The Athletic Centre (AC) stands as a large red and beige brick at the corner of Harbord Street and Spadina Avenue, accessible for students and Toronto residents alike. Classes, training sessions, and drop-in programs are available to all members throughout the week.
The building hosts more activities, people, teams, and classes than I will be able to list. Even though indoor track season and a wide assortment of activities at the AC can create a sometimes hectic environment, it goes to show that the gym is incredibly well-used. National swim meets and track meets have been hosted by the AC. Olympic and professional athletes go through its doors to use the facilities.
It holds an Olympic-sized pool, a smaller pool, three different basketball gyms, a gymnastics room, a dance room, a fencing room, squash courts, ping-pong rooms, and spacious locker rooms. Members of the AC create a welcoming mix of young and old people who get to come together and use the facilities to gain strength, play games, swim, run, and much more.
Starting at the third and highest floor is the field house: a large room with a 200-metre track surrounding four full-sized basketball courts. On the edges, there are various workout machines that are almost always available for use.
If you want to play basketball, volleyball, tennis, or attend drop-in classes like Zumba, be sure to check the AC’s online schedule and look at some class reviews in The Varsity.
If you’re into basketball, after 4:00 pm, there is almost always at least one court available for basketball, but on Monday through Thursday after 7:00 pm, there are always intramural basketball games while classes are in session.
Also, before waltzing onto the court, be careful and look both ways! There are often incredibly fast members of the track team sprinting, older gym members trotting, or young children running on the track, none of whom you want to bump into.
On the edges of the field house, there are several mysterious big yellow doors. Most of them lead you outside of the building, so to all the explorers reading this: be warned, for you may end up outside in the cold wearing your gym clothes. If you have any other questions or concerns about using the field house, you can always consult a blue shirt for assistance.
The second floor has an additional basketball gym where the varsity basketball and volleyball teams used to play before the Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport was built. The gym now hosts the badminton program, field hockey practices, and various other programs and teams throughout the week. In addition, there is the Clara Benson student lounge, a dance room, and many offices.
The first floor welcomes guests with friendly staff at the help desk where there is a customer service desk to talk about membership, a café, a lobby with couches, and the pool gallery. However, the strength and conditioning centre is the cornerstone of the first floor.
This is where people go to improve their strength using a wide array of push, pull, and lifting machines. There are plenty of free weights and benches for nearly everyone to use the weight they need. This part of the gym tends to get very busy, but most exercisers are very cooperative and friendly when asked to share equipment, so feel free to communicate with your fellow gym-goers.
Staff members in red shirts keep track of how many people are in the room and ensure that people are using equipment properly and wearing close-toed shoes. When it gets full, they will post a sign telling members that they are at capacity, and members must wait until some people leave. Unfortunately, there is no natural light, and the lighting is very white, which can turn some gym-goers away.
The sweaty smell and stuffiness can become overwhelming, so if some of your workout can take place elsewhere, I recommend retreating upstairs to the field house. Or you can take advantage of women’s only hours or quiet hours to make your workout experience more peaceful.
Once again, if any challenges arise or if you have general questions while working out, staff members are certified physical trainers and will always be happy to give some workout advice or act as a spotter.
Finally, we enter the basement. The basement has both men’s and women’s locker rooms, which include showers and steam rooms. This is also where to go when accessing the pool deck. Also hidden along the east side of the building’s bottom floor are the fencing and gymnastics rooms, which I will not attempt to explain how to get to.
As a basketball player, occasional exerciser, and staff member at the AC, I am incredibly grateful for the recreational space that it has provided me, and for the friends I have met while playing and working there throughout my years as an undergrad.
Disclosure: Isaac Consenstein works at the AC.