Award Winner - May 2009
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Campus Movement

Student Recreation & Wellness Center, University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wis.

S U B M I T T E D    B Y

Cannon Design in Chicago

Size: 101,400 square feet

Project Cost: $20 million

Quick Tour:

  • Three-court gymnasium
  • Multipurpose athletic court
  • Cardio/weight training areas and "weight theater"
  • Multipurpose/aerobic rooms
  • Climbing wall
  • Indoor track
  • Golf simulator
  • Outdoor Recreation
  • Wellness Center
  • Cyber café/Juice bar
  • Lounge
  • Locker rooms
  • Administrative offices/classrooms
  • Equipment storage


he Student Recreation and Wellness Center at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh began as a grassroots movement. Students had grown frustrated with the existing recreational facilities on campus, which were antiquated, overscheduled and shared with the school's kinesiology and athletics departments, as well as campus and community events.

Rather than wait for state funding, the student body took matters into their own hands. They held a referendum and voted to fund their own facility. They worked with the architects to design a modern facility that both met their needs and the school's desire to have buildings be as environmentally friendly as possible. The design meetings often took place during the summer or other breaks when classes were recessed, but a committed core group of students faithfully returned for summits.

"They would come back just for the meetings, even though they knew they would graduate before the building was finished," said architect Richard E. Carlson of Cannon Design. "I think they wanted to leave a mark or a legacy. It's something to really be proud about."

In September 2007, the Student Recreation and Wellness Center opened to wide enthusiasm. The 115,000-square-foot facility was a dynamic addition to the campus, offering a supportive and convenient campus location where students, faculty and staff could exercise in a social atmosphere.

To ensure the modern facility blended with neighboring architecture, the exterior brick was painstakingly matched to other campus buildings. Limestone at the building's base was quarried from Fond du Lac, 14 miles from campus, and serves as just one example of its environmentally friendly design.

The center's location along the Fox River forges a strong connection with one of the campus' most attractive natural amenities. Copper paneling adorns the building's riverside façade, where patrons enjoy striking panoramic views.

"Our first objective was to take advantage of this beautiful site," Carlson said. "The building mirrors the bend in the river at the site. We also positioned the entrance in a way that would draw people from campus."

The center, which offers an attractive, modern entrance to the campus, also serves as a nighttime beacon. And patrons, without a doubt, have followed the light. In its inaugural year, more than 194,000 participants used the facility, and informal recreation opportunities at UW-Oshkosh have increased by a jaw-dropping 300 percent.

Students have taken advantage of its cardio areas, climbing walls, three-court gymnasium and weight theater. They also embrace such amenities as massage services and a cyber café with a large stone fireplace. More than that, it has become a one-stop facility for fitness, nutrition and wellness assessments. At least three students have lost more than 100 pounds since the center opened.

"It's a terrific recruitment tool for admissions, a point of pride for returning alumni, and it definitely helps with student retention and keeping students fit and healthy," facility director Tom Pratt said. "It was a student initiative all along, and it continues to be that way."


W H A T   T H E   J U D G E S   S A I D

Nicely detailed exterior combines copper, brick and glass into strong organizing design features that complement a strong overall architectural geometry. Interiors are warm and inviting, yet well integrated with the exterior architectural palette. The very well-organized plan reflects the building's massing.

Tom Poulos

A strong plan reflects the site, the design reflects the plan, the interior reflects the design—very nice composition. This rec center beckons and delivers.

Greg Houston

A S S O C I A T E D    F I R M S

Architect of Record:

Potter Lawson

Plumbing & Fire Protection Engineer:

PSJ Engineering

Structural/HVAC & Civil Engineer:

Arnold & O'Sheridan Inc.


Ken Saiki Design Inc.

Food Service:

Stewart Design Associates

Electrical Engineer:

Potter Lawson

General Contractor:

CD Smith Construction

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