December 20, 2018

IMA Celebrates 50th Anniversary

IMA at 50

By Sean Harding, UW Recreation

The University of Washington Intramural Activities Building celebrated its 50th anniversary last week by staying open until midnight and hosting five hours, marking five decades, of special activities including giant glow volleyball, dodgeball, archery and glow Zumba. Crags Climbing Center stayed open late and offered free admission while Huskies scrambled, rappelled and belayed on through the night. About 825 guests attended the event.

Students ferociously challenged each other in ping pong, while others gathered in the lounge watching the Huskies beat the Utah Utes in the Pac-12 Championship. There were healthy snacks aplenty, including cheese sticks, apples, grapes, oranges, bananas hummus and goldfish, as well a gourmet smoothie bar with wholesome ingredients. The smoothies being be a crowd favorite.

“It’s healthy because of all the stuff they put in it,” said one student. “All the nutrients. Spinach. They have the blueberries, strawberries, dates … it was amazing!”

“Health is a lifestyle,” said another student who said she eats healthy at home as well but does not yet have a blender in her dorm.

“If you eat healthy, you function better,” said the first student in response.

Many of the IMA’s typical Friday night activities went on throughout the night, including archery, roller skating and rock climbing, and people could still work out in the gym facilities, many of whom did. Students feeling adventurous challenged each other in “Battleship,” a game where two teams challenge each other in canoes equipped with splash buckets to sink the other. “Glowga” had students practicing their yoga moves in the dark, while “Glow Cycle” left others breathless.

“Everyone’s having a good time,” said Michael Cha, an IMA student employee. “People seem happier, being here. You [might] want to mention the free food, at least. That was a big drawing point.”

“Free food, free shirts, free activities,” nodded Shiina Yasukau, another student worker.

Some IMA regulars seemed surprised by the festivities but were pleased by the free food, including said Ken Suzuki, an exchange student from Japan.

“Maintaining good health means a good life.” Suzuki said. “… Maybe just taking four hours in the gym per week might be a big deal. But four hours per week for better health is pretty much [worth it].”

Not only is health a path to a healthier lifestyle, it can also help create social bonds.

“I think it’s just a really nice way to get out for your studies, you know, and spend some time with friends,” Jeannyffer Campos, a guest at the celebration.

Having healthy snacks around also helped.

“If you’re going to play badminton or going to play volleyball, it’s nice to have a carrot that is not heavy,” Campos said. Other places might let you “have a cookie and feel not right, or have a pizza and feel tired. So that’s nice.”

The 50-year milestone is a recognition of not only the first 50 years of the IMA’s history, it’s also the start of the conversation for the next 50 years.

“In 1968, the IMA opened,” said UW Recreation Director Matt Newman. “And I’m sure for the time, it was the cream of the crop.”

The then-new facility housed four gymnasiums and 16 racquetball courts, a pool, and appeared to some to be future of collegiate recreation. Fifty years later, UW Recreation is thinking about what’s next.

UW Recreation’s vision is that it will be more than a gym. One of the priorities going forward is to make fitness more inviting for people of all backgrounds and body types to find their fitness.

“I don’t think anybody was actively against being accessible to students,” Newman said. “But there was never a concerted effort [to reach out].”

The department made some small changes in recent years, including changing to its name to Recreation, opening up mindfulness courses, UWild Adventures, events like Queer Swim and Muslim Women Swim, and celebrating Pride in June.

“I like to say that we’re always good at the meat and potatoes part of recreation,” said Newman. “Like flag football, or open gym or having a pool. We’re really good at that, and we’ll always be good at that. But that’s intramural activities, or that’s rec sports. That’s the past. We’re talking about all those things and much more in the future.”