Julian Brenman ‘20

 What was once used as space for baseball players to practice their batting is now where students munch on their daytime meals. A room that used to reek of the body odor of middle and upper school athletes now carries the sweet aromas of lunch. The Rex Gymnasium, now referred to as the “RexTaurant” or slightly less-punny “Rex-ateria,” has seen a transformation from an auxiliary gym to our hub for grub. While most know this temporary situation has been established to provide community members a place to dine while the main cafeteria in Shallcross Hall endures renovation, not many know the ins and outs of this fascinating project. We’ve consulted the experts to tell us more.

 

At the forefront of this transition is Mr. Chris Rosenbaum, the School’s Manager of Dining Services. Mr. Rosenbaum explains other ideas were considered before deciding the Rex would be the home of 2017-18 FCS food. “We were considering renting food trailers which could be installed at the bottom of the parking lot, but thought that was less than ideal. Plus, we thought the neighbors would be opposed to having a ‘trailor park’ in view of their homes. We didn’t want to truck in food from Harcum that when you open it, is not fresh because it’s just been sitting there for a couple of hours. You guys are used to food being made to order, and the best service possible. Our foremost thought has always been, ‘who’s going to benefit from this?’ The answer is you guys [the students]. You are the ones who are always on the top of the list for everything that we’ve done and are doing to make this feel like home.”

Mr. Rosenbaum explains how the move to Rex has presented some challenges. “Because we are in Lower Merion Township, the laws and codes are very strict. We had to get everything approved by the public health department before moving forward. For instance, though we have no real use for it, they said we needed to put in a sink. Tom Donovan, our master plumber, never said ‘no’ to anything. Whatever we needed, he found a way to make it work. Overall in the planning process, between the physical plant staff and the administration, no one ever said ‘no.’ We are always concerned with cost, but that is never the over-riding factor in our decision-making. We’ve done everything we can to make this almost as good as what we had in the old cafeteria, but not nearly as good as what we will have in the new cafeteria.”

Mr. Thomas McDaniel, Director of Campus Safety, Security, and Facilities, shares his insights on the project. “Temporarily relocating the cafeteria to the Rex Gym has been a struggle for our kitchen staff. They are now working in what is about a fifth of the space they had to work with in the old cafeteria. Also, before this project, the Rex was utilized for various activities, and so Mrs. Crowley and her team have been trying to figure out how to work with less space.”

Evan Sweitzer ‘20 loved spending time in the old dining hall, and reflects on his experiences in our new (but not permanent) one. “I think it’s an adequate replacement for the dining hall, but I’m glad it’s only a short-term arrangement. Let’s just say that the ambiance is a little lacking, but we can definitely live with it. I want to thank the dining hall staff for rolling with this. They’ve been doing a great job as always.”

According to Mr. McDaniel and Mr. Rosenbaum, the Rex is expected to cease its role as the food center and revert to its primary use as a gymnasium somewhere between April and May of 2018. Until then, enjoy the space, and stay tuned for progress reports.

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