University of Minnesota

Well, now! See how this space works out

The U’s Recreation and Wellness Center has added 175,000 square feet of space to meet the changing needs of the University community.

September 9, 2013

The first thing you notice when you stroll around the new addition to the U’s Recreation and Wellness Center (URWC) is a sense of vast openness. Are you naturally a bit claustrophobic in gyms or health clubs? This is your place.

It’s not that crowds aren’t flocking to the new space; early last week, visits to the URWC were up more than 90 percent from the same time last year. It’s just that there’s now so much space to fill. The new South Building of the Center, which celebrated its grand opening during the first week of classes, adds a whopping 175,000 square feet of space to meet the changing needs of the University community.

What fills that space has U students and staff buzzing. There are tiered levels of large fitness rooms, cardio and strength machines in every corner, and new, state-of-the-art equipment to promote cross training in every conceivable fashion. (See slide show at end of story.)

“This space is amazing!” says Reanna Frigge, a second-year grad student in physical therapy. “I’m still in awe. I think it’ll probably take me all of first semester before I realize everything that is here.”

Heck, it’s good for the spirits just being inside the building and taking in the daylight streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows on the entire south side of the building, which faces the U’s Scholars Walk.

“I feel like no one will ever have to wait for a machine, unlike the awkward [time] after Christmas break when everyone went on their New Year’s resolution and the line was five people deep for an elliptical.” — Reanna Frigge

"We are thrilled to open this much-needed facility for the University community," says Jim Turman, the U’s director of recreation and wellness. "Demand had far exceeded availability in the original space. The expanded Recreation and Wellness Center will provide University students, faculty, and staff a place to gather, to play, and to develop healthier, more productive lifestyles."

Taking health and wellness to new heights

For members who want variety in their workouts, the new space offers more options than you can even begin to learn about online or in a brief tour. Some highlights:

  • Four tiered levels of cardiovascular and strength training equipment, a lower level strength center, and several additional cardiovascular and stretching spaces
  • A climbing wall spanning up to 38 feet in height and with more than 3,200 square feet of climbing surface, including a large bouldering wall and seven top ropes
  • A suspended jogging track (9 laps to a mile) with exterior views of campus and interior views of activity spaces below
  • Seven multipurpose rooms designed for group fitness classes, sport club practices, informational fairs and presentations, or special events.
  • A room for spin classes that features three different levels of bikes, offering essentially theater-style cycling with a clear view of the instructor or of scenery that can be projected on the front wall
  • A multipurpose court that can be adapted for sports such as floor hockey, team handball, and arena soccer
  • A new Wellness Resource Center to connect students, faculty, and staff with customized information on everything from nutrition to exercise programs

In the case of the new building, it’s not just a matter of adding space for space’s sake. It’s more a case of, “If you build it, they will come.”

“What we’ve seen from talking with [schools] like Ohio State, Illinois, Iowa—places that have expanded or built new facilities—they’ve seen their attendance has even doubled,” says Brad Hunt, University Recreation and Wellness marketing director. “Typically, we’re at about 900,000 to 1 million visits a year. We predict we’ll be right at about 2 million [this year]. It definitely puts us closer to the top of the Big Ten.”

Heaven or the East Bank

On the second day of the new semester, students were exploring the new building and walking around to check out machines they’d never seen or used before.

“I think it’s really awesome,” says Max Thompson, a senior biology student who has plans to test the new climbing wall. “Last year the old Rec was getting really crowded, [and now] there’s so much open space. And with the new equipment here, you can do so much more with the ropes, the kettlebells, and everything like that. I think it leads to a better workout when you have room to actually move around and you’re not fighting people for machines. It’s really nice.”

Membership details

Individuals that are affiliated with the University of Minnesota are eligible for membership. Individuals not affiliated with the U are eligible for a community membership at the St. Paul Gym or can be sponsored by a current member at the U Recreation and Wellness Center. Learn more.

Kjersten Grinde, like Frigge a second-year PT graduate student, recalls the angst she had in trying to figure out the sign-up sheets in the old space and the etiquette and hassle involved in using treadmills and elliptical machines.

“This is going to alleviate a lot of that stress of coming,” she says. “There are just so many little corners and nooks you can find that are pretty quiet, where there’s still equipment. I think many people have already expressed a lot of happiness and satisfaction that there isn’t that time limit on the machines and that there are a lot of places to go.”

“It’ll be great here,” adds Frigge before laughing at a memory. “I feel like no one will ever have to wait for a machine, unlike the awkward [time] after Christmas break when everyone went on their New Year’s resolution and the line was five people deep for an elliptical.”

View this gallery in Flickr.

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