New rec center to jump-start intramurals, fitness on campus
Construction is underway on the newly renovated Athletic Complex with the goal of bringing recreation to the non-varsity student experience.
Scheduled to open in the fall of 2016, the new Sumers Recreation Center will include three multipurpose basketball courts, an elevated jogging track, yoga and spinning studios, additional meeting rooms, a weight room, cardio machines spread out around the building and a sports medicine office.
The addition of new facilities will allow the athletic department to expand its recreational opportunities for non-varsity athletes. Men’s and women’s club volleyball, a dodgeball league and a three-on-three basketball tournament are just a few programs that the new building will host.
“The Sumers Recreation Center will focus on recreational activities, including intramural sports and general fitness, leading to an expansion of programming and services for all students,” Sean Curtis, director of intramurals, said.
Bryan Lenz, the newly hired director of recreation programs and an associate athletic director, also envisions Sumers as reinvigorating the intramural experience for undergraduate students.
“The new center will not only improve the leagues but also dramatically increase the quality of the sports so that we can create a more robust and authentic intramural experience,” Lenz said.
In conjunction with a revitalization of the intramural program, the directors hope that the new center will also serve to attract all Washington University students to adopt a healthy lifestyle through fitness and physical well-being.
One of the main goals of the renovation project is to create an atmosphere where students of all athletic abilities and interests can exercise. With the addition of a new weight room, students can work out in a separate facility apart from varsity teams. In the past, crowding issues were frequent due to a lack of equipment or a varsity match that would prevent students from using the recreational facilities.
“If an NCAA game is taking place, only part of the center will be closed off,” Curtis said. “In the past the entire complex would be closed off for general training, preventing other students from participating in other activities.”
The aesthetics of the new building are also designed to attract students to the Athletic Complex. One of the architecture firms hired to consult in the design is Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, acclaimed for its design of Apple Inc.’s flagship retail store in New York City.
As for the interior, the designers have thought of creative methods of personalizing the rooms to distinguish them from typical fitness centers found on other campuses across the nation.
“The spin room is not just a bright room with fluorescent lighting, but will actually have black lighting,” Lenz said. “It will be really cool, sexy, and will appeal to a wider audience. Whether or not you’re a fitness enthusiast, it will be a place that will garner your interest.”
Lenz also confirmed that the walls will be decorated with pictures harkening back to the time when Francis Gymnasium hosted the Summer Olympics in 1904, giving the space a hallowed feel.
The old recreation gym, infamous for its weathered wood floor, has already been renovated and is ready to open in the coming weeks. Eventually, this facility will transition into a varsity-only fitness center once Sumers and the new courts are completed, but in this interim year, it will house both varsity and intramural athletics.
According to Lenz, block scheduling will be implemented wherein the varsity teams will have priority usage during a certain portion of the day, which will then shift over to recreational sports.
“This is what most universities do when sharing a space,” Lenz said. “Sacrifices will have to be made during this interim year to make sure athletes have the space needed to train for competition but also ensuring the general body has a great space to drop in for open recreation or programmed intramural activities.”
With the amount of time and resources devoted to the project, it is clear the University views the new complex as a future hub for all students to congregate and socialize. As universities around the nation are developing revamped recreation centers, Wash. U. is keeping up with the national tide while maintaining its unique style and traditions.
“The complex will no longer be viewed as the headquarters of varsity athletes, but rather it will be known for wellness and recreation and cool services that activate the student population,” Curtis said. “It will definitely maintain the competitiveness associated with intramural sports, but it will also reach out to a much broader audience and catch the interest of students with many different services.”
Lenz summarized, “This project is a lunar landing for this institution, building a state of the art recreation center that will provide services that we have never seen before.”