Education

Renovated University of Iowa athletic learning center a hit with student-athletes

3,000 have studied there since it reopened in April

IOWA CITY — If you have to study on a balmy spring afternoon, there are few nicer places to do it than the Gerdin Athletic Learning Center at the University of Iowa.

The center, built in 2003, reopened last month after a $6.8 million renovation designed to make the space more appealing to student athletes.

Days before finals week, apostrophe-shaped study carrels and sunny chairs with foot stools were occupied by student athletes preparing for tests, presentations or final projects.

Jason Kerst, a sophomore tennis player from Ann Arbor, Mich., was on the third floor preparing for a quiz and a Spanish presentation in which he has to pretend to be a tour guide in Mexico.

“I’ve been here every day because I like these little corners,” Kerst told members of the Presidential Committee on Athletics, which toured the building Thursday.

Grace McGuire, a freshman from St. Louis who plays field hockey, said she goes to the third floor, designated a quiet study area, when she needs to concentrate.

The center’s first floor, with a refueling station with free healthy food for student-athletes, is where she goes to be social. The area has large three-sided booths, flat-screen TVs (not on because of the impending finals) and tables with charging stations.

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Second floor has space for study groups or individual study. There, in a semicircular yellow-and-black booth facing a western window, sat Isaiah Moss, a junior basketball player from Chicago.

“It makes me want to come here and study because everything is so nice and high tech,” he said.

Since the building reopened in mid-April, 3,000 students have been in the 28,000-square-foot building, which is a major increase from the old space, said Liz Tovar, associate athletics director for student-athlete academic services.

Students-athletes must swipe their ID card when they enter the building. Non-student athletes are not allowed to use the space.

Both the center’s original construction and this update largely have been financed by gifts from the Solon-based Ann Gerdin family — which gave $5 million in 2002 and another $5 million in 2017 for the renovations. The UI Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, which is self-sustaining, is supplementing costs with its earnings — meaning no taxpayer dollars were used.

The New York Times reports all 100-plus major college athletic programs in this country boast some type of academic support structure.

Head Football Coach Kirk Ferentz praised the Gerdin center when he spoke to the presidential committee Thursday.

“This building, this facility,” he said, “is just fantastic.”

 

Vanessa Miller of The Gazette contributed.

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