RHETA GRIMSLEY JOHNSON: Phi Beta hot tub: War Eagle!

By Rheta Grimsley Johnson

No springtime ritual was better at Auburn than sitting on hard rocks at a nearby state park to let cold water rush over your feet. You wore cut-off blue jeans and Dr. Scholl’s sandals, the unofficial uniform for coeds in the 1970s, and when you left, you felt ready to tackle tests, term papers and blind dates.
The state park is still there. The water is still rushing. But evidently that’s not enough to relax today’s Auburn students.
This spring at Auburn a new 240,000-square-foot recreation and fitness center will open so students and faculty can stay well and fit.
The building will include a 50-foot rock-climbing wall “with an auto-belaying system,” whatever that is, “four bordering caves for lateral climbing, a 20-foot wet rock climbing wall in the 20,000 gallon leisure activity pool, a 45-person hot tub in the shape of a tiger paw and a third of a mile indoor track with a corkscrew formation and 10 feet of altitude change.”
The track reportedly will be the longest indoor track in the country. In the country.
There will be floors for dancing, cycling, “core training” and a five-floor tower with “a gorgeous view of Auburn” at the top. You can pump iron or dance the Zumba.
Did I mention that the new recreation and wellness center will be “green,” “a sustainable building that decreases Auburn’s carbon footprint”? You wouldn’t want wellness and recreation to be offset by a huge carbon footprint.
In my day you went to the rooftop of Haley Center if you wanted a gorgeous view of Auburn. I guess you could have walked the stairway up the nine floors if you wanted exercise. Everyone I knew rode the elevator because most of us didn’t have cars and were tired from walking all day.
We also rode bikes, but we didn’t call it “cycling.” Our brand of biking didn’t need its own floor in a building. We danced, but not in a wellness center, more often in a frat house with a beverage in our hand. If we wanted to climb rocks, they were the ones at the aforementioned state park. We sometimes jogged at the Coliseum, but more often just ran to and from classes.
From what I’ve noticed on recent visits to campus, in my day we were as fit as today’s students without benefit of all the recreational frills.
“You’ll forgive me,” an Auburn professor emailed his department colleagues, “when in future meetings I just blurt out ‘45-person hot tub in the shape of a tiger paw’ when the next round of budget cuts or library cancellations is announced.”
A campus marketing spokesman saw it differently. “The students voiced a major concern that they wanted to have a top-tier facility. They see their friends at other universities having that. They wanted the same amenities and features that are at other institutions.”
Well, by all means. You wouldn’t want some other Alabama university or Louisiana campus or Georgia college getting a bigger hot tub or longer track or better view than Auburn gets.
This way, when Auburn students leave campus, they will be fit to climb rocks, Zumba, cycle or run. And if Auburn graduates haven’t learned as much as, say, graduates of Princeton or Bucks County School of Beauty Culture, at least they’ll be well and rested up.
Syndicated columnist Rheta Grimsley Johnson lives near Iuka. Contact her at Iuka, MS 38852. To find out more about Rheta Grimsley Johnson and her books, visit www.rhetagrimsleyjohnsonbooks.com.