New Changes in Caltech Athletics and Recreation to Fix Old Problems

At the start of 2023, students began to hear rumors of major renovations coming to Braun Athletic Center and Scott Brown Gym. We heard that the distribution of gym equipment would be changing, that the athletic training office would be moving, and circulating most of all, that the locker rooms were to see major renovations. For students and members, athletes and otherwise, this was an exciting change. The locker rooms had been outdated for a long time, both in their facilities and the ideas they reflected, and in April 2023, this much needed change began.

Prior to the advent of this reconstruction, we had two sets of locker rooms: one in Brown Gym and one in Braun Athletic Center. The Brown locker rooms were used primarily by student athletes, being disconnected from the “main” gym located in Braun and closer to the facilities used for practices, games, and meets, such as the North Field, South Field/track, pools, weightlifting barn, athletic training facilities. The Braun locker rooms, on the other hand, were used much more heavily by members and students outside of athletic seasons. However, there were many issues with both. In Brown Gym, the men’s locker room was significantly larger than the women’s. While the men’s had sufficient showers, bathrooms, and lockers to support the athletes and members alike, as well as direct access to Brown Gym and the pool deck, the women’s side could barely support in-season athletes, let alone out-of-season athletes, other students, and general members. This is because Caltech did not enroll women until 1970 and made up only about 30% of the school when Brown Gym was built in 1992. Furthermore, the majority of Caltech’s women’s athletics programs did not begin until at least the early 2000s. (The Caltech Women’s Soccer program is only 7 years old, starting in 2016.) However, even the needs of women swimmers (whose programs date back to 1977) were not met by these facilities, as to get from the women’s locker rooms to the pool deck, women had to either go through the emergency exit opening into the men’s locker room or exit Brown Gym to enter from a side door or Braun Athletic Center. In short, Brown Gym was over 30 years behind in fulfilling the needs of the gender ratio on campus (and never completely met them in the first place).

Braun Athletic Center had attempted to mitigate these issues by offering a segmented women’s locker room. Half was for members and half was labeled “student athletes only.” However, the student athletes’ side of the Braun locker rooms remained far from the athletic training office. Additionally, all facilities still failed to meet the needs of non-binary and transgender members who may feel uncomfortable changing in (or even selecting between) a “women’s” or “men’s” option. Across Caltech, in student residences and most buildings on campus, all-gender restrooms are available or even standard. Braun Athletic Center recently (in 2022) incorporated all-gender restrooms and an all-gender shower space, and the renovations in progress are furthering this effort.

The renovations which are currently underway include equally-sized 1,250 sq. ft. men’s and women’s locker rooms in Brown Gym. They are equipped with updated facilities, two individual all-gender showers, toilets, and changing areas. The renovations will also introduce central access for members to Brown Gym instead of Braun Athletic Center, move the athletic training services to Braun Gym (and centralize all of athletics there), as well as general facilities improvements.

These renovations were originally expressed to be largely complete by the beginning of the 2023-24 school year. Unfortunately, they’re not. This is causing chaos for student athletes and members alike as facilities are actively moving about and many individuals are squeezed into small locker rooms, or even racquetball courts covered by tarps, with insufficient facilities to support them. However, we hope the discomfort during the changes pays off once the athletics facilities Caltech offers finally reflects what the gender distribution looks like here on campus and can fully support the entirety of the Caltech athletics and recreational community.