Building Campus Community
Southern Methodist University Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports
For more than a decade, the Southern Methodist University Recreational Department has been touting the benefits that could come from expanding and renovating the Dedman Center for Lifetime Sports, from building a better community to aiding in recruitment and retention. When the partially renovated and partially new, beautifully designed Dedman Center was completed in May 2006, it offered grand new opportunities for the campus to gather.
It's a great contrast to the "dungeon-like" original. The new center is open, airy and easy to navigate. "The overt renovation of the building really transformed what was there," said Jack Patton, principal with RDG Planning & Design.
Outside, the architects designed the facility to blend well with the university's classic Georgian architecture. A domed, copper-clad, open-air entry rotunda provides a strong visual connection to other exterior elements and buildings on the campus, as well as providing steady breezes, making it a destination in and of itself. An adjacent shallow-water pool tank with seven-foot waterfalls is a dynamic social gathering place.
"The components that are most compelling and exciting include the outdoor interactive fountain, which is an awesome swimming pool by day, a tanning beach in the afternoon and a reception place by night," Patton said. "The students call it The Falls. It's one of the most coveted spaces in the building."
Inside the center, dramatic views and connections between spaces invite participation and create a sense of community, making students feel right at home. Granite floors and cherry wood columns create an earthy, warm environment.
Further enhancing the sense of campus community is the liberal use of the school's mascot, the mustang.
"I feel like we have used the mascot, which is a mustang, well throughout the facility," said Judith Banes, director of recreational sports for SMU. "We've got marquettes in little alcoves, murals that include mustangs—it's all just a subtle reminder that they are at SMU."
Technological innovations abound throughout the facility. At the main desk, for example, users can choose to enter with an ID card, or they can register their hand for biometric entry. "For ease of entry for students, that's been really nice," Banes said.
A central stairway provides a grand entry and allows visitors to see into all areas of the building. The five-lane recreational pool can be viewed from the lobby and allows for lap swimming, as well as recreation and fitness activities. The pool uses a UV water treatment system rather than chlorine. A UV system was also added to the facility's air handlers to provide cleaner air.
The building's centerpiece is an impressive 40-foot climbing wall, which is framed by eight 40-foot cherry columns and four court spaces. Interior gymnasiums are surrounded by a suspended jogging track, which was expanded from the original facility's narrow, short, tight-radius configuration.
"The students have loved the weight room and the individual TVs on some of the cardio equipment," Banes said. "The indoor soccer arena has also been a huge hit, and the expanded track—now that it's six times around for a mile—is much better."
An existing parking garage was transformed into a 15,000-square-foot fitness center with cherry-lined ceiling panels that reflect light. The space is not recognizable as a basement with its light, spacious feel.
"That was a great leap of faith by the campus community, because they could not see that in advance of its completion," Patton said. "They're extremely pleased with how it works and how it looks."
The new space serves to build a better sense of community among students,
faculty and alumni, Banes said. Students who used to leave campus and pay money to visit other fitness facilities now remain for the myriad activities taking place within the Dedman Center.
"It has created such a wholesome community," Banes explained. "It's the place to be. During the tours for prospective students, the oohs and aahs we get are amazing. When we had the check-in for residence halls in the fall, two parents mentioned that this is what made the decision for their student."
How do the students like the center once they're on campus? The numbers speak for themselves. On a campus with a little more than 10,000 students, the Dedman Center is seeing as many as 2,900 a day. "That's a third of our students!" Banes exclaimed.
"The folks at SMU were extremely wonderful to work with," Patton said. "Their commitment, their dedication and their vision dramatically improved the inspiration."