An invitation to play pickleball led to more than a spirited evening match for Dr. Alan Benson, BJU’s vice president for student development and discipleship.
Repurposing the neglected tennis courts across from Gaston residence hall for another outdoor student recreation area has long been on Benson’s mental drawing board. While connecting with “anywhere from a dozen to 30 of our students” regularly this spring and summer to play pickleball, a plan was formulated in collaboration with University Facilities Management.
“The courts, though maybe not where they need to be for playing tennis, are fine. I thought pickleball would be an attractive sport to have here, so I began looking at whether I could do that on the tennis courts,” Benson said. “The genesis comes out of the heartbeat I had for putting the game room in The Den. It really is finding ways of capturing student gathering spaces. I don’t want them to be unusual spaces; I don’t want them to be distraction spaces.”
Pickleball is a paddle sport that combines elements of tennis, badminton and table tennis. Two or four players use solid paddles made of wood or composite materials to hit a perforated polymer ball over a net.
“Pickleball is the fastest-growing sport in the United States. Who knew we would be trendy?” said Benson, a longtime tennis player/instructor — and now avid pickleball player.
Six pickleball courts were created from two tennis courts. Additionally, removing two large trees near Stadium View Drive established a grassy area for games such as Spikeball. Space on an end line of the courts will be dedicated to cornhole. Restoring electricity to lights was also included in site work.
“We’re looking at a plan at capturing the rest of the tennis courts as an outdoor space that will be in conjunction with the recreation. It will be a gathering spot,” said Benson, who added that more elements such as a checkout building on-site will be constructed as financial resources are available. “One of the things we wanted to capture is outdoor spaces simply because it’s better in a COVID-19 environment and there are spaces where we may not have to wear masks. It is to create another spot for community.”
Planning an Outdoor Den
The game room, which opened in August 2019 and features multiple activity centers interwoven with comfortable conversation areas, was a welcome addition to student life.
“What I had hoped would happen has, and that is people say, ‘I’ll meet you in the game room in The Den,’” Benson said.
In conjunction with steps taken on campus to mitigate the risks of infection and spread of the novel coronavirus, some furniture from The Den could be moved outside to create yet another social space with appropriate physical distancing.
“We’re looking for creative programming alternatives. If there’s something that we can’t do, what can we do?” Benson said. “That may mean a where and it may mean a how. What can we do outside? It’s that kind of creative thinking for using our spaces all over campus.”
Have an Umbrella Handy
Phase II of removal of sidewalk covers, encompassing the L-shaped section between the Museum & Gallery and Stratton Hall, was completed in June. Lighting is being installed along both sections of sidewalk.
Razing the structures, necessitated by deterioration, followed the 2019 removal of two sections of sidewalk covers near the Dixon-McKenzie Dining Common.
Underground Project and More
In June, trenching began to replace the lateral waste lines for Ironside residence hall. Simultaneously, deep cleaning and sanitizing residence halls and classrooms were being conducted.
Other projects included:
- General maintenance, such as air conditioning repair or replacement, roof replacement and other mechanical updates to buildings, and power washing.
- Preventative summer maintenance in residence halls, prepped for new tenants in four residence hall supervisor apartments, and a lobby facelift for the freshman floor in Johnson residence hall.
- Completed classroom right-sizing protocols as part of the Campus Life Plan.
- Light maintenance on second and third floors of Reveal residence hall, which will provide for the needs of those who have become symptomatic and require testing as well as those who have tested positive for COVID-19.
- Supported faculty moves into offices in the new School of Health Professions facility in Mack Building.
- Spruced up perennial flower beds and planted shrubbery, including around the Mack Building and in front of the Gustafson Fine Arts Building.
- Screened and sealed sports courts at Davis Field House and BJU Academy gym.