The University of Sydney Union (USU) has restored the pool tables on level 4 of the Wentworth Building to a usable condition, as part of a revamp of leisure options on campus.
The tables will be free for students to play after a restoration undertaken by the USU over the mid-year break. Work included replacing the tables’ cloth, installing cue racks and sourcing new balls for the tables. The (re)launch of the pool tables coincided with the start of Semester 2.
The tables have been closed since March 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19. While they used to operate under a pay-to-system, the USU chose to make them free in a bid to increase their usage. USU President Cole Scott-Curwood told Honi that the USU has planned a “more regular maintenance schedule” for the tables in line with expectations of increased uptake. Scott-Curwood added that the USU has opted to supply the tables with snooker balls, due to the “unfortunate previous trend of pool balls going missing” in the past.
The renewal of the pool tables follows a Semester 1 Honi article highlighting their disuse. Scott-Curwood told Honi that their aim is “to provide students with more opportunities for casual socialisation and for recreation”, something that has long been campaigned for by Honi. “We know there is a strong demand for this, and last semester’s Honi Soit articulated it well”, he said.
The launch of the tables also coincided with the temporary installation of arcade games and video-game consoles in the Wentworth food court. Scott-Curwood said that this was done “to welcome students back and gauge interest”.
Although the arcades have since been removed, the USU is looking into a permanent version of the free arcade games to be installed in either Wentworth or the Manning building. Scott-Curwood said that the USU is more generally “considering how we can further support student recreation on campus”. Making the tables more visible certainly aligns with this goal.
The USU’s move to reopen the pool tables follows the University of Sydney’s decision to reopen the Fisher Library rooftop as a result of an Honi Soit campaign.
Both changes come amidst a decades-long decline in leisure culture at Australian universities, following the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism in 2005 – most notably including the USU’s 2020 decision to close Manning Bar.
In a statement provided to Honi, Scott-Curwood acknowledged that “despite the work and study requirements many students have, it’s unsustainable for us to be busy all the time – we need time off”, marking a shift in much of the discourse recent decades have seen.
The free pool tables are a hopeful indication of cultural changes to come, trusting that students know where to find them.