End of an Era: UTokyo to Receive New Gym Facilities to Coincide with Olympics, Fate of Campus Plaza

By TAIGA TASE

The exterior of the Training Gym. The dilapidated sign, formerly reading 'トレーニング体育館', now only reads ‘イ育館’. Photo by author.

KOMABA CAMPUS, July 2017- Discussions were finalized last month within the Sports Team Association regarding the construction of modern gymnasiums to replace the aging Dai-ichi (No. 1), Dai-ni (No. 2), and Training Gyms. The finality of the decision was indicated by an as-of-yet undisclosed budget being approved by the University board.

Much of the discussion comprised of debates on the timing with which existing facilities would be torn down; because the current gymnasiums are used daily for compulsory physical education classes, they would need to be relocated or suspended during the construction period. As of June 2017, plans call for pre-fabricated temporary gyms to be placed in the area behind the library while the new buildings are erected, according to a source familiar with the matter, who agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity. To help ease the load, elements of the existing complex, most notably the Training Gym, are to be retained until the after the new gyms are opened.

The three gyms also currently act as the meeting and practice locations for countless teams and clubs. Those teams unable to practice in the Training Gym will be forced to find such alternatives as local fields and privately-run gyms in the interim. As it stands, the Cheerleading, Gymnastics, and Bodybuilding and Weightlifting Teams - those that hold practices in the Training Gym - are to remain unscathed, but others are not as fortunate.

Yūma Matsumoto, a second year member of the gymnastics team, expressed excitement for the new gym, complaining that the warped floors of the current Training Gym make complicated flips and moves difficult to practice. He personally hopes for a new gym wherein his team will be able to maintain an equipment setup on a permanent basis; currently they must set up and disassemble their equipment every time they wish to practice.

Planning for alternative practice sites following the loss of the gyms appears to be progressing slowly. Yōhei Kobayashi, a second-year member of the baseball team who trains with his teammates in the No. 2 gymnasium, expressed that he has no idea where to train while the gyms are unavailable. He is joined by Hiroki Wada, a first year who plays basketball recreationally in the No. 2 Gym, as well as the captain of a team that practices in the No. 2 Gym, who wished to remain otherwise anonymous.

Those who have searched for substitute training spots have largely settled on the facilities of other academic institutions. Those like the Kendo Circle led by second-year Kūta Nakajima will increasingly utilise the local Komaba Elementary School grounds, as well as private gyms. Wada intends to use the facilities of the universities to which his friends belong.

The students as a whole called for cleaner practice grounds, with Nakajima curiously being the sole voice calling for air-conditioning. Predictably, Kobayashi, who uses the gyms exclusively for weight training, seeks fantastic new training equipment. Dhriti Mehta, a first-year, finds the lack of cardio equipment unsatisfactory and hopes for treadmills and ellipticals in the new gyms.

Plans for reconstruction of the Campus Plaza has, in contrast, been met with considerable resistance. As the site of clubrooms for a variety of clubs ranging from electronic keyboard enthusiasts to broadcasters, it holds significant sentimental value for generations of UTokyo students. This resistance is reflected in the school’s policies; although a plan is in the works, no budget has yet been approved for a renovation of the Campus Plaza.

According to the same anonymous source familiar with the matter, plans currently exist for the old gyms to be torn down and ground to be broken over the Spring of 2018. Construction is to be completed in time for the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and the Student Union hopes that the new gym facilities will bolster domestic enthusiasm and may contribute to future UTokyo Olympians. The original Training Gym was built in 1963 as a training grounds for the 1964 Summer Olympics.

Currently no plans exists for the Martial Art Gym and the Kyuudou (Japanese archery) Range, dating from 1999 and 1987 respectively, to be replaced or renovated.


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