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65,000-square-foot expansion pumps gym

By Amethyst Roth
On January 12, 2011

Students crowded outside the steps of the UCF Recreation and Wellness Center for the new expansion's ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday.

When the doors opened, about 250 students flooded into a newer and greener RWC.

"This whole expansion is based on what students wanted," said RWC director JamesWilkening. "Surveys from 2004-2005 cried fitness, fitness, fitness, and that's exactly what they got."

The 65,000-square-foot expansion includes a new lap pool, multi-use gym, multi-purpose room, outdoor adventure center, four racquetball courts, office space, conference room and about 15,000 extra square feet of free weights and eco-friendly fitness equipment.

This allows the gym to add seven more weekly fitness classes. It also gives intramural sports and clubs, such as floor hockey, indoor soccer and water polo, to house tournaments.

A 30-minute workout on one of the 20 new environmentally friendly machines generate enough energy to fully charge six cell phones or power a laptop for one hour. The energy produced by the machines will feed into the building's power supply, reducing energy costs.

The new ReRev cardio machines capture energy while in motion and a central unit converts that energy into the form used to help power the RWC expansion. UCF and the University of Florida are the only universities in the state with ReRev machines.

"We realized in 2002 that the number of students coming to the university was more than what the RWC could facilitate," Wilkening said.

After nine years of planning, two separate grants of $10.7 million and $11 million brought the expansion into existence, totaling $21.7 million, which was paid for by student fees and state dollars.

Diana Galvin, junior, finds the money worth it.

"When I started at UCF, I thought the Rec Center was going to be another nice building I hardly ever use. But when I actually started coming, I found that the atmosphere was amazing and the variety of equipment was perfect," said Galvin, a journalism major. "I think this is definitely worth the money."

The former RWC directors, Ken Renner and Loren Knutson, also came to the ribbon-cutting ceremony to see the growth of the program. They remembered the humble beginnings as they toured the new expansion.

"If you want to be a ground worker, you have to be willing to work without much," said Renner, who was the founding director from 1969 through 1977, when Knutson took over the position.

He explained how football games were once hosted on other facilities; sometimes players would have to clean up sand spurs from the field hours before their own game.

"I also remember the old dome which once was where the sand volleyball courts are now," Renner said. "We used to play badminton in there until the state declared it condemned from mold and mildew."

"I can tell you one thing," Knutson said. "The budget we had then was just a speck of the budget they have now!"

The new expansion also brought wellness directors from Florida Atlantic University, University of Florida and University of South Florida to the ribbon cutting ceremony.

"I can see that many of the difficulties fitness centers have with lighting, energy and efficiency isn't going to be a problem for UCF's Rec Center," said David Bowles, the recreation and fitness director at UF. "The decisions they've made will save them money in the long term and will keep things running smoothly."

The RWC has made conscious efforts for sustainable energy, which has made it eligible for a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification. LEED is a widely accepted benchmark for environmentally friendly buildings.

The RWC sees an average attendance of 13,000 per week. That number is expected to climb drastically with the expansion completion.

"I feel that this expansion is going to give students the extra push to get up and workout this spring semester," said Jonecia Mahan, the student coordinator at the RWC.

Roberto Ramos, a senior digital media major, will be at the newly expanded gym more often.

"I've been hoping we get racquetball courts since, like, forever," Ramos said. "Now that we have them, I'll be here a lot!"

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