Students who use the Gerald Ratner Athletics Center may have noticed new additions to the facilities: a long-awaited juice and snack bar, as well as 15 televisions connected to exercise machines in the cardio rotunda on the second floor.
The new juice bar, located directly to the right of the entrance on the first floor, offers a wide array of all-natural, fresh fruit smoothies and fresh squeezed orange juice, as well as salads, vegetarian meals, low-carb options, sandwiches and other assorted snacks. Gonzo Enterprises, an independent company, approached the University last winter about opening the bar, a part of Ratner facilities' plans since the beginning, but was not able to obtain its license until this fall.
"We see Ratner as a social place," said Jennifer Coleman, assistant athletic director for Facilities Management. "We want to encourage the University community to view it as a place where they can stop in for breakfast, sit down to catch up with a friend over lunch, or relax after a workout with a fruit smoothie before their next class or meeting."
So far, business is slow. "It's surprising," said bar manager Evan McKnight. "People haven't been as interested as we thought they'd be. It will probably take some time because maybe they don't know about it yet."
McKnight was eager to point out perks of the juice bar, like wheat grasshard to find on campusand real fruit for the smoothies. He said that their smoothies were healthier for students studying late at night than the campus favorite, coffee.
The 15 newly installed televisions are connected to some treadmills and elliptical machines for their "entertainment value." 10 channels are offered, including four different ESPN channels, as well as ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX, and WGN. Some have asked for a broader range of channels, but due to expenses, the University is limited to a package of 10. Like the juice bar, the TVs were also included in the original plans for Ratner, but their installation was delayed due to problems getting cable TV at the site.
Coleman hopes that they will help those who struggle to stay motivated to work out because of the boredom factor. "The reason we have four ESPN stations is that we cannot purchase one station without the others, and we felt that a significant number of our patrons are interested in ESPN," Coleman said.
Response to the TVs has been positive. "I went to do cardio with a book once, and it was confusing to read and work out at the same time, so the TVs sound interesting," said Keeley Mui, a second-year in the College. "When there's nothing in front of me I'm bored and I'm constantly looking at the time, so having something to focus on would make my workout more effective."
Lucy Lu, a second-year in the College, usually watches NBC or CNN and thinks that they should have a TV on every machine. "The sound quality is good and it's really easy to operate. They could have some more channels, though," Lu said.
Students have varied opinions on the new additions. "I think that the juice bar is a good idea and that the TVs are a good addition to the cardio machines," said Benjamin Farkash, a first-year in the College. However, like many other Ratner regulars, Farkash listens to music while working out so the presence of a TV does not matter to him.
The juice bar is open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and is open on Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Resumes are still being accepted.