heart out by plugging in his iPod over the loudspeakers, I don’t always want to be a part of that.

My last suggestion would be to let the athletes and students actually work out together.

A big part of the University’s plan, and a way to fundraise the $200 million-plus they need, is to let students use these facilities as well. But I have my doubts how this will work out. Athletes and coaches rightfully complain about limited areas to workout and practice, and a new facility could finally alleviate those concerns — why should they let pesky students get in the way?

But I don’t want to see NU turn into one of those schools that separates athletes and students too much. Ultimately, this responsibility falls on the students.

I had a great conversation with sports reporter Skip Myslenski the other day about how tough it is for athletes to live a normal life without everyone trying to take a picture of them or get someone in trouble.

NU students do a pretty good job of letting athletes be, although this is partly because some students have no idea we have athletes on campus. Some girl in my freshman Fall Quarter literature class didn’t know we had a football team until her junior year.

The new facilities are a great chance for NU to bring the athletes and students closer together. If the administration is serious about being “One Northwestern,” then they can take this step to back up their mantra.

I’m guilty myself of becoming a little creepy around athletes, but at least I’ve channeled my awkwardness into sports writing. But average students need to know they’re on the same playing field as the other students at NU who happen to play sports.

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