Cooper: Closing the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion basketball courts is disruptive to students

Danny Cooper, Columnist

I don’t exercise as much as I should. I can tell myself that walking from Willard Residential College to the fraternity quad five or six times a week is pretty good for me and the four flights of stairs I climb a few times every day to get to my room is enough.

Deep down, though, I know I should head to the gym more often. I don’t usually do more than play a couple games of pickup basketball while I’m at the Henry Crown Sports Pavilion, but those games are an important part of staying active.

At least, they were during Fall Quarter. Thanks to the construction which has shuttered the basketball courts and track at Crown Sports Pavilion, my opportunities to play pickup have become limited. The courts and track will be renovated as part of the new Ryan Fieldhouse and Walter Athletics Center, meaning they will continue to be unavailable for student use for the next two years. In the meantime, only five basketball courts remain between Patten Gym and Blomquist Recreation Center.

That’s not a lot of court space, especially considering the amount of NU students interested in playing pickup basketball. Factor in all the time the courts are unavailable for casual games thanks to intramural teams or other athletic clubs, and it becomes clear how hard it can be to find a place to play without the Crown Sports Pavilion courts. Now, people sit behind the baskets on either side of the courts at Blomquist, ready for an opportunity to play that may not arrive for quite some time.

This is more than just an issue of physical activity. Exercise is an important way to combat stress and maintain mental health. Winter Quarter can take a huge mental toll on students, and depriving some of them their outlet to relieve stress is not a good idea.

Life at NU has also become a little less fun as a result. Some of the best times I had my first quarter at NU were on the basketball courts, and I made a few good friends through those games. I’m having a great time this quarter as well, but I will admit it is a little sad that I have not been able to shoot hoops as much.

It is not just that the Crown Sports Pavilion courts closed. They closed without much warning and without NU providing a useful alternative space for students. Northwestern Fitness and Recreation, anticipating the logjams, attempted to alleviate the problem prior to the beginning of the quarter by adding more than 40 total hours of operation for Patten and Blomquist. Unfortunately, that does not seem to have helped all that much.

There are not too many places outside of the NU gyms to play basketball, especially during the winter, when outdoor courts are almost always unusable. If NU was able to rent some basketball courts from an organization like the local YMCA for a couple of days a week, it would at least provide some relief to the problem. It might be costly, but it would be a more effective solution to the overcrowding on the courts than adding 40 hours to the Blomquist and Patten schedules.

I don’t doubt that the new lakeside athletic facilities will be amazing. They will help both student-athletes and regular students improve their physical performance, and they will help attract high-profile athletic recruits to the school. The long-term benefits of the facilities will be great. Right now, though, their construction is impacting the lives of students in a negative way.

Danny Cooper is a Medill freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.