As the ribbon is cut, new space is abuzz with activity
The education of the whole person — mind and body — has long been ingrained in UWL’s culture. It is even depicted on the university’s seal. That commitment was apparent this week when UWL cut the ribbon to open up a new addition to the Recreational Eagle Center on Monday, Oct. 1.
As the doors opened, a large crowd of UWL students filled the area — not just to see the new space, but to begin their afternoon workouts.
The $8.6 million addition — what is called REC 2.0 — is a 35,200-square-foot, two story expansion off the southwest corner of the REC. It includes a large multi-purpose room on the second floor and a fitness center on the ground floor that is three times the size of the current training space. The fitness center is filled with treadmills, elliptical machines, stair climbers, weight machines and more.
“I’m so happy for the students and what this facility will mean to them,” said Sue White, UWL director of Recreational Sports.
As machines hummed in the background, students and staff on the design planning committee explained how the project grew out of UWL students’ desire for a larger and more inviting fitness center.
A student referendum in spring 2014 overwhelmingly supported the expansion when 2,605 students — or about 87 percent of those who voted — were in favor of adding on to what was becoming a crowded REC. A survey distributed earlier that spring found that 92 percent of the 1,940 respondents thought the REC was so congested it hindered their ability to workout.
Heather Schaefer, a UWL senior and fitness center supervisor at the REC, says only 60 people could fit in the REC’s previous strength center and it was typically at capacity during evening hours.
“I don’t see that problem here,” she said looking out at the new space.
The design of the new addition — particularly the fitness center — is intentionally open and inviting. Lighter strength training equipment and cardio equipment is near the entrance, inviting new users to try the space. As one walks through it, more advanced and heavy equipment is toward the back. This also encourages students to progressively try new things as they flow through the space and see new opportunities around them, explains Nick Berg, fitness coordinator for the REC.
“The biggest goal with this space is to empower more people and to expand their scope of what training is,” explains Berg.
Along those lines, at the center of the fitness center is 25 yards of artificial turf left intentionally open for a variety of activities that occur in fitness facilities, but aren’t always planned for in the design. The turf can be used for activities such as stretching, core training, small group classes, a dynamic warm up and more. The design encourages those activities and allows the REC to add demos and other programming related to those areas, adds Berg.
In the past, the entry to the strength center was filled with people lifting heavy weights.
“I think the old space was intimidating to new lifters and it is now much more inviting,” says Schaefer, who is part of UWL’s Olympic Weightlifting Club.
While the space invites new users, it also caters to those who use it regularly, including the club, says Schaefer. The club can now host meets at UWL — something they couldn’t do in the past. She says it is also exciting to see students using the new turf space and incorporating new exercises into their routine.
In her remarks at the ribbon cutting, White pointed out that it was a student-led vision that resulted in opening the REC back in 1997. Student leaders in 1985 recognized the need for a stand-alone recreation facility at UWL and started to collect fees for it the following year.
Students’ foresight about the importance of a REC facility was right on. Today more than 90 percent of UWL students swipe their card to use the REC at least once each year.
And with a larger, more inviting space, that number will probably continue to grow.
Weston Floerke, a UWL senior who has been on the REC’s design planning committee since he was a freshman, predicts the new facility will get a lot of use.
“Honestly, it is more than what I’d hoped for,” he says.
New location for Outdoor Connection gear rental
The previous strength center location in the REC is now home to Outdoor Connection Equipment Rental Center, which rents outdoor gear to students, faculty, staff and the general public. Learn more.