Beefed-up rec center now open

Wednesday, January 19, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:08 p.m. CDT, Friday, July 4, 2008

Brian Anderson will be the first to tell you that he’s a big guy.

The bulk of his muscles can be attributed to working out three to four times a week. A senior at MU, he was excited to finally have a workout facility on campus that accommodates his 6-foot, 3-inch frame.

Anderson voted as a freshman in 2001 to expand and renovate the MU Student Recreation Complex. He watched as construction began in the spring of 2003 and portions of the recreation center were closed off or moved to accommodate construction. Anderson even got a membership to the Columbia Activity and Recreation Center to avoid the crowded spaces. But now, he’s back.

Anderson went to work out Tuesday morning at the newly expanded and renovated recreation center, which opened at 5:30 a.m. Anderson praised the larger spaces and new equipment.

“I might stay and get my master’s degree just so I can enjoy it longer,” he joked.

People expressed surprise as they viewed the renovated building on opening day or at the student preview at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday — surprise at the dramatically different look and amount of new machines.

“It has an incredible energy,” said Diane Dahlmann, director of recreation services and facilities. She was thrilled as she watched more than 1,500 students flood the student preview and literally run around the facility, checking out the new attractions and picking up free items, which disappeared quickly to the swarms of people.

“The response so far is a good indicator that we hit the mark, and maybe then some,” Dahlmann said. The opening was not without some kinks. There were issues with sound and temperature control — the whole building is air-conditioned. And one student hesitated as the water fountain spit out erratically, but overall things have gone as planned.

Although Dahlmann said the expansion project is on time and on budget, getting it all ready has been no small task. The construction team had a challenging schedule, sometimes working through the night to get things finished. The full-time staff at the recreation center has had the pressures of doing three jobs at once the past few months: managing the transition period, running the existing building and planning for the future. Extra staff has been necessary this week to get ready and help open the new building.

The $49 million project will be paid for by a $75 increase in the student recreation facility fee, which brings the total fee to $120.74 a semester. Fees did not increase until this semester. Community members can join for $29 a month, depending on the membership plan.

The new recreation complex has three levels. The first level, in addition to basketball courts and a weight room, houses “Downtown Brewer,” a street-like scene of smaller workout rooms and locker rooms. Complete with a sidewalk, which disguises elevation differences, and parking meters, which collect donations for the tsunami relief fund, the first level combines the traditions of the old Brewer Fieldhouse with current design trends.

Burning Tiki torches — fake ones — welcome members at the entrance of the second level’s main attraction, the “Jungle Gym.” More than 200 cardiovascular and weight-training machines are accompanied by new televisions and an in-house broadcast program in the fitness center.

Lauren Guerdan, an MU sophomore, said she appreciated the new equipment after the frustration of waiting for 30 minutes or more for a treadmill before the renovation.

The third floor contains three aerobics studios and the top of a new climbing wall. One of its first climbers was someone in a Spider-Man costume at the student preview.

Wood planks outside the recreation complex and a wheelbarrow leaning against a brick pillar signal that construction isn’t over yet. One of the expansion project’s components — an aquatic center with indoor pools, a sauna, a whirlpool and an outdoor pool — is scheduled to open in early June. The Hitt Street entrance and some of the smaller studios are also under construction. All services are scheduled to be done by early fall 2005.

Gold’s Gym, another fitness center in Columbia, isn’t worried about drops in membership due to the new facility. Vice President Jeff Harper said Gold’s Gym had the best Martin Luther King Jr. Day ever on Monday, signing up more than 80 people for memberships.

Harper said about half their members are students, usually juniors and seniors. He hears a lot of complaints that MU’s facilities are too crowded.

Dahlmann hopes the new space and new equipment will make complaints of crowds a thing of the past. Her main goal was to make this place a first choice in students’ free time. Kyle Anderson, a student employee, said he thinks students will immediately see the benefits of the new recreation complex.

“It’s like being in a closet and then coming into a mansion,” he said.

Missourian reporter Andrea Latta contributed to this report.

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