Initial phases of the much awaited Recreation Center expansion are about to commence and the University Union Advisory Board is trying to ensure that students’ time at the gym will not be too interrupted during the next three years, as construction begins.
Last February, students voted to increase the student union fee by $65 dollars per quarter to fund the expansion and renovation of the existing Recreation Center with a 75 percent majority. Since then, Associated Students Inc. has been planning and preparing the different stages of construction.
“Our goal is to provide all of the services that we possibly can during this construction time and we feel like we are accomplishing that very well,” UUAB chair Carl Payne said. “We did a lot of impact planning and preparation on our side … we’ve talked with pretty much every entity on campus to make sure everyone’s in the loop and knows what’s going on.”
Important steps in the construction process will take place during upcoming months, as components of the existing Recreation Center will be transferred to a new, temporary location.
Following the end of spring quarter, the main gym will be immediately closed from June 15 until Sept. 14. During this period, the area will undergo preparations for the temporary Recreation Center. The new weight and fitness area will be housed where the two downstairs basketball courts currently reside.
The area will be retrofitted to accommodate all the new equipment. New decking will be installed and temporary walls will be created. The rest of the Recreation Center, including the current weight and fitness area, will remain open at this time.
The entire Recreation Center will be closed for equipment relocation between Aug. 25 and Sept. 14. All equipment will be transferred to the temporary facility, which will actually be larger than the one now, with 10,000 square feet of space as opposed to just over 7,000 currently.
“It’s essentially our big move,” Payne said. “We’re taking every piece of equipment and going from the current to the temporary and essentially finalizing the facility we will be using for the next couple years.”
The Recreation Center will open in its relocated area on Sept. 15, during the Week of Welcome freshman orientation. A new entryway will be located on the west side of the main gym, near the Health Center. The current plaza will be closed off and used as a construction zone.
Some notable changes will be apparent while the temporary gym is up and running. All concerts and events which would normally take place in the main gym will occur at different venues, as space normally reserved for these events will be used for the new gym.
Upstairs courts will be still be open for basketball and volleyball, but the two downstairs courts will be lost. The Rec Field will be unavailable as well during construction as it will be used for construction phasing.
The pool will be open throughout the duration of the construction, as well as racquetball courts. The martial arts room will also be open.
“We really think that we’ve found a good solution in the interim to go ahead and make sure that students have access to the Recreation Center and the ability to work out and continue to lead healthy lives during this construction process,” Payne said.
The new Recreation Center is scheduled to open in June of 2012. Payne emphasized that the construction timetable is actually a relatively short period for how large the project is.
The new weight and fitness area will be tripled in size, to 21,000 square feet. There will be three distinct areas, making it easier for students to pick and choose what they want to do.
The locker rooms are being completely renovated and additional restrooms will be placed on the second floor.
Two more indoor basketball courts will be added, as well as a multi-activity center (MAC) where indoor soccer and floor hockey will be played. With around 900 seats, the MAC will be used to host special events as well. An indoor running track will be included with the expanded Recreation Center.
One of the largest and most anticipated additions is a leisure pool that will be set in a tropical atmosphere. The vibe of the area will be relaxed, with barbecue pits and three sand volleyball courts.
While students are generally not looking forward to the long wait during construction, many are optimistic about the end result.
“I’m really upset that the gym’s going to close, but when it re-opens it’s going to be so much better with so many more machines so I really think it’s going to be worth it in the end,” biochemistry sophomore Sarah Mullen said.
Agricultural science sophomore Stephanie Goeb had mixed opinions on the new additions.
“I think that the expansion is a good idea and will turn out well in the end, but the people that originally voted on it aren’t going to be the ones benefiting from it because it’s going to take years to get done with,” Goeb said.