The Rec Sports Field House hasn’t been open long, but it’s already developing a strong reputation within the Virginia Tech community.

“We've nicknamed it ‘The Bubble’, and for good reason. It's a huge, airplane-hangar kind of building,” said Spencer Ferguson, a class of 2019 graduate and working towards a graduate degree in nutrition and dietetics. “Everyone is so appreciative to have a space like that- I think most people understand what it takes to be able to have not just a gym, but a giant rec facility open and operating at a time like this.”

Opened on the first day of the fall semester, the steel-fortified, fabric-covered structure contains 40,000-square-feet of usable space that is considered to be as well ventilated as the outdoors by local health agencies. The building includes a fitness training facility and five multipurpose courts, as well as heating and cooling systems for year-round play and a combination of LED and natural light.

The field house has the capacity for 773 people to use it at once, but that number will be limited to 225 during the spring semester due to COVID-19 restrictions. The facility is also currently allowing only lower-risk sports, such as badminton, pickleball, and volleyball; requires masks for those not actively participating; and encouraging masks during participation if they can be tolerated by individuals.

Additional fitness equipment has also been located in the field house to alleviate the stress on the McComas Gym, which now requires preregistration for all patrons. Field House patrons, however, don’t need to pre-register for open rec times, which are allowed on a first-come, first-serve basis. They are, however, advised to check the facility’s daily schedule for regular updates and changes.

“For me, it is a less overwhelming space to work out in than a larger gym,” said Natalie Martin, a junior studying public health. “It is much more manageable to find exactly what you are looking for as someone that is new to working out in a gym. There is plenty of room for me with the COVID restrictions to do both of these activities and it is much more comfortable for me to work out in the field house than in my home.”

And it’s not just student populations enjoying the new facility that sits along Beamer Way just above the Chicken Hill parking lot. Recently, Virginia Tech President Tim Sands joined Vice President for Student Affairs Frank Shushok in the field house to play pickleball.

“I was so appreciative that the president of our university took the time to come and see what we've created in the field house,” said Ferguson, who also works for Rec Sports. “I think it really speaks to the resiliency of Hokie Nation and the commitment to Ut Prosim (That I May Serve) that our Rec Sports department has. In a time where it would have been easy to close up shop and wish students well, Rec Sports chose instead to create, to innovate, and to serve the student body of Virginia Tech.”

While physical health is an obvious emphasis of the new field house, mental and social well-being are also benefits of this new, creative space for Hokies.

“The field house offers an outlet for students to be active, engaged in student life, and also interact with each other safely,” said Allison Kelley, a 2018 graduate who is working toward a graduate degree in nutrition and dietetics. “Going there as often as I do, I've started to see familiar faces for which I'm very thankful, especially with the isolation of student life today. We have our own community there, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.”

— Written by Travis Williams