Soccer kicking again in Rec Center

People+play+pick+up+soccer+at+the+practice+field+on+Monday%2C+Sept.+28%2C2015+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2F+Glenn+Sonnie+Wooden%29

The Daily Iowan

People play pick up soccer at the practice field on Monday, Sept. 28,2015 (The Daily Iowan/ Glenn Sonnie Wooden)

Pickup soccer returns to the Rec Center after weeks of negotiating with Recreation Services.

By Katelyn Weisbrod
[email protected]

Soccer is back at the Rec.

After several weeks of protesting and petitioning, a loose group of pickup soccer players can now meet to play at the University of Iowa Campus Recreation and Wellness Center, provided there is not a fitness class at the same time.

The group — which communicates on a Facebook page with more than 600 students and community members — has played in the Hawkeye Tennis & Recreation Complex since February after a soccer ball hit and broke a sprinkler, flooding the MAC Gym at the Rec Center.

The MAC Gym was under repair for several months. In August, some pickup soccer players looked into returning to the Rec Center, but were told by UI Recreational Services they would not be allowed back.

The players reached out to Recreational Services to find a compromise. After a month of meetings and discussions, the two sides found a solution.

“Certainly, when groups can be part of the solution, it’s more favorable for everybody,” director of Rec Services JT Timmons said.

The group was told in August that fitness classes would occupy the MAC Gym and that soccer was being moved to maximize facility efficiency.

However, many of the players felt that the Tennis Complex was not a fair trade for the MAC Gym. Some of the players are UI students without cars, and the Tennis Complex is far from central campus. Also, space in the complex is under high demand, so the group would have limited time to have the turf.

Now, the group will be able to play in the MAC Gym whenever a fitness class is not using it. There will be a schedule so the group can anticipate when such times will be.

Rec Services also was concerned with exceeding occupancy limits. The MAC Gym benches were often full of people waiting their turn to play. It got to the point where it was considered a fire hazard.

The solution is to have the players self-govern. Rec Services asked the group members for their input in creating a set of soccer rules that will be posted by the MAC Gym. Members of the Facebook group could take a survey and vote for what rules they wanted, like avoiding clustering near the court door and playing 10-minute games.

“We are expected to police ourselves with congestion and how much time people have played to make it fair,” player Gerri Jaeschke said. “It’s different that it’s written down this time. It wasn’t last time.”

When the players first found out they would not be able to return to the Rec Center, they tried to persuade Rec Services officials to change their minds. They staged a small protest outside the MAC Gym and created a petition that intended not only to show how many people would be affected but also to show the group’s diversity.

“If we had just let it go, they wouldn’t have let us back in. Getting their attention and making people aware was the reason why anything happened at all,” Jaeschke said. “We got everything we wanted and more. I’m really glad we got such a good outcome.”

Timmons, however, said Rec Services likely would have come to the same solution if the group had not been as persistent.

“It was good once folks from the group sat down with us and we came to a solution,” Timmons said. “I think we would have arrived at the same solution. Our goal is to maximize our spaces. We’re trying to balance the needs of everyone in our facilities. The soccer group seems to be pleased with the outcome.”

The finishing touches of the repair should be completed this morning. The group plans to play in the MAC Gym today from 7 to 9 p.m.

The Tennis Complex will still be an option for pickup soccer when available. Players often have to wait as long as an hour for their turn to play for 10 minutes. The complex availability may help shorten the wait.

“It’s a strong community. It’s important that it’s back,” player Ilya Buchkin said. “It’s a welcoming great place. I’m very thankful it’s back.”

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