Penn State

Rec Hall athletic facility access faces security changes

Penn State seniors Charles Klimpel, left, and Dan Borowicz play squash Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 at Rec Hall.
Penn State seniors Charles Klimpel, left, and Dan Borowicz play squash Monday, Feb. 6, 2017 at Rec Hall.

When it comes to Penn State athletics, there are things just a few people can do. Not many people will ever know what it’s like to catch a pass on the field at Beaver Stadium.

But there are other activities that have historically been a little more democratic.

Take Rec Hall, the brick building built in 1928 is home to Penn State wrestling, men’s and women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s gymnastics, but you don’t have to be a collegiate athlete to play some games there.

Rec Hall also has 14 racquetball courts and 10 squash courts, making it popular not just with the campus crowd coming to watch the Nittany Lions face off with a Big Ten rival, but for community members looking to have a little competition with a friend.

However, now some of those people are concerned that all that could change.

Penn State is taking steps to make its facilities more secure, and some users fear increasing safety may mean limiting access.

“A valid PSU student, faculty, staff or affiliate identification will now be required for entry,” John Giustozzi Jr., of State College, said in a letter to the Centre Daily Times.

“Among the many people affected by this change is a group of racquetball players who have met regularly for years. As PSU houses all of the racquetball courts in Centre County, many will be forced out with no alternative location to play,” he said.

Penn State, however, said nothing is set in stone.

“No changes to Rec Hall access have been made at this time, however, we are taking a holistic look at our campus recreation facilities and memberships to ensure we are compliant with Penn State Policy AD 73 and that we are offering the best recreational experience to our students,” said spokeswoman Heather Hottle Robbins.

That policy was passed in July 2012, the same month Penn State had sanctions levied against it by the NCAA after the Jerry Sandusky scandal. The policy says that only people with valid university identification can use the facilities, with the ability to bring in one guest at a time.

In February 2016, the board of trustees approved $7.5 million in security improvements for Rec Hall, the McCoy Natatorium and the White Building. But that’s not without consideration of the rest of the Penn State faithful, the university stresses.

“We also are considering best practices and the interests of members of our Penn State community,” Robbins said. “Details on how this might take shape are being worked out, and more information will be communicated later in the spring semester.”

That’s frustrating for what Andrew Daniloff calls the “Rec Hall Access Coalition,” a group of frequent users alarmed as they anticipate installation of turnstiles and card readers without knowing what their options are.

“We had received some correspondence from (Vice President of Student Affairs) Damon Sims. They would like to make a community membership available,” Daniloff, of State College, said.

But the lack of ready answers makes them worry.

“It seems like there’s some confusion in the university,” he said.

For Daniloff, it isn’t a question of being on the opposite side of the university. He wants them to appreciate that the Rec Hall users are supporters who understand the safety concerns and are willing to do whatever they have to do to make the situation work, including paying for memberships or getting background checks.

“A lot of us are donors,” he said. “We donate to the building, to Penn State athletics, to the clubs. We’re very respectful of Penn State. We just want access.”

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce