Designed for the ages

MU’s recreational expansion aims to appeal to generations of students
Monday, November 29, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 3:48 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

MU’s new athletic facility, the Mizzou Arena, has been in the spotlight since the day it was dreamed up. But what about MU’s earliest sports facilities — those that paved the way for Paige? Two of these original buildings are undergoing extreme makeovers to keep up with changing times and the needs of students.

In the beginning

Rothwell Gymnasium, named for former Board of Curators President Gideon Franklin Rothwell, was built in 1905 to house men’s athletics and physical education. Brewer Fieldhouse was built almost a quarter century later, in 1929. It was named for MU basketball coach and athletic director Chester Brewer and connected to Rothwell.

Brewer was home to the first All Sports Night in 1931, which featured exhibitions of sports activities by men and women. Until the late 1970s, though, physical education and recreation opportunities for men and women were unequal in budget, facilities and availability.

After the passage of Title IX, which mandated that universities offer equal opportunities for men and women, the physical education and athletic departments merged.

The merge led to the creation of campus-based recreational activities, which became an independent department supported by student fees in 1993.

The elimination of the physical education degree program in the early 1990s limited students’ options for physical activities.

Therefore, recreational activities grew in popularity, using McKee Gymnasium, Brewer Fieldhouse, Rothwell Gymnasium, the Student Recreation Center, added in 1989, and Stankowski Field.

As the needs and interests of each class of students changed, so did the facilities.

“Recreation programs and recreation facilities are somewhat generational,” said Diane Dahlmann, director of recreation services and facilities.

She said interest and participation in recreational activities have evolved with the times. The earliest facilities, such as Rothwell and Brewer, were built for teaching and recreation. They had to be updated as students’ interests changed to center on participation rather than spectatorship.

The move for change

In 1996, a preliminary study of the student recreation center on campus led to the Rothwell-Brewer expansion project. A student referendum in 2001 showed that 65 percent of students supported a $75 increase in recreation fees to expand and improve facilities. The groundbreaking ceremony was held March 18, 2003, and construction began on April 21 of that year. The project is slated to be finished in May and will be followed by an official opening ceremony in August.

The overall cost of the project is $49 million, which is completely funded by the student fee increase. Students will be charged the increased fee beginning in winter 2005.

Student opinion on what amenities should be included in the expansion helped shape the design for the new recreation facilities.

Dahlmann said the original recreation center can be considered a “second generation” facility because many of the amenities, such as the elevated track, were installed before they became mainstream fixtures in gyms.

But the new Rothwell-Brewer expansion skipped a generation in recreation facility construction and is referred to as a “fifth-generation facility.” While it is appropriate for the needs of today’s generation, it will also be appropriate anywhere from 12 to 22 years from now, Dahlmann said.

“It’s very new, very exciting and very dynamic,” she said. “There are a multitude of neighborhoods designed for interaction and activity that are unlike anything built in higher-education recreation today.”

Total body makeover

The main walkway through the new recreation complex, known as “Downtown Brewer,” is designed to resemble strolling along the center’s version of Main Street. It gives students a quick overview of the track and basketball and racquetball courts, Dahlmann said.

The new fitness center, known as the Jungle Gym, contains cardio and other fitness equipment, along with free weights. It is also home to a new black-and-gold climbing wall, new TigerX aerobic performance studios, a martial arts studio and a personal training shop. Students also can relax at the spa with a massage or facial.

The rooms were designed to appear as “storefronts” that provide engagement and entertainment up and down Main Street.

Cardio equipment in the Jungle Gym will be positioned theater-style in a three-tiered arena, featuring 11 flat-screen TVs. The area is designed to keep pace with the times, Dahlmann said, with the possibility of adapting into something else should cardio exercise go out of style. There is a DJ booth and juice bar, which gives the area a dance-club feeling.

“We wanted to break down as many barriers in social interchange and exchange to make it easier for students to meet and greet,” Dahlmann said. “I predict individuals will come into the building and not even work out, but just come in and be.”

Students serious about weight lifting will have a new area geared specifically toward them, the Pump Room. It will feature Olympic weight-lifting equipment and its own sound system for an edgy, warehouse feeling, Dahlmann said.

In another neighborhood is the 50-meter competitive pool, complete with a diving well. The pool has a movable floor, which allows the depth to be changed to accommodate swimming lessons, hydro-aerobic classes and expanded TigerX classes.

The aquatic amenities don’t end there, however. Tiger Grotto, an indoor pool, will feature a beachfront entrance with a sauna and steam shack on deck. There is a whirlpool where students can sit back and relax, listening to the soothing sounds of the nearby waterfall.

Students can also watch the big game on the display board while floating along the lazy river in black and gold inner tubes. The Red Hall Beverage Co. is nearby. Another pool is outside, so “students will have lots of great choices,” Dahlmann said.

RecSports, which can sometimes draw hundreds of spectators, will be played in the renovated Brewer Fieldhouse. Bleachers from the original Brewer were reopened to provide tiered seating for elevated competition viewing. The original ceiling was kept in place, along with the original scoreboard for a blend of cutting-edge and traditional design.

Along with recreation sports, the Special Olympics and Show-Me State Games will be held in the fieldhouse.

Not what you’d expect

Dahlmann said the experience students will have in the new recreation complex will be like nothing they could imagine.

The design is meant to give students the feeling that they aren’t on campus anymore. “It’s about guiding students, our future leaders, how to best use their leisure time,” Dahlmann said. “This just makes such great sense.”

She also said there is a single focus related to the Mizzou Arena — that of spectatorship and event viewing. The Rothwell-Brewer expansion is a participant-based facility that also allows for spectatorship. Dahlmann said the design and construction teams for the expansion were told to be creative and not pull out their cookie cutters.

“It is customized for what this campus is about,” she said. “It is one of a kind, just for Tigers.”

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