Inside Look: Recreation centers

Building campus recreation centers to meet evolving student expectations

The contemporary campus recreation center has graduated from yesterday’s dingy weight room. In fact, at many institutions, the rec center serves as a multipurpose space, hosting celebrations on special occasions and promoting student wellness in body and mind throughout the semester.

The demand for an individualized experience continues to guide design. Students want the equipment to maximize their personal workout regimens. They also seek space to mingle with fellow students.

Dubbed “the acting living room of campus,” the recreation center plays a large part in college life, says George Brown of the University of Alabama, whose research interest is physical activity and holistic wellness among college students.

“It is abundantly clear the role these centers play in recruitment. They’re also significant players in retention,” says Brown, executive director for recreation at the university as well as assistant to the vice president for health and crisis planning. Often, campus tours begin or end with the campus recreation center, he adds.

Officials at schools considering a rec makeover should first focus on stakeholder involvement, says Chris Chivetta, president and partner-in-charge at architectural firm Hastings+Chivetta.

“Put everyone in a van and drive to five or six facilities to see their recreation centers,” advises Chivetta, who worked on the U of A project as well as more than 100 other rec centers on colleges throughout the country. This way, administrators can experience the changing dynamics and role of recreation centers.

Following are some features shared by many campus rec centers today.

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