Living the Dream

University of South Dakota Wellness Center in Vermillion, S.D.


The University of South Dakota's Wellness Center is living the dream of facility operators.

The 61,000-square-foot space did not have a functional fitness area, but it did have a racquetball court that was not being used regularly. It now has a functional fitness area that is being used consistently, thanks to Nate Meyer of Push Pedal Pull, a distributor for Escape Fitness.

The 800-square-foot ex-court opened to students this past fall, full of everything necessary for the type of workout that strengthens the body for everyday activities—walking, bending, lifting, climbing stairs—with minimal use of weights. This kind of training has its own type of equipment.

Meyer said Wellness Center director Steve Mayer had told him about the lack of functional fitness space, and Meyer suggested the racquetball court conversion, having seen them before. Meyer went to work on Microsoft Visio software to map out how a racquetball court could fit the role. He came up with a 2-D layout, which he sent to Escape Fitness for a 3-D version.

From there, it was a matter of filling the space with equipment and accessories. But not too full, Meyer said. This was the first court conversion he had worked on, and one of his takeaways is that less can be more.

"Don't try to fit too much in a small space like that," he said. "You have to keep everything kind of open and able to flow through."


The area was meant for programming as much as individual use, and trainers came to show USD employees how to teach a proprietary high-intensity functional program boot camp.

One section of the space has a 40-foot track for sled pushing and tire flipping, while the rest of the area is dominated by the Octagon HTS 6.3 custom frame with a boxing bag, rope pulley, suspension trainers and monkey bars.

The frame was built to fit the space, said Meyer, and 12 to 14 people can use it simultaneously.

"The whole thing is state-of-the-art, and everything turned out perfect," Meyer said. "We came in and laid the floor and the turf and brought everything in. Everything fit great with the accessories. We added a few plates for the sled after we were done and that was it."

Meyer said the installation and remodel was undertaken with the future in mind. In case the facility wants to change the room back to a racquetball court, the flooring is tile, the rack is not bolted down, and the track is double-side taped to the floor. There are no water fixtures and no sound system.

The color scheme is perfect for the area, which of course has one see-through wall to catch the eyes of passersby. USD colors are red and white, and those colors and black dominate the décor. The central rack is red, the track is orange and the accessories are multi-colored and bright. The look has added to the draw of the space.


"The colors really pop and make the room come alive," Meyer said. "The whole room just kind of pops when you walk by. Every time I go up there there's always students in there using the space."

Facility Director Mayer agrees that the retrofit has been an instant success.

"Considering it was a racquetball court with hardly any usage, we have put that 800 square feet to good use," said Mayer. "Traffic in the space has been steadily increasing as students and members have learned how to use the equipment. We have had good feedback on our bootcamp we ran this fall, and it will be incorporated into our group fitness offerings next semester. All in all, we are very happy with the addition."



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