A fit young woman climbs to the top of a 50-foot rock-like structure. Nearby, a group of young men play a game of pickup basketball. Swimmers do steady laps in the six-lane pool while others relax in an adjacent leisure pool and on a sunning deck. Runners whiz by on an elevated track, and a group sips fruit drinks and snacks on bran muffins at a café.

If you think it sounds like a five-star resort and health spa, youre not too far off the mark. The $34 million, 170,000-square foot facility is home to West Virginia Universitys new Student Recreation Center �€set to open in June on the Evansdale Campus. A grand opening celebration is being planned for September when students return for the fall semester.

College-age students are looking for more health conscious activities, says Dave Taylor, the centers new director.”Its a trend college administrators are seeing across the country,”he says.”Having a place to exercise, eat healthy foods and just mix and mingle with friends in a relaxed environment are important to students.”

And they want choices.”Students today want options to the traditional bar scene and house parties. WVU has given them that with this rec center and other programming options. Youd be hard pressed to go to any major college campus and find nicer recreational facilities or such an array of intramural and other activities.”

Attesting to the keen student interest and involvement in the rec center, Taylor notes that the facility was initiated and eventually approved by the student body in a special referendum vote in April 1997. It was clear to students who voted for it that the center would require a fee increase: That $90 per semester fee will go into effect when the facility opens.

Even though WVU sophomore Leslie Cyphert belongs to a private gym now, she says shell use the WVU rec centerespecially since students are paying for it.

“Im impressedits going to be awesome,”she says.”I will definitely use the facility, especially the basketball courts and running track. It seems to be a very well organized and thought-out design.”

She says the extra $90 semester fee doesnt bother her because,”Ill get my moneys wortheven if I just go there to meet friends and hang out.”

Faculty and staff, their spouses and childrenand the spouses and children of WVU studentsmay also use the center by purchasing a membership. Faculty and staff will pay $300, spouses $240 and a family of three or more $660.

Taylor says the complex will strengthen the quality of life for students and employees.

“The state of West Virginia is a recreation area year-round, and Morgantownwith the new Caperton Trail and other riverfront developmentis flourishing,”he says.”This center is going to further enhance fitness and health activities for our students and employees for many years to come.”

Recruiting will benefit as well, says WVU s Adele Siba, coordinator of undergraduate recruiting, as word of the centerjust a short walk from the Evansdale Residential Complex and two primary PRT stationsspreads.

“The location with its close proximity to student housing and campus transportation is ideal,”Siba says.”Its just another example of how WVU is always thinking of ways to put students firstin and out of the classroom.”

Siba says student surveys at campuses that have recently built rec centers indicate that having such a facility factors in to the college decision-making process. For that reason, the center will be incorporated into the regular campus tour, with groups traveling through a large, mostly glass-enclosed”free zone”area that provides a perfect view of the amenities and access to the café.

“Many students come to a college campus with fixed patterns of behavior. They may be members of private gyms or have access to school or other fitness facilities in their hometowns. And they tell us that having a multipurpose fitness center is important to their lifestyle,”she adds.

WVU s facility has two swimming poolsone, a 25-yard, six-lane lap pool; the other, a leisure pool with warmer temperatures and a beach-style entry. The leisure pool also has two fitness lanes and a comfortable entry for children and wheelchair users, plus a seating area for socializing. Next to the leisure pool will be a clover-leaf-shaped whirlpool that seats about 20 people and an outdoor sunning deck that captures the morning and afternoon sun.

A”wet classroom”is located off the pool area, as well as locker rooms for men and women with separate wet and dry entries for swimmers and the general public.

Two gymnasiumsone with 4-courts; the other a 3-court gym �€are marked for basketball, volleyball and badminton competition and separated with mesh net dividers. The feature attraction, he notes, is 17,000 square feet of weight and fitness space on two levels.”By comparison, our largest fitness center on campus now is 3,000 square feet,”he says.

The focal point of the center is a massive 50-foot climbing wall with pedestal base that stretches magnificently from the ground floor up through the center of the four-story facility. The wall has 750 hand holds across the jagged surface.

“Today, if youre truly building a fitness center that accommodates students and represents their interestsyou should include a climbing wall,”Taylor says.”Ours has a mountain structure. With the area of the country that were located in, it should be a popular activity.”

Rounding out the facility will be a three-lane, 1/9-mile elevated running and walking track; three multipurpose rooms for aerobics, martial arts and dance activities; three racquetball courts and one squash court; and an Outdoor Recreation Center for checking out ski, camping and other equipment.

“We plan to offer a lot more outdoor trips once the new facility is up and running,”Taylor adds.

Vice President Scott Kelley thinks the new facility will complement the Universitys current student union and other downtown campus recreational facilities.

“If you add this new recreation center to whats available at the Mountainlair (student union) and other campus recreation areas, there arent too many universities across the nation that can offer what we do, especially for the price,”he says.

Vice President Ken Gray says the new facility dovetails with the administrations student-centered philosophy.

“WVU was recently cited by the Templeton Guide for our healthy and community-minded approach to student programming. This new center will enhance the fact that were offering our students one of the top college living and learning environments in the nation,”Gray says.

The facility will employ a full-time campus recreation staff of about 15 peopleplus another 300 student employees.

Most of WVU s intramural activities will take place there, plus, there will be a wellness center, resource library, study area, a food service operation, a small classroom, a meeting/conference room and socialization areas.

“In addition to working out and staying fit, were looking forward to offering more opportunities and space for socializing,”Taylor adds.”We hope to complement the successful WVUp All Night activities taking place at the Mountainlair on the weekends, for example.”

Taylor says the center will likely operate from 6 a.m. through midnight during the week, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturdays and 10 a.m. to midnight on Sundays. It will have approximately 250 parking spaces.

The architectural firm Moody/Nolan of Columbus, Ohio, designed the center in consultation with WVU students and recreation staff. The firm has designed rec centers at OhioStateUniversity and MiamiUniversity, among others, and will also renovate Brooks Hall, a classroom building at WVU , next year.

The new facility is only one part of WVU s $250 million campus renewal plan, which includes a $36 million Library, a $43 million Life Sciences Building and renovations to other campus buildings.

In addition, the WVU Foundation is building a $26 million office complex, One Waterfront Place, along the Morgantown Riverfront. WVU will lease six floors of the building including a ground floor”front door”entry that will house the WVUVisitorsResourceCenter. Set to open this summer, the seven-story building will be next door to a new parking garage and Radisson Hotel.