September 23, 2021

Ohio State Athletics Converts St. John Arena into Strength Training Center

Ohio State senior director for sport performance Heather Mason came to campus in 2017 and quickly realized that the Buckeyes needed additional training areas in order to accommodate its enormous number of athletes. Once the pandemic arrived and the university implemented its protocols for safe training, the plans to expand expedited.

Ohio State took strength and conditioning equipment from four separate satellite sites and put all of it in St. John Arena to fill its need.

“At the time, I was assessing all of the facilities and the weight room in French Field House had 676 student-athletes training out of a 3,816-square foot weight room,” Mason said. “We knew Schumaker wouldn’t cure all of our space problems so I created a proposed layout for St. John Arena to facilitate training our larger teams with a marketable increase of trainable space and square feet per student-athlete to help accommodate all of our sports.”

After all of the strength coaches and one licensed technician spent 18 hours moving equipment and properly installing it, St. John Arena was ready to serve in its new capacity.

“(St. John Arena building coordinators) Shelaine (Warren) and Kevin (Gilson) are the real MVPs,” Mason said. “It really was a great project and we all learned a lot about each other. All equipment is aligned by the inches to make sure we comply with the COVID guidelines. We’re very fortunate our administration is open to creative ideas and listened to the positives of this. To see that vision, you had to have a very open mind. They chose to take this concept to completion. When you have more than 1,000 athletes deserving of equal training space, you have to think differently and change your operational business plan.”

According to a press release issued by Ohio State, the newly titled SJA Powerhouse opened the week of Sept. 7 with 349 student-athletes scheduled to train there this fall. The facility has 27 racks, six complete dumbbell sets, eight power blocks, four combination cable pulldown-row machines and four glute-hamstring benches.

Under the current guidelines, each student-athlete has their own rack and the only shared equipment are the dumbbells and limited machines. The racks are 10 feet apart with dumbbell racks 15 to 17 feet apart. All strength coaches wear masks and gloves and use the electrostatic sprayer of disinfectant to clean each piece of equipment between groups. Every student-athlete has their own bottle of water and undergoes a temperature check and symptom check before entering the facility. 

With the new SJA Powerhouse, in addition to the department’s other strength and conditioning facilities, Mason feels Ohio State has been able to not only maximize its equipment but maximize its personnel in this unprecedented situation. Unlike many institutions in our current environment without merged strength and conditioning departments, Ohio State allows its student-athletes to train with their designated strength and conditioning coaches in a safe manner while optimizing their productivity.

“The integration of many departments made this project a success for the student-athletes,” Mason said. “Everyone had to adapt how they do business from facilities to sport medicine, sport nutrition and equipment. Also, we have staff from event management, camps and fan experience at the system assessment checkpoint running COVID protocols. If your name isn’t on the list and you don’t have a ‘ticket’ (a green screen on the app), you don’t receive admittance to the game (strength training). We are stronger together than apart. With the new facility and our protocols in place, we feel we’re at the forefront of collegiate strength training in our current environment.”

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