Spring Break Eternal
University of Missouri-Columbia Student Recreation Complex
Remember your college recreation center? You know, the one with the drab interior, ancient fitness equipment and institutional feel?
So do officials at the University of Missouri-Columbia. That's why they built a facility that looks nothing like the one of yesteryear.
The school's recreation complex is a vibrant, dynamic environment that offers students a healthy escape from the pressures of academia. The state-of-the-art facility provides nearly 20,000 square feet of cardio equipment, free weights and weight-training machines.
The fitness center is a bold example of the high-energy environment demanded by an active generation. A room-thumping, high-tech sound system sets the pace with a spinmaster controlling music, lights and visual media from a center stage station. With lasers and lights, the juice bar plus cardio gallery punctuated by a multi-media widescreen theater create an unparalleled fitness extravaganza.
A glass-enclosed, 40-foot climbing tower rises through the fitness center. At the base of the tower, cross-trainers can perfect their moves on the ever-challenging bouldering wall.
"It's a one-of-a-kind place, and our students really love it," says Diane Dahlmann, the university's recreation director. "They say, 'wow, this feels like spring break.' If the environment takes you away like that, then you've done something right."
Mizzou's success, in part, reflects its understanding of today's collegians. These students have grown up amid corporate branding and clever marketing. They have high expectations when it comes to entertainment and leisure pursuits.
With this in mind, the design team "branded" various areas in the complex. The lobby, for example, features a full-service bar called the Red Hall Beverage Company. The juice bar—named for the historic corridor that linked the Brewer Field House and Rockwell Gymnasium—is a focal gathering place filled with comfortable seating and computer terminals. Its menu includes a variety of drinks and nutritious food geared to the fast-paced, health- conscious Mizzou lifestyle.
Located on a portion of the former indoor Brewer Field House track, the Downtown Brewer Water Tower welcomes everyone to a "Main Street" of storefront-style services and programs. New air-conditioned locker rooms are located directly across from Downtown Brewer in a convenient, centralized location.
"The psychology of theming and the psychology of colors are changing the way recreation centers are built," says Erik Kocher, AIA, LEED AP, design principal for Hastings & Chivetta Architects, Inc. in St. Louis. "The trend has gone away from institutional-like big boxes that are all white inside and lack any character."
The new Club Pool has a tropical theme featuring a soothing waterfall, beach entry, fountain, current river, hidden grotto and oversized whirlpool. The tropical theme continues onto the deck where sauna and steam rooms are located. A heated outdoor pool features a large deck for social programs and sunbathers. After sundown, a raised hearth fireplace provides a cozy gathering place for evening events.
"We wanted it to feel like a leisure resort," Dahlmann says. "We really sought to engage students in a different way."
And the students have responded favorably. More than 80 percent of students use the recreation complex. About 5,000 people use the facility each day to pursue exercise, leisure experiences and recreation opportunities.
In designing its 21st century recreation facility, however, the school honored its past. The complex is made up of two historic campus buildings, Rothwell Gym and Brewer Field House. Both buildings have played major roles in making Mizzou memories for 100 years.
Though some university officials suggested tearing down the structures and designing an entirely new building, Dahlmann and others insisted the Rothwell building keep its original limestone façade.
"It has great sentimental value to people who attended school here," Dahlmann says. "We've really respected the history that surrounds us."