The Infamous “Pete Surge” and How the University Is Responding

It was an unbearably cold winter morning in Oakland, made worse by the unrelenting breeze winding down Fifth. I strapped on my boots to avoid the charcoal slush that lined the pavement, and reluctantly grabbed my coat hanging next to the door. The mere thought of the wind and ice made me want to crawl back into bed, but I knew I had to beat the notorious “Pete Surge.”

You are probably confused, so let me provide some context. When the COVID-19 pandemic began in the spring of 2020, students all over found their schedules inundated with free time. It may come as no surprise that after the pandemic, one specific hobby began taking the world and every social media platform by storm: fitness.

Tiktok accounts promoting fitness, and fitness-related advice began appearing by the thousands, and the fitness community itself gained a cult-like following of vehement “gym rats” to support its cause. 

Fast forward to 2022, and while the pandemic is starting to come to an end, we have run into a new problem that has been terrorizing the Pitt campus, “The Pete Surge.”

The Pete Surge could be best described as the overcrowding that takes place between classes that lasts from roughly noon to when the gym closes at 11p.m. At these times, students find themselves in-between classes, or done with them altogether, and will come to the Baierl Recreation Center, reffered to as “The Pete,” in giant cohorts that leave the gym packed and overcrowded. It’s the reason why some students like myself are willing to wake up so early, and why others will just skip days altogether. To add insult to injury, Pitt’s plans for a future gym suggest that a new facility will be complete in 2024 after most of us graduate.

I, like many others, rely on fitness as a tool for maintaining mental and physical health, and so I am willing to forfeit a few hours of sleep if it means I can get a workout in.

Still, I wanted to ask other long-time gym-goers like myself to gain more perspectives into how this problem is affecting, not just myself, but students as a whole. 

Nick Mollicki, a first-year majoring in accounting and finance, and self-proclaimed gym rat, says he believes it’s time for change. He, like many others including myself, has opted to hustle in the morning to beat the crowd, a choice he says comes at the expense of his sleep.

“I definitely feel like the Pete can get overcrowded at times, especially between the hours of 1 and 7, which just so happens to be the only time that many of us can go at all,” he said.

But what about the higher crowds?

“I often am scouring the gym for various exercises due to all the areas being full,” he said. “Because the racks and benches are often full for much longer, I usually will have to wait 5-10 minutes for machines to be freed up.”

Situations like the one Mollicki describes is unfortunately a situation all too familiar to gym-goers like myself. When you can only squeeze your training session between your 1p.m. and 3:30p.m. class, 5-10 minutes can be a big deal and keep you from doing exercises that you like or an entire movement altogether. 

Other gym rats like Joseph (Joe) Allen, a first-year studying biology on the pre-med track, take a different stance.

Allen says that while he would prefer the gyms to have more free space, he is willing to put up with extra people “as long as [they] respect personal space and do not forget to wear deodorant.”

What he does say, however, is that a new facility, while not 100% necessary, would be a great addition to campus as a lot of the equipment in the Pete is “not of great quality” and “outdated.”

Simply put, Joe is right.

Many times old equipment tends to break. At the time this article is being written, the assisted pull-up machine and the abductor machine are broken. As one might expect, this makes an already packed atmosphere that much more chaotic.

Other on-campus gyms, like Bellefield and Trees, tend to be much smaller and even older than The Pete. A new facility would not only help spread out students but provide students with new equipment that matches the typical brands of most modern commercial gyms. 

Pitt’s new Campus Recreation and Wellness Center

As it turns out, Pitt is in fact constructing a whole new recreation center called the “Campus Recreation and Wellness Center ” where the O’Hara Garage and LRDC Building are located. The anticipated opening is set for 2024.

The building will house a recreation pool, a jogging track, weightlifting equipment, multi-activity courts for basketball, volleyball courts, and more. The project was developed through student input and lobbying from different student bodies and organizations.

“This project began with listening to students, and their voices were loud and clear,” Chancellor Patrick Gallagher said.

While students like myself are a little disheartened knowing that we will graduate before the opening of this holy site, one thing is for certain: future gym rats will have an easier time making gains, and those of us graduating will sleep a little easier knowing that.

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