It’s hard to walk through the Michael P. O’Brien Athletics and Recreation Center (MPOARC) without noticing the big change that’s been slowly taking over the forgotten concessions corner. Students walking past are struck by signs bearing the Starbucks logo, enticing them to think the new cafe will serve the go-to coffee brand for young people with a little extra cash on hand— or now, flex.
Though wary of it not living up to my expectations, I’m excited to patronize the MPOARC cafe. I usually go to the gym later in the day, but some days I wake up early and start with a workout. My hope is to do this more in the winter, which will be perfect— I can treat myself to a hot, fresh and even specialty coffee before a long day of class. I may even visit it as a reward for long hours spent reading or working on my St. Mary’s Project, something a visit to the Grind doesn’t often feel like for some students. Students who don’t often have a reason to visit Campus Center— students not too unlike myself, who live in townhouses or apartments and don’t rely on the Great Room for food, or who take classes mostly in Montgomery, Schaefer, and Goodpaster Halls– are now just a short walk away from an old favorite, which will doubtless be even more valuable as the temperature outside drops.
Granted, as a North Campus resident, I’m already fairly close to an establishment that sometimes also serves coffee— though I’d hesitate to call the Pub a café. The Pub, beloved for its late-night weekend fare, is not exactly the most artful with its coffee.
As college students who likely never have more than five dollars to spare at a time once the tuition bill is paid, loans are taken out and groceries are bought, there isn’t an inexpensive option better suited for the old snack bar space than a café. As someone who now has my own living room, the idea of hanging out in the Pub feels a bit foreign now. My likelihood of happening to be in the MPOARC, on the other hand, is much higher.
While the cafe’s position adjacent to the weight room is not ideal, I believe we could easily solve two problems at once by painting over the glass panes in the weight room, except at doorways and windows facing the exterior. I am a big fan of the Movement Room in the MPOARC, and especially of the fact that it offers a rack of some lighter free weights. I personally am less inclined to use the weight room because I don’t like the idea of people watching me break a sweat, a fear certainly not helped by the fishbowl vibes the glass walls give the weight room. Unlike the Arena, which is likely to host spectator events (Basketball and Volleyball games, namely), and large windows facing the exterior as the Aquatics Center, Cardio, and Movement Rooms all have, those panes of glass allow nothing more than others who are not also exercising a full view of my workout. The chairs and tables don’t help.
The MPOARC cafe, now boasting an espresso machine and multiple fridges, seems to have improved every week since move-in day back in August. A poll is currently being held on what this space should be named, which students can access through their school emails. The Pub is also on the ballot for renaming. My deep love for coffee shops (and yes, even the more expensive chain ones when it comes down to it) has my standards high for the new MPOARC cafe, and I am excited that it might truly be a version of the Grind a little closer to me.