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Feature Article - May 2018
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Fitness for All

Campus Design Focuses on Connection, Inclusiveness

By Deborah L. Vence


What to Consider

Access and control are two things to keep in mind when designing a wellness facility at a college or university.

"Where are students coming from on campus and how are they going to approach the facility? Will there be activities taking place after hours that will require control sequencing, to be thought through?" Harris said.

Also, expansion should be considered when planning and constructing these facilities. "The optimistic viewpoint of those building these new facilities is to grow usership and increase revenue, which will eventually lead to a necessary expansion," he said. "If designers do not assist in projecting a facility's design into the future, this limits a college and/or university to meet future needs on campus."

Access and control are two things to keep in mind when designing a wellness facility at a college or university.

Sherrard believes the response in evaluating future ready facilities breaks down into eight categories: interconnectedness/technology, sustainable health, customization/adaptability, wellness standards, hybrid programming/partnerships, urban living, evolving user expectations and innovation. "It is also necessary to note that each of these considerations has indoor and outdoor components," he said.

Another important aspect is the idea of renovation. "And, inevitably, there are some colleges that have some form of existing facilities," Beckler said. "Sometimes, we just want new … we want the cool and excitement, we want that experience. But, renovating and revitalizing existing structures can be a great way to have everything you want.

"We are seeing more renovations, and it really is a powerful message to the campus and the community about the university's goals and priorities," he said. "Just a wonderful example that epitomizes the idea of health and wellness; you are renewing it, giving it new life, creating a new future," he added. "A direct benefit is that you can maximize your dollars, [though] that's not necessarily true for every case. Universities are giving more consideration to renovating existing facilities."

Design Projects

In a recent example Beckler shared, the University of Wyoming was in need of a renovation to its recreation center, Half-Acre Gymnasium, its original name. Built in 1925, the gymnasium essentially was a big block of stone with a gym and locker rooms.

"Over the course of the past 90 years, it's gone through so many tries to fix it … [but] no one really knew what to do with it. The university wanted to do something new," Beckler said, noting that the idea was of health and wellness, and the university's mission and what they saw for the future, was to make it more than just a gym.

"We did a $24 million dollar renovation and remodel, blending the old and new together, building wellness programs and putting it all into one facility," Beckler said.

Now called the Half Acre Health & Wellness Center, the facility underwent a transformation that included a 101,000-square-foot remodel as well as a 40,500-square-foot expansion. Design goals included: improving circulation while joining it seamlessly with the current program areas; combining with a newly conceived expansion, and integrating it all within the building's existing systems and with the University's Long Range Campus Plan.

In another design example, Sherrard noted Penn State's intramural building that involved creating variety and engaging active atmospheres. Flexible oversized multipurpose rooms were created with space for equipment as well to offer more diverse whole body fitness options.

The intramural building has hybrid active programming that focuses on shared spaces and circulation offers a diversity of options to engage in all types of fitness and social connectivity. What's more, the intramural building has integrated fitness assessment space and programming that offers a way to tangibly gauge progress and provide individual fitness goals.

"The more a facility supports a 'whole body focus,' [it] will attract a wider variety of users; the more users, the more revenue, either by student fee or membership," Sherrard said.

Finally, CannonDesign's design team worked to remove visual barriers in order to develop a new circulation spine and unify the numerous components into one cohesive facility that visually connects activity spaces, welcomes natural light and provides spectacular views of the Colorado Front Range at the University of Colorado at Boulder's Student Recreation Center.

The center, originally built in 1970, was touted as one of the nation's top student recreation centers, with unique planning and spatial qualities that placed it ahead of its time. Now, decades later, the recreation center required a combination of repairs and new construction to restore it to its former stature.

Renovations at the center included a three-court gymnasium, jogging track, natatorium, racquetball courts, locker rooms and group exercise studios along with the inclusion of an additional three-court gymnasium, indoor turf gym, outdoor recreation center and wellness suite.

Also, three separate additions contain a new three-story weights and fitness pavilion, two group exercise rooms, a mind-body (hot yoga) studio, new building entry, new 500-seat ice arena capped by three rooftop tennis courts and an overlook terrace, a 7,000-square-foot rock climbing/bouldering gym, administration offices and a sunken terrace with a new outdoor recreational pool shaped like the school's mascot, "Ralphie" the Buffalo."

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