New Merrill Fitness Center – A Change for the Better?


Katherine Merisotis/The Bates Student

Katherine Meritosis/The Bates Student

This year, Davis Fitness Center was relocated to the indoor track in Merrill Gymnasium to space out the equipment and make room for the testing center in Underhill Arena. At first glance, the lifting equipment that looms on the left end of the track looks like a temporary fix. However, this relocation allows for a revamp of the old fitness center.

The new location creates a more accessible gym: no more stairs to climb and no more crowded equipment. The signup limit for usage also makes for a less intimidating atmosphere in the fitness center compared to what many people – mostly women and nonathletes – have experienced in past years. 

This was true for Josephine Stevens ’23 who shared, “I do really like the setup and how to spread out it is. In the old gym, everyone was too close together and it made it stressful trying to get a lift in. It’s just nice to not have everyone breathing down each other’s necks.” 

Katherine Merisotis/The Bates Student

Amanda Taylor ‘23 felt similarly. “Underhill feels cramped compared to the setup in Merrill, so I feel less physical pressure having people so close to me when I’m working out,” she said. So far, the setup seems to be favored among female athletes.

However, the limited sign-up has made it harder for teams to workout together. As a member of the Bates softball team, Taylor said, “normally I would go to Underhill with my team or a small group of my teammates to do our team lifts, but now we have to coordinate to try and get the same time slot, which is a big challenge since the fitness center is so popular.” 

That being said, she added, “I don’t think the size of the group affects the workout. I think the challenge is having to be mindful of what we touch and knowing we can’t share things when I was used to just rotating and sharing equipment.” 

There are also challenges in terms of not being able to rely on teammates while working out. “We have groups so we can spot and motivate each other, but now it is completely independent and you go on your own time. Team workouts are much different,” Stevens said.

Whether the new fitness center is here for the long-term or just a temporary move, this new location has allowed for a more inclusive environment for women. “I actually really like the setup – there are not as many people so I feel less judged,” Stevens said.

Katherine Merisotis/The Bates Student

For Taylor, the lifting center feels less intimidating. “As a woman, sometimes I feel pressure being surrounded by men, but I’m an athlete and I know what is best for my body, so now I find it easier to work out,” Taylor explained. 

Whether you are an athlete or just looking to work out and use Bates facilities, this new layout seems to be more inviting for women and people who wouldn’t usually take advantage of the fitness center. This could be a step in the right direction in terms of making Bates a more inclusive space, especially in fitness. 

“[Davis Fitness Center] is 90% men most of the time,” Stevens noted. “I think there’s a stigma against women lifting, which I feel Bates needs to work to eliminate.” 

Time will tell if this change to the fitness center will bring new light to the problems faced in its previous location. It may be more accessible to have sign-up times for all facilities post-COVID. Whether or not the move into Merrill is here to stay, it’s good to find some silver linings in the changes that have come with the COVID-19 protocols.