No more excuses

Writing and Rhetoric major Anthony Baracat (’13) is interning this semester in the Be the Change office. Today’s he’s our guest blogger and offers a student perspective on JMU’s newest facility, University Fields, scheduled to open tomorrow.

No more excuses 

By Anthony Baracat (’13)

Students are busy—or at least we should be. And if you’re anything like me, you make excuses for avoiding exercise: UREC is too crowded. I live off-campus. I haven’t lifted since one of those grueling high school workout days two or three years ago. But JMU just made it much more challenging for us to use this one: Our facilities stink. There aren’t enough options—and they’re ugly!

One can also find any number of excuses to reject a new campus building project. It is costly (How does $36 million sound?), construction is noisy and destroying existing structures is never pretty. I’ve always felt that way. But I urge you to take a step onto UREC’S newest facility, University Park. I guarantee it will take your breath away.

The magnificent 65-acre complex is dual-purposed for varsity athletics and student use, with multiple sand volleyball, tennis and basketballs courts, room space, an event lawn and a massive 243,766 square feet of multi-purpose turf for soccer, softball, football and so on. It’s as if the builders couldn’t decide between practicality, quality and aestheticism. They went ahead with all three.

According to Kristin Gibson, UREC’s assistant director of marketing and technology, a big focus was to eliminate waiting lists and cuts for intramural and club sports. They hope to provide “space capacity and diversity of programming to meet the needs of each Madison student as the institution grows,” she says. And naturally, promoting wellness is always a top-ranking issue. After it opens tomorrow, up to 4,000 students can use it every day.

Marketing for the new fields was by no means over-the-top, as if the goal was to spread news by word of mouth. What’s even more admirable, UREC has an exciting lineup for the park’s grand opening tomorrow, September 11, from 4 to 10 p.m.

The celebration will feature a ribbon-cutting presentation, the first intramural coin toss, some words from President Jon Alger, food, prizes and live music from local bluegrass group Many Nights Ahead. They’re folksy, fun and they practice on my front porch. Check them out on Facebook. 

For off-campus students these new fields are a huge addition—almost like an upper class facility. Junior Blake Layman commented on University Park’s accessibility, saying it’s great for upper classmen, but close enough for freshmen and sophomores too. He also felt on-campus fields were crowded and a bit inconvenient: “I feel a lot more comfortable there—there are more fields and they’re spread out. I don’t feel like I’m being watched.”

And for residents of the Devon lane area (let’s be honest, most of JMU), a parking pass might not be necessary. Walk or bike. Regardless, this will undoubtedly clear space at the main UREC campus and prove to be a staple of at least one student’s weekly routine—mine.

It seems as if UREC is sending students a message. Not much talk has been made of the athletic—or forbidden—side of University Park as if to avoid stepping on toes. The focus is on what we do have access to, which is a lot. It would be nearly impossible to find any hidden motives behind this new addition. So if you’re looking for one, or for an excuse to avoid some much-needed college exercise, good luck. No excuses here.

Check out the fields for yourself and don’t miss tomorrow’s festivities. Bring your JAC card to get in—it’s free!


Give a little cheer….

The annual visit to a department store Santa C...

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Warm a Winter Wish….

Remember being 7-years old? Remember when the weather starts turning cold and the calendar slips over to December? Do you remember the anticipation? The hope? The excitement and expectation? For some children and their families, however, the holidays do not hold such promise. For some, it is a difficult time, especially during an economic downturn.

For others, it is an opportunity to make a difference.

Every year, JMU’s University Recreation Center (UREC) sponsors Warm a Winter Wish. With help from several local agencies such as the Valley Aids Network, First Step and the Mercy House, UREC employees gather information on individuals like age, gender, clothing sizes. Each individual is also invited to supply three holiday wishes. Their wishes become tags that decorate a tree at UREC. Students and staff can take the tags, fill the wishes and return the gifts to UREC where they will be wrapped and delivered prior to the holidays.

Several campus organizations and offices, including the president’s office, are filling wishes for whole families this year. And individuals have already stripped most of the tags from the tree.

Soon gifts will begin arriving at UREC.  On Dec. 15, UREC’s Multi-Activity Center (MAC) gym will turn into Santa’s workshop. Beginning at 1 p.m. that day, the wrapping and tagging will begin with the encouragement of an accapella group and a visit from Santa Claus. Anyone can come and help — and you may also bring along wrapping supplies like paper, scissors, tape and bows.

If you have questions or would like to fulfill a few wishes yourself, contact Erin Erford at Unwrapped gifts with tags attached are due by noon on Dec. 14.

It’s an easy and fun way to give a little holiday cheer, warm a winter heart and to change disappointment to hope for a local 7-year-old — and many others.

To learn more about UREC’s annual Warm a Winter Wish, go to

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