The Bob Jones University athletic department has recently opened a new outdoor training facility, a Conex building, for its student-athletes.
The Conex building is a converted storage unit retrofitted to house athletic equipment located behind the Davis Field House near the running track. Athletes take equipment from the unit and work outside. Sports information director Jonny Gamet helped coordinate the project. “You can do your strength and conditioning and then go for a run right afterwards,” Gamet said. “Our student-athletes definitely utilize that aspect of it.” This enables a holistic approach to working out by having several elements of a team’s workout in the same location.
The Conex building is equipped with free weights, benches to do chest exercise, rubber bands for workouts and more. Outside of the Conex building are pullup bars. The Conex building has a roof that extends about six or seven feet beyond the building on all sides so students can work out in the rain. “It’s not just a good weather type facility,” Gamet said.
Senior biology major Noah Villiger has been working out in the corner where the Conex building is currently located since before the facility was built. “There’s a small pull-up bar on the side,” Villiger said. “I’ve been using that for two years now, and now they opened this which is way bigger, so it’s really nice.” Although the workout facility was made with Bruins in mind, students like Villiger can make good use of it. “It’s technically for Bruins athletes, but even if you’re not a Bruins athlete, you can still use all the bars and everything,” Villiger said.
Bruins women’s volleyball player Andrea Villaverde has used the facility multiple times for conditioning throughout the volleyball season and in the off-season. “You can utilize the box for literally anything,” Villaverde said. While the women did conditioning before, they didn’t have access to the wide variety of workouts they now have. “You can definitely see a huge difference,” Villaverde said. The box also allows for more flexibility within workouts. “We can now adapt the exercises for our needs and setbacks,” Villaverde said. “It just shows that the school is thinking about the Bruins and is thinking about our health and wellness.”
“We can now adapt the exercises for our needs and setbacks. It just shows that the school is thinking about the Bruins and is thinking about our health wellness” —Andrea Villaverde
The Conex building was put in place mainly due to the restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. “State and local governments were telling us we can only have a certain number of people in workout facilities,” Gamet said. “We have over 200 student-athletes and we didn’t want to overwhelm the two workout facilities that we have on campus.” It was then that assistant athletic director Wyatt Parker came up with the idea of building an outdoor facility. “We wanted to come up with an idea that would help us to live together in harmony on campus, and this has been a great solution for that,” Gamet said. The new facility enabled student-athletes to get their strength and conditioning in while still allowing ample gym space for the rest of campus.
Parker had the idea for the facility late summer 2020. It took several months for the container and equipment to arrive. It then took time to retrofit the container and put a roof over the container. The athletic department opened the Conex building at the end of the fall semester in 2020. The costs to buy, build and retrofit the facility were very minimal, according to Jonny Gamet.
“The awesome thing is that shipping containers are very, very cheap,” Gamet said. “The other thing that saved us a lot of money is we had some very dedicated and talented people here on campus that could do a lot of the work for us.” For example, the BJU Facilities team was able to utilize the welder on campus. Another factor in minimizing costs was BJU alumni with businesses who came to work alongside the BJU facilities team. “Out of the goodness of their hearts, [they] came in and said we want to partner with you on this,” Gamet said.
Gamet has no plans to dispose of the building once COVID-19 restrictions are lessened. “It’s a permanent fixture,” Gamet said. “Obviously we’ll continue to look at the usefulness of it in the future, but it’s definitely retrofitted right now to be something that stays there for the future.”