Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
If you think the Ole Miss Turner Center is crowded, you’re right. In fact, the associate director says they’re already about 67,000 square feet short of where they should be for the student population, and the problem could get worse.
“If we expanded to 25,000 students on campus and we still have what we have, we are going to be 124,000 square feet short in order to accommodate that many students,” said Turner Center Associate Director Jason Shirkey.
Shirkey says the facilities get a lot of use with more than 20,000 people passing through the turnstiles each month.
“Looks like this year we’ll be close to maybe 275 or 300,000 people for the year,” he said.
Ole Miss junior Rachel Spinden said working out at Turner Center and taking fitness classes her freshman year was a good way to meet people, but now she pays to workout off campus.
“Now, I feel like it’s too small, not updated, and I don’t like to see people that I know because I’m actually trying to lose weight and not just socialize,” says Spinden. “I think there is more variety offered off campus, and with the complexity of my schedule and the parking at Ole Miss, it’s easier to access a gym off campus rather than on.”
Shirkey says the recent $1.7 million dollar renovation at the Turner Center added some variety—a game room, a spin room, and another multi-purpose room.
“We really needed group fitness space. We only really have one group fitness room that teaches Zumba, spin, Pilates, yoga, and all those classes,” says Shirkey. “We fill that up and often have to turn students away, so that was kind of our first need.”
Shirkey says other upcoming enhancement projects include meeting building code standards for the track’s railing and a new roof, as well as eight new air handlers.
Ole Miss junior Pauline Causey says those updates won’t solve the center’s biggest problem.
“If you live off campus, you have to park all the way at the Tad Pad. I’d rather pay $15 a month rather that walking a quarter of a mile to the Turner Center. If I want a quick work out, I want to get in and get out, and I just never know with the Turner Center,” said Causey.
Shirkey has a couple suggestions for dealing with the problem.
“Parking is going to be an issue for sure, unless you’re coming early in the morning, or you can walk.”
According to Shirkey, long-term plans for the Turner Center include another off-campus location.
“There are already talks about the Whirlpool factory that the university bought. It’s been through the processes of how it’s going to be a transportation hub and rec facility, so we will be adding quite a bit of square footage and probably basketball courts and fitness space. It’ll be across the highway on Chucky Mullins Drive. And that project is probably, you know, 4 or 5 years away.”