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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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O’Pake to close for renovations in 2023 

Display of future O’Pake renovations at the entrance of O’Pake. PHOTO: KELLY SHANNON ’24/THE HAWK

The O’Pake Recreation Center will be closed for all of 2023 for “a full renovation,” according to an Aug. 3 email sent by Dessler Watson-Sharer, facilities and game management specialist to the facility’s staff and student workers. 

The email indicated the renovations would start in January 2023 and last until February 2024. 

Watson-Sharer also assured campus recreation workers  that they would not lose their jobs and that campus recreation “will work to transition fitness center attendants and building supervisors to other work study positions and also help in certain capacities with the UCity campus recreation facilities.” 

Jack Jumper, director of athletic communications, declined an interview request from The Hawk asking for additional details on the closure and renovations.

“At this time, we’re not ready to talk about, or announce our plans for O’Pake,” Jumper wrote. “I’d be glad to potentially set up interviews once those plans have been publicly announced.” 

Poster boards with renditions of the expected outcome of the renovations were placed in the lobby area entrance of O’Pake the building in the spring 2022 semester, but no formal announcement was made. 

Blake Willis ’25 said he uses O’Pake facilities five times a week, and as a student, he is bracing for changes to his weekly scheduled workouts. 

“I know it’s hard for them to give us exact dates and months and perfect a timeline of when this is going to be done and when it’s going to start,” Willis said. “But if they could give us some kind of start date and end date, I [think] that would be helpful for a lot of students.”

Daniel Yen, campus recreation specialist, said campus recreation staff made several adjustments in preparation for the renovation, like moving the intramural basketball season from spring 2023 to fall 2022. 

“There will be no indoor programming for all of 2023,” Yen said. “For this season, we moved up volleyball to coincide with flag football so we can maximize our staff coverage for basketball.”

The O’Pake Recreation Center building previously served as a gym for the Episcopal Academy before the campus was acquired by St. Joe’s in 2008. The university held off on renovations to O’Pake until a later date, but specified in its 2019 update to the Saint Joseph’s Master Plan that “Athletic and recreational facilities are out of date compared with peer institutions.” 

Beth Ford McNamee ’99, assistant director of Campus Ministry, is a regular user of O’Pake’s cardio exercise area as well as  the pool and basketball courts. McNamee said she is excited by whatever the renovations will bring and is optimistic about any alternative outdoor options when O’Pake closes for renovations. 

“Exercise is really important for myself,” McNamee said. “I always encourage students to consider it, adding it to their routine, just for physical and mental [health], and I would argue spiritual health too. So just [from] a holistic health perspective, I’m sure it’s under the university’s consideration.”

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