Get in shape. Swimsuit season might return someday.

By Jake Grubman

The University must have felt bad about building a library on top of the old football field, because only administrative guilt could have built an athletics facility as phenomenal as the Ratner Athletics Center.

The centerpiece of Chicago’s exercise facilities, Ratner looks a little bit like a ship and functions a lot like athletics heaven. At 150,000 square feet, it offers a pair of gyms, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, a dance room, saunas, weight rooms, and dozens of workout machines with personal televisions—so you can watch Dance Your Ass Off while working your gluteus on the elliptical.

Ratner added 25 new cardio machines last year, and four new TVs, along with several weightlifting machines and weight sets to the gym’s already impressive array of equipment. Users reserve exercise machines in the rotunda in 15-minute blocks, a rule strictly enforced by those in line—unless the person waiting will let you squeeze in a few extra minutes of Daisy of Love.

Those who manage to stop staring up at the cardio rotunda above the lobby and then make their way past the 1935 Heisman Trophy in Ratner’s Hall of Fame have their choice of taking a dip in the Myers-McLorraine Pool or shooting hoops on Ratner’s competition basketball court.

The pool is one of the best college pools in the region, with up to 20 25-yard lanes and nine 50-meter lanes. Pickup games are in no short supply on the basketball court, where any first-year can dribble on the same court where Maroon greats like Derek Reich (A.B. '03) and Nate Hainje (A.B. '08) played. Pickup competition isn’t just limited to basketball: Badminton and volleyball players get their fair share of play on the auxiliary court.

The weight rooms at Ratner provide yet more variety, with plenty of weight machines and free weights. Students also have access to additional cardio machines in the weight rooms, along with various abdominal workout mats.

Ratner isn't the only option for students seeking some physical activity after a day of intellectual heavy-lifting. Henry Crown Field House might have slightly harsher overhead lighting, slightly older stationery bikes, and slightly less air conditioning, but its indoor track and multipurpose courts get plenty of use. The upper level has four courts that are used for basketball, tennis, volleyball, and indoor soccer; squash and racquetball courts are downstairs.

Students can also reserve Stagg Field when the football and soccer teams aren’t playing. The home of Chicago’s IM flag football and soccer leagues, the field boasts newly redone turf and a resurfaced 400-meter track. Eight tennis courts line Stagg’s west edge, although many students hit the tennis courts on 53rd and South Shore.

With such a wide range of exercise options on campus, it’ll take a better excuse than “I’ve got two tests tomorrow and a 12-page paper due the next day” to stay out of the gym (though frigid winter temperatures have been known to do the trick).