When prospective West Virginia University students tour campus, the Student Recreation Center is always a popular destination.

Home to a six-lane, 25-yard lap/fitness swimming pool and another leisure pool; a massive, 50-foot climbing wall; a 17,000-square-foot weight and fitness area and much more, the Rec Center creates a lasting memory.

“It’s a ‘wow’ moment,” said Dave Taylor, director of the Rec Center. “I remember 10 years ago when we opened, everybody’s first reaction was ‘wow.’ Ten years later, when people visit the building for the first time, they still have that same reaction.”

While freshmen and incoming students are experiencing college life with a state-of-the-art Rec Center for the first time, seven million others have already learned what it offers.

“For the first time, we had the ability to provide students everything under one roof. We never had something like that before,” said Taylor, who is in his 42nd year at the University. “I see students who come and work out and then go play basketball or swim. That just wasn’t possible prior to the Rec Center.”

Construction of the 177,000-square-foot Rec Center was completed and opened on July 17, 2001. The $34 million cost was funded through an increase in student fees.

“Prior to the Rec Center, the only place students had to work out on campus was in a small room in the basement at Towers,” Taylor said. “You could only fit 50 people in it at a time, and there was always a line to get in, so many students were members of private gyms.”

Since that point, the Rec Center has seen nine days with more than 5,000 visitors – the last coming on Jan. 18. Taylor said nearly half of the busiest days have come on the first, second or third Monday of the spring semester.

“Students are still living with New Year’s resolutions, and they’re thinking about their Spring Break trips, too,” Taylor explained. “They’re also happy to get back to a routine after Winter Break.”

The Rec Center will be celebrating its 10-year anniversary on Wednesday.

Over the last 10 years, the Rec Center has grown exponentially due to an abundance of healthy programs for students, Taylor said. The Rec Center offers a multitude of classes including Zumba, Yoga, spinning, martial arts and dance programs.

“These are extremely popular with the student body, so we do offer those classes for free,” Taylor said. “During the fall and spring semester, we offer about 50 classes a week.”

It will continue to grow in size this month when the new recreational field area in between the Rec Center and Evansdale Residential Complex is completed.

The project, which is part of a large-scale improvement plan for the club/intramural/recreation sports at the University, added two regulation soccer fields – one made of artificial turf and the other of natural grass – along with five tennis courts and a walking path. The artificial turf field has been completed, but the natural grass field will not be ready until the spring semester.

“That field space will really help with outdoor recreation. Prior to the completion of this project, we were in as bad shape with our outdoor facilities as we were with the indoor facilities 10 years ago,” Taylor said. “We didn’t have enough chances for students to participate. This offers enormous opportunities for our club sports and students that want to participate in general recreation.”

In addition to that revamped recreational area, four flag football fields near the Health Sciences Center will be re-developed, and three new fields will be added at Mylan Park specifically for student use. The entire Student Recreation Strategic Plan is expected to be completed by the end of next year, Taylor said.

There is expected to be a formal ribbon cutting ceremony for the revamped green space nearest the Rec Center sometime next month.

“There are 25,000 students at the University, and I don’t know which students played sports but only a few can play at the highest level,” said Sherri Restauri, the Rec Center’s program manager for groups and special events. “This new space will allow students to play the sport that they love on a recreational basis.”

As a part of “Get Involved” Day and Welcome Week, the Rec Center is offering a day filled with activities and opportunities for students on Wednesday from 4-6 p.m.

“There will be many opportunities to allow students to participate and try different aspects of what we offer at the Rec Center on a regular basis,” Restauri said.

There will be a Student Organizations fair in the free area of the Rec Center, where nearly 40 club, outdoor sports and fitness groups will host tables and give information for interested students. In addition, there will be a raffle at the fair to win an iPod and workout gear.

The Rec Center will be adorned with balloons, flowers and a banner. There will also be free chair massages provided by Able Body Work Shop throughout the event.

Students can try climbing the rock wall for free. Others can participate in a free scuba lesson from 5-8 p.m. There will be separate drawings at each event. The winner of the scuba drawing will be given free scuba certification, which is a $350 value.

In addition, there will be a free, multi-instructor Zumba class on Court One of the gym from 5-6 p.m.

The Rec Center will also hold a “Minute To Win It” style game, where winners will receive a $5 Chick-fil-A gift card.

A “Closest to the Pin” golf game will be held in the green space near the Rec Center with a grand prize to the winner, as well. That event will only be held if weather permits.

There will be multiple giveaways at the event and free food provided by Gordon Foods.

For more information on events and classes offered by the Rec Center, check out: http://studentreccenter.wvu.edu/special_events_fall.

-WVU-

td/08/23/11

CONTACT: Sherri Restauri, WVU Student Recreation Center
304.293.5055; sherri.restauri@mail.wvu.edu

Follow @WVUToday on Twitter.