New student recreation center to be built on north end of campus

Chandler Wright

The University of Alabama has already begun foundational work on a new 114,000-square-foot recreational facility more easily accessible to students living in dorms on the north end of campus.

“The nature of the facility within easy walking distance of over 5,500 students who will reside on the north end of campus makes this facility uniquely accessible and functional,” George Brown, executive director of university recreation, said. “Additionally, the larger, more convenient access to dining options that will be present within this facility affords students a true one-stop, healthy approach to wellness.”

Brown said the new center, called the Student Center, will expand on many features currently offered at the University Recreation Center, including an enhanced climbing area and designated rink area for floor hockey and other sports. The center will also feature three recreation courts and additional space for group training and club sports.

“Dedicated group exercise, group cycling, and personal training rooms will be available,” he said. “A large open area below the main level will allow for many small group training and club sport related play and will greatly assist these clubs that have formally found space to practice and play in the current Student Recreation Center very difficult to attain.”

Dan Wolfe, the campus master planner, said the University worked closely with Brown and his staff at the Rec Center during the while planning what features should be offered in the student center.

“From a planning standpoint, we have worked very closely with George Brown and all the folks at the Recreation Center during the master planning process,” Wolfe said. “One of the many conversations we have had with them is should the rapid growth in use of the recreational facilities be accommodated by expanding the existing recreational center or by creating more regional centers around campus.”

Although students provided input, Brown said it was hard to have conversations with students about a facility that wasn’t projected to be completed until 2014, so he also reached out to the staff of the current Recreation Center.

“It was hard to talk to a consistent audience, because the student body changes over every four years. We talked to students, but we also look at data and usage of the current facility, what was popular, etc,” Brown said. “This dictated many design decisions. We also met with our staff and posed questions like: what are the pinch points? Where are we growing? So, we did a lot of trend analysis to determine what was popular and what wasn’t.”

Brown said enrollment growth and campus expansion led the administration to enter into conversations about building a second recreation center for students on campus.

“When we became aware of the dorms additions towards the north end of campus, I think [former UA President] Witt was concerned somewhat anecdotally about the growth of campus and how that affects our recreational facilities,” Brown said. “As he became aware of this, they were also moving forward with the demolition of Rose Towers and the building of the new dorms. To my understanding, they knew campus was continuing to grow, and I think they knew a relocation to offset some of the congestion at the current Rec Center was a good idea.”

Wolfe said the Student Center will not only address campus growth and expansion, but also be more accessible to students on the north end of campus.

“We also believe that addressing growth through regional satellite facilities is a good concept that will make access for users more convenient and increase usage,” Wolfe said. “This concept is good for campus planning as well, because it reduces the need for additional parking at the main complex and allows for walkable access to about 5,000 students who live in the north area of campus.”