Facility Profile - March 2009
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A Natural Fit

Recreation Complex at University of California, Santa Barbara

By Dawn Klingensmith

Dramatically lit up at night, the climbing wall in Rec Cen II is visible through a high curtain of glass, which ties it in with the real mountainsides in the distance.

From the initial groundbreaking in 1995, the goal was to "establish an identity for recreation on campus." Spaventa said. As such, "The entire recreation complex is 'walled in,' or enclosed, so it's almost like a little recreational city."

Patrons must enter and exit at the same point, so access can be controlled and usage rates monitored. This configuration also thwarts would-be vandals.

One of the two original multipurpose gymnasia provides for such a lovely view of the mountains that the chancellor hosts dinners and dances there, and Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered a campaign speech there in January.

The university occasionally surveys students and consistently finds that recreation facilities are an important factor when they decide where to go to college. And though Spaventa believes that's the case for universities across the United States, he says it's especially true for Southern California, where outdoor recreational activities abound.

"Our students come from families who are involved in all kinds of recreational pursuits. They're accustomed to being outdoors—on bikes, at the beach. Recreation and fitness are very ingrained in the culture here," he explained.

In fact, Men's Fitness magazine in 2005 ranked UCSB as the second most fitness-minded college campus, behind Utah's Brigham Young University.

"We're framed by ocean and mountains conducive to all sorts of activities," Spaventa said, "so this is an attractive campus for students who are active and interested in fitness."

And it's an attractive campus in general, in the aesthetic sense, owing to the proximate natural wonders that were the inspiration for the student recreation center, the most striking and frequently toured building on campus.


UCSB Recreation Center:

Sasaki Associates Inc.: