Sarah Carter ’24
Since opening to members of the Holy Cross community on March 8, 2021 – a week ahead of its projected opening date – the Joanne Chouinard-Luth Recreation and Wellness center, colloquially referred to as “The Jo,” has aroused the interest and appropriation of students and faculty on campus. The facility, which boasts a shining armada of athletic machinery and workout and weightlifting spaces, serves as the premier center for student recreation and fitness at the College. To acquire some more insight into the success of The Jo’s first operating week, The Spire met again with Director of Campus Recreation, Jamie Shannon.
Shannon, who only recently assumed her position as Director earlier this year, is already very pleased with the responses generated among students and staff since The Jo’s opening. She reports that during its first week alone, almost two thousand students made reservations to work out in select areas of the facility. While planning to open The Jo in a manner consistent with state mandated safety guidelines was no simple feat, Shannon remarks that “ . . . it is wonderful to see students using the facility and equipment for recreation and fitness” (Shannon). Shannon also reflects admirably on the responsiveness of both students and staff members to the social distancing and safety protocols currently in place at the facility. She appreciates their attentiveness to the fourteen feet distancing requirement and other rules and notes that “ . . . students coming to use The Jo seem to be receptive to the reminders our staff are giving.”
The Spire also met and spoke with Danielle Nutter ‘24, an employee of The Jo. Nutter, who maintains the role of building supervisor for the facility, is tasked with opening and closing The Jo and cleaning down the many machines the facility houses throughout her shift. Of her experience thus far, Nutter imparts that “Working at The Jo is a great time. I love being a part of something that I am passionate about myself: fitness.”
However, while The Jo’s opening week largely qualifies as a success, the facility is subject to the occasional challenge. Shannon laments that the number of available reservations each day at the facility tends to run out quite early – an effect conducive to some extent of overcrowding in certain locations. Among the most populous, highly sought-after areas of The Jo are the cardio/strength and free weight rooms, which frequently reach their occupancy limits – leaving some students without access to desired machinery or unable to secure a reservation at all. Shannon recommends that students plan their reservations promptly and as soon as possible, taking advantage of the two-day advance reservation threshold. She also requests that students understand how the constraints of the virus and the corresponding social distancing protocols in place at the facility may complexify the process of securing a workout space on a given day. If either the cardio/strength or weightlifting rooms are unavailable, Shannon advises that students book one of the multipurpose studios where they can complete a more bodyweight-centric workout instead. While the reservation process is not yet error-free, Shannon still believes that there is something available for everyone at The Jo.
Shannon also relays that there are plans in the works to increase the services offered at The Jo, some of which include in-person group classes. In the forthcoming weeks, students should plan to learn more about a new streaming platform on which the College’s group classes will take place. The service – which can be accessed via an app or web browser – will “ . . . provide a wide variety of fitness classes available from anywhere,” according to Shannon. Of the program offerings, cardio equipment workouts, core strength and stretching activities, as well as dance, yoga, and martial arts-based classes will be available for selection by students. While it is improbable that other areas of the center will be expanded this semester beyond the present limits – including the provision of more machines and equipment for student use – students should look forward to the enlargement of The Jo’s services in subsequent semesters and for years to come.
In Shannon’s view, The Jo will continue to supplement and advance student wellness on campus throughout the semester, fully adopting its role as a “ . . . hub for creating relationships, achieving goals, trying new activities, and socializing through intramurals, fitness, wellness, and club sports” (Shannon). Shannon looks forward to heading the facility’s further development and continuing to leverage her position as Director of Campus Recreation to enrich The Jo’s services – progressively introducing new programs and activities over time, given that worldly conditions continue to improve. Plans are also in place to lengthen The Jo’s operating hours in future semesters. However, Shannon is quite pleased with the level of student engagement and involvement on campus the Jo has evoked thus far. In her words, “I know how important fitness and wellness is on a college campus, so it has been wonderful to see the Jo come to life”.