High-end athletics facilities buck U of C’s nerdy rep

The school is equipped with a futuristic galleon that somehow shipwrecked in Hyde Park.

By Zach Werner

Despite the solely cerebral reputation of the U of C, the school is equipped with some stellar athletic facilities that help students enhance the life of the body.

Resembling a futuristic galleon that somehow shipwrecked in Hyde Park, the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center owes its design to famed architect Cesar Pelli. Located on the corner of South 55th Street and East Ellis Avenue, Ratner is ground zero for body grooming at the University of Chicago.

Point is: You can’t miss it…and won’t want to. Ratner offers a multi-level weight room and has more than 40 cardiovascular machines on the upper level of the grand rotunda that overlooks the building’s front lobby. Gym patrons can select from an array of state-of-the-art machinery, including treadmills, stationary bikes, rowing machines, and elliptical machines. There is a multipurpose dance studio along with a large gymnasium that serves as home court for Maroon hoops, volleyball, and wrestling teams. In addition, there is a smaller auxiliary gym where basketball players often fight with a surprising number of badminton enthusiasts for coveted court time.

Ratner is also home to the Myers-McLoraine Pool, widely regarded as one of the best college pools in the Midwest. To make those long laps less monotonous, the pool features glass windows that allow views of Ellis Avenue on one side and the Ratner front lobby on the other.

The athletic department offices reside in Ratner as well, along with—believe it or not—a U of C Athletics Hall of Fame. Many fascinating pieces of Maroon sports memorabilia are proudly on display, including the first-ever Heisman Trophy, the hallmark college football award that the University’s own Jay Berwanger won in 1935.

Ratner is undoubtedly the most used athletic facility on campus, making it sometimes difficult to commandeer popular equipment. Users have to sign in to secure a spot, and frequent users will quickly master the sticky (and sweaty) Ratner social quandaries, like reminding an overzealous exerciser that he’s 15 minutes over his allotted time on the elliptical. Day lockers are available for free, and long-term lockers and towels can be rented.

Despite the attractive appearance of Ratner, which opened in 2003, many students prefer to perfect their forms in the antiquated Henry Crown Field House. Located on East 56th Street and South University Avenue, Crown sports racquetball and squash courts, as well as several basketball and tennis courts and a few ping-pong tables. An indoor track circles the second floor, and the field house also has some weight-training and cardiovascular machines.

There are several athletic fields on campus as well, though they are used primarily by Chicago athletes. The Maroons baseball team plays at J. Kyle Anderson Field at East 55th Street and South Drexel Avenue, while the softball and soccer teams play on the Amos Alonzo Stagg Field Complex on East 56th Street between South Cottage Grove Avenue and South Ellis Avenue. Stagg Field is also home to the football and outdoor track-and-field teams, while the tennis team has courts at East 56th Street and South Cottage Grove Avenue.

When practice is not in session, students are free to use these facilities, and warm weather can sometimes (though not often) make the track appear to be more popular than the Regenstein. Speaking of the Reg, it too has a place in U of C sports history; the massive library actually stands on the site of the school’s first football field.