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Archive for Saturday, August 14, 2004

Students utilize new rec center

August 14, 2004

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Noor Newman winced as she recalled scraping together cash to work out at an expensive health club in summer 2003.

"Back home I used to pay, like, $50 a month for a gym membership," said Newman, 21. "It was really insane."

Newman, a senior biochemistry major at Kansas University, said KU's Student Recreation Fitness Center was a welcome financial reprieve in her fitness routine.

"Exercising here is much easier on the pocketbook," she said. "And it really is a great facility, very comfortable with plenty of good equipment."

Mary Chappell, KU's director of recreation services, said she hoped more students -- especially incoming freshmen -- would discover Newman's point.

"Students should take advantage of the center," Chappell said. "It is there for them to use."

The 100,000-square-foot building at 1740 Watkins Center Drive opened in September 2003. The $17 million project was backed by student fees. Admission is free year-round for enrolled students with their campus I.D.

"I'd be lost without this place," said Karen Bates, a 23-year-old graduate student in athletic administration. "Coming here, working with free weights, has really become part of my routine."

Bates isn't alone: Chappell reported use of the center had continued to grow since its opening.

What you'll find

The multilevel recreation center features a bevy of fitness center staples, plus an original touch or two:

    Jonathon Wilde, Kansas University sophomore from Quito, Ecuador,
reaches for a handle while climbing the rock wall at the Student
Recreation Fitness Center. The center will mark its one-year
anniversary this fall.

    Jonathon Wilde, Kansas University sophomore from Quito, Ecuador, reaches for a handle while climbing the rock wall at the Student Recreation Fitness Center. The center will mark its one-year anniversary this fall.

  • A suspended, indoor track with three lanes. The track's G-Flex surface was designed to ease pressure on runners' joints. After seven laps around, you'll have conquered a mile.
  • A 42-foot-tall rock climbing wall, a feature Chappell said was a hot trend in new college fitness facilities. A 10-foot "bouldering wall" is also available for practice, and -- hang on -- a special arch allows daring climbers to dangle upside down.
  • Four gymnasiums with remote-controlled scoreboards and built-in seating. Each gym is big enough for a regulation high school basketball court, and volleyball standards and equipment are stored in the ceilings to expedite transitions from one sport to the next.
  • Rooms reserved for martial arts and aerobics.
  • Personal trainers available to work with students.
  • More than a dozen KU FIT classes, including yoga, cardio funk, kick-'n-tone and pilates.
  • Two racquetball courts with a movable glass wall between them to allow for an occasional game of squash.
  • A two-level, 15,000-square-foot fitness area with cardio equipment, free weights and resistance machines.
  • An outdoor pursuits area, where students can rent canoes, backpacks, tents and other equipment for use away from the center.
  • Outdoor basketball and volleyball courts for students who prefer to play in open air.
  • Fast Break, a concessions area that serves bagels, fruit, juice, smoothies and other healthy snacks in partnership with the Kansas Union.

Chappell said the center was committed to progress and would update equipment and the facility whenever feasible.

"It doesn't take long for fitness equipment to become obsolete, so two to three years out, we'll likely be replacing a lot," she said.

Chappell said she also hoped the building would be able to add a 50-meter pool to its fitness arsenal.

More than a place to sweat

Chappell said that although students initially flocked to the center to work out, the building had also become a social hub.

"We find that students meet here to study or watch a KU basketball game on the big-screen TV in the front lounge," she said.

Julie Shapiro, an Overland Park junior in business and pre-law, began working at the center in September and said she had noticed more students stopping by in groups.

"People definitely enjoy meeting here to hang out, work out and have fun together," she said. "And some people feel more comfortable exercising in groups -- they don't feel as visible that way, I think."

The center is open from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday during the fall and spring semesters.

"I really appreciate the long hours," said Erin Wessely, a 21-year-old senior in ecology. "My school schedule can be unpredictable at times, so it is nice to know that I can go to the rec center really early, really late or somewhere in between."

The Student Recreation Fitness Center is open from 6 a.m. to midnight Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to midnight Sunday during the fall and spring semesters.

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