The Bongerd Sports Centre is bursting at the seams. Not only is the sports hall fully booked all the time, but many students who would like to be doing sport are having to settle for a place on a waiting list. A second sports hall hardly seem like a luxury. ‘This situation is untenable.’
Every weekday at 5 p.m. the overcrowding in the Bongerd’s main sports hall is quite apparent. The hall is divided in two or even three areas and then the rigid reign of the clock begins: it’s one club after another right up to midnight. No minute is wasted. Eight large sports associations train in the main hall, often with different teams, explains Annemiek Florisson, chairwoman of the Thymos sports foundation. Thymos also holds internal competitions, for sports like football and knotsball, in which 108 teams are participating in the current academic period. Right after Christmas there are often even more teams. And there are also the one-off lessons such as Zumba, ‘moving to music’ and power dumbbell that attract so many people that they simply don’t fit in one of the small halls.
No more beers in the canteen
The increasing pressure on the Bongerd comes as no surprise. Compared with four years ago, the number of first-year students at Wageningen University this year was up by 57 percent, an average growth of 14 percent each year. Orion was built to meet the growing demand for study facilities, but the Bongerd Sports Centre had to be satisfied with a modest expansion of its gym.
The dozens of student sports associations, some of which have seen their membership double over the past five years, still have just the one hall at their disposal. ‘They get no extra training time, so in fact they can’t grow,’ says Florisson. As a result, many associations now have waiting lists. How many students are discouraged by this and don’t even bother to enrol, nobody knows. What’s more, Thymos fears that associations will start selecting members based on their level, says Florisson. ‘Beginners or people who don’t play competitively will be excluded.’ At the Lobbers just such a sifting process has already started. The badminton club trains once a week at the Bongerd and only competition players are welcome. The other training session is held in the Vlinder, where the beginners’ training starts as early as 5 p.m. ‘Depending on their lectures, students sometimes can’t come or they join in later,’ says the chairwoman.
There are other associations that have had to relocate to other halls in Wageningen too. This works as an interim solution, but Thymos believes that social bonding suffers as a result. ‘It means that having a beer in the canteen afterwards isn’t an option,’ Florisson thinks. ‘What is more, it costs an awful lot of money, and you have to book a long way in advance.’ In spite of this, the existing clubs don’t complain that much. ‘By now they know that they have to make do with the time they are allocated,’ says Florisson, ‘and if they want to hold a tournament even that has to be fitted into their own training time. There simply aren’t any other options.’ The same goes for an event like the Battle of the Studies, which was held last week. All sports associations lost an evening’s valuable training time. In a break with tradition, the annual obstacle course was suddenly held in a remote gym hall because there were no other options. ‘In addition, we’ve been holding our Thymos Experiences outside the Bongerd whenever possible.’
Iemand die het maximale uit de beschikbare ruimte probeert te halen is Bongerdmedewerkster Annemieke Dijkstra. Zij is verantwoordelijk voor de strakke planning van de sportzaal. Soms zet ze drie verenigingen naast elkaar in de sporthal. Het is niet altijd ideaal, weet ze ook. ‘De basketballers trainen tegelijk met Zumba, waar de muziek heel hard staat. Maar dat nemen ze voor lief.’ Daarnaast sprokkelt ze zo veel mogelijk sporturen bij elkaar, in de tentamenweken bijvoorbeeld. Dijkstra: ‘Bij andere universiteiten laten ze tafels en stoelen na de tentamens staan, maar wij ruimen ze elke dag op zodat mensen ’s avonds kunnen sporten.’ Daarnaast zijn op initiatief van de Bongerd universiteitsbreed de tentamentijden aangepast vanaf de tweede periode. ‘Onze sporters konden altijd pas vanaf zeven uur terecht in de tentamenweken. Nu is alles een half uur vervroegd, en dat scheelt weer.’ Een andere oplossing van de Bongerd is ’s ochtends sporten. ‘De fitnesszaal gaat op donderdagen al om zeven uur open. Daar horen we veel enthousiaste reacties op.’ Ook heeft de Bongerd een sneeuwschuiver aangeschaft voor de kunstgrasvelden en de atletiekbaan. Dan kunnen buitensporters ook met sneeuw buiten trainen.
Someone who is trying to maximize the use of the available space is Bongerd staff member Annemieke Dijkstra. She is responsible for the sport hall’s tight scheduling. Sometimes she puts three associations next to each other in the sports hall. She knows it’s not always ideal. ‘The basketball players train at the same time as Zumba, which plays really loud music. But they put up with it.’ In addition, she scraps together as many sports hours as possible, in exam weeks, for example. ‘At other universities,’ says Dijkstra, ‘they leave the tables and chairs in place after an exam, but we clear them away every evening so that people can do sport.’ Besides this, at her request, the entire university has revised its exam times as of the second academic period. ‘Our sportspeople were never able to use the space until 6.30 p.m. in exam weeks. Now everything has been brought forward a half hour, and that makes a difference.’
Another of Dijkstra’s solutions is morning sport. ‘On Thursdays the gym opens as early as 7 a.m. I’m hearing a lot of enthusiastic reactions to this change.’ And she has bought a snow shovel for the artificial grass pitch. So that the outdoor sportspeople can train outdoors even in snow, which leaves more room indoors for the indoor sportspeople.
In view of the shortage of space, Facilities and Services is doing a preliminary study of the feasibility of a second sports hall. Both Thymos and staff at the Bongerd feel this is urgently needed. ‘The Bongerd is still the Netherlands’ number 1 student sports complex, and we’d like to keep it that way. This situation is untenable,’ says Thymos. But finances, space and needs must be examined carefully. In any case the floor must be multifunctional, just like in the present hall, thinks Florisson. ‘Then you can wear ordinary shoes, and that makes it suitable as an exam hall.’ The idea of the hall standing empty doesn’t worry her at all. ‘It can always be rented it out if need be because the municipality is also short of space.’
A new hall would make Thymos’s plans for the future a real possibility. ‘We are keen to see more student sports associations,’ says Florisson. ‘There are now 23; in Groningen, for example, there are 49. Football and squash are on our wish list. We have just got a new lacrosse association, and it already has 60 members.’ There is yet another reason why sports coordinating body Thymos wants an extra sports hall. ‘We are lobbying to bring the Great Dutch Student Championship to Wageningen in 2018,’ explains Florisson. ‘That’s a huge event and it would mean we really need the second sports hall.’
Photo's: Sven Menschel