PRIDE OF THE TIDE
The University of Alabama Student Recreation Center
University of Alabama students have reason to cheer—and it has nothing to do with Crimson Tide football.
The university now boasts one of the country's freshest college fitness centers, thanks to an aggressive expansion and upgrading effort. The school transformed a cramped facility last year into a 154,000-square-foot recreational retreat complete with indoor and outdoor amenities.
The project re-energized an old facility, initially built in 1982. The university completed a small addition 12 years ago, but it still did not meet the campus's needs. Patrons were forced to wait for machines, and many people stopped using the gym because of the lines.
"The previous rec center was not a bad or undesirable facility," says George Brown, Alabama's director of university recreation. "It was simply too small and not functional for the incredible surge in demand for state-of-the-art campus recreation facilities."
When the school decided to expand, it tapped TMP Associates, Inc. and Sherlock, Smith & Adams to create a facility that would double the center's existing size. Architects strove to blend the addition with the existing structure, erasing any lines between the old and new buildings.
"Our goal was to create a welcoming atmosphere inside and out," says Dave Larson, AIA, senior vice president of TMP Associates, Inc. "Transparency between major spaces and the composition of color and texture now work in concert to provide a popular destination for the campus community."
The design includes a skylight that runs the entire length of the facility and offers a unifying element. The interior design also uses a consistent color palate throughout the building, a move that unites the two structures.
The expansion also allowed for a new entrance, which is defined by a two-story columned canopy. The entry now fits in to the school's master plan and has become an unmistakable presence on the campus's eastern edge.
The interior, meanwhile, is warm and welcoming with color, texture and lighting to de-institutionalize the facility's atmosphere. A large, glassy lobby greets users, and a combination of direct and indirect lighting is connected to dimmer controls that allow for variations to the overall ambience.
The fitness and weight area are easily the favorite feature, while the new gyms allow for more intramural programming such as volleyball, basketball and badminton. Outdoor recreation trips and rentals have taken off, too, because they now have a dedicated space in the enlarged facility.
The school has seen a huge response to the facility, which has become a main stop on the campus tour. The facility had almost 60,000 visits in January and February, including an increasing number of students who are working out in the evenings.
"We hope this instills the desired educational outcome of empowering people to take and maintain control of their health and ultimately their lives," Brown says. "The life-learning lessons one gains in their college years often have lasting and profound effects. We have a moment in time‚ to make a difference and give people the tools to make themselves and those around them better, more healthy individuals."
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