Serving the Student Body

State-of-the-Art Fitness on Campus

By Curt Moody

one are the days of dimly lit gyms sheepishly boasting bulky and clanking weight machines in stuffy, claustrophobic quarters. Enter a new era of spacious and expansive fitness centers that offer more than just a productive workout in the cardio or weight room. Increasingly, fitness centers across the United States are being expanded and transformed to provide a holistic health and wellness experience, ranging from the social to the nutritional.

On our nation's college campuses, this fitness center evolution has especially hit the ground running, and for good reason. Today's students are more aware than ever of the benefits of a healthy mind, body and soul—making it essential for schools to foster physical, mental and social stimulation for every student. And what better all-encompassing vehicle for achieving this than enhanced accommodations in the campus' central fitness and recreation centers.

One place has it all

Going above and beyond spacious areas of cardiovascular and weightlifting equipment, campus fitness and recreation centers are enlarging and emphasizing areas for social interaction before, during and after a workout. The Baldwin Wallace College Recreation Center in Berea, Ohio, is a prime example of this, with bright, well-furnished rooms of couches, tables and desks that allow students to mingle with fellow students, hold meetings or prepare for their next class.

Juice bars and cafés are other fitness center amenities on the rise. Recognizing the need to replenish after exercising, these services offer nutritious food and drink choices within the facility. With the provision of healthy refreshment options, along with ample tables and chairs, it's an ideal locale to cool down and rest, as well as catch up with friends.

Additionally, whether just socializing, competing on intramural sports teams, enjoying an aerobics class or taking a few shots on the basketball court, students can spend a significant amount of time at a fitness center and need secure places to store their belongings while there. While attending class, completing homework and other assignments, and participating in extracurricular and social activities, trekking around the sundry items needed throughout their day—from textbooks to lunch to workout clothes—can become cumbersome as students transition from one commitment to the next.

Students using the University of Akron Student Recreation Center and Athletics Field House no longer need to worry. Helping to lighten the load, the center features a well-appointed locker area that offers safe, secure and sizeable areas for the storage of personal belongings and athletic apparel, in addition to ample private shower units, dressing rooms and restroom facilities. Easily accessible from the exercise rooms and playing fields, it gives students a place to rest, freshen up and make it to their next engagement without hassle.

Or, for those who just want to put down their backpack for a few hours, facilities are now incorporating "express lockers"—safe, secure places for students to store their belongings, without having to enter a steamy locker room.

Inclusively, the incorporation of holistic accommodations in a recreation facility assists students in all three essential arenas: physical fitness, academic development and socialization.

Built with all in mind

Reaching beyond the sports-minded community, mixed-use campus fitness facilities can—and should—also be utilized by other members of the campus. Many colleges recommend or require students to supplement their academic course load with physical education classes, and faculty, staff and administration can also be avid users of campus fitness facilities. Oftentimes, the ladder to physical fitness can seem daunting to its climbers. However, an eye-catching, one-stop fitness area with stellar services may be the boost of encouragement they need to make it to the top.

Whether intended for competitive or recreational purposes, the planning and design of a new or refurbished university fitness facility must keep the students top-of-mind. My personal experience on the basketball team at The Ohio State University in the 1970s continues to provide invaluable insight, helping me to effectively identify with the needs and wants of students through architecture and design. Employing a solid knowledge of how quality equipment contributes to student athletes' success and appreciating how a facility should be mapped out for easy usage, among other factors, offers a unique perspective and helps keep the end-users in mind.

Modern fitness centers that feature juice bars with a full menu of refreshment choices and ample space for social interaction, in addition to state-of-the-art equipment and workout areas, are among the core components that are increasingly contributing to a "one-stop shop" for current or aspiring active-minded individuals—giving the phrase, "hitting the gym" new meaning on today's college campuses.


Curt Moody is president and CEO of Moody-Nolan Inc., an architecture, interior design and civil engineering firm specializing in higher education, sports/recreation, healthcare and public service facilities. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Moody-Nolan is the largest minority-owned firm in the nation. For more information, visit

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