Is it a bubble?

That question occasionally popped up during the past year as the large white structure along Beamer Way just above the Chicken Hill parking lot took its round and somewhat puffy shape.

But a bubble it is not.

The steel-fortified, fabric-covered structure is instead Virginia Tech’s 40,000-square-foot Rec Sports Field House. The complex 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.

“There’s really never been anything else like it on campus,” said David Christian, facility manager for the field house and War Memorial Gym. “It really adds to our spaces and ability to serve our students.”

The field house opened on the first day of classes for the fall 2020 semester with the aim of providing additional space for intramurals, sport club training, and a variety of open recreation activities. It’s open to Virginia Tech students and those with a Rec Sports Membership.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many of the activities originally planned for the venue have been modified to adhere to physical distancing and face covering guidelines, and to encourage good hygiene. The five regulation-size basketball courts are being utilized to provide an increased amount non-contact sports, such as volleyball, pickleball, and badminton, and additional fitness equipment has located there to alleviate the stress on the McComas Gym, which now requires pre-registration for all patrons.

Field house patrons don’t need to pre-register for open rec times, which are and are allowed on a first-come, first-serve basis. They are, however, advised to check the facility’s daily schedule, which changes as different groups reserve times for team activities.

The facility will also exclusively host Small Group Trainings – four-week exercise programs for groups of three to 12 people that meet twice a week with a coach. Registration for the first session closes Sept. 21 with more sessions planned for the future.

Though its inaugural semester’s activities may not look exactly how they were envisioned during the field house’s creation, the space comes at a critical time for promoting both physical and mental wellness around campus, Christian said.

“During this pandemic, a lot of people need that stress release. We obviously want people to stay physically healthy by working out and staying active, but I think the mental aspect of that is also huge,” Christian said.

Deena Hines, a graduate assistant working with Rec Sports, said she thought the new field house will also serve as a social outlet for students during a time when many other options are limited due to pandemic precautions.

“We know that the students are bored and don’t have much to do,” said Hines, who graduated with a degree in Human Nutrition, Food, and Exercise in the spring. “I think this will serve the students by giving them a place to spend time with their friend groups or pods. Even when you aren’t playing, it’s just a huge area to hang out while being physically distanced.”

She said giving students some extra options for wellness and community building is a passion for the entire Rec Sports team.

“You can only go on so many walks and so many bike rides, and then you get bored. So, we’re just really excited to have this space for students to try something new,” Hines said.

– Travis Williams