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New Recreation Center boasts bigger space, new equipment, myriad upgrades to facilities

By Jocelyn Wright     9/24/09 7:00pm

After a year and a half of construction, the much-anticipated Barbara and David Gibbs Recreation and Wellness Center opens today at 2 p.m. The center more than doubles the square footage of the former Rec Center, and boasts a variety of new rooms, spaces and workout facilities that will be available to students, faculty, staff and their families, Director of Recreation Programs Tina Villard said.

The increased size of the Rec Center allows for two outdoor pools, including a 50-meter competition pool, two classrooms, a dance theater, four multipurpose rooms, a cardio and weight-lifting room, a multipurpose activity court gym and several spaces for students to lounge and watch games. The new center also includes two outdoor basketball courts, four indoor basketball courts, four racquetball courts, two squash courts and an outdoor adventure center. Villard said the entire building is also equipped with Wi-Fi.

The Wellness Center, previously located next to the Brown College master's house on the north side of campus, has moved to the Rec Center. Its facilities have been expanded to include two acupuncture rooms, a massage room, a classroom and a conference room. Student Health Services, however, will remain at its current location, in the same building that housed the Wellness Center.

Membership for undergraduate students is $75 annually, which is included as part of tuition. Annual memberships for graduate students are $120, and memberships for faculty, staff and retirees range from $288 to $720, according to the Rec Center's Web site.

However, availability may be expanded after Rec Center administrators examine the facility's demand.

"After we're done working out the details, we may expand availability of the Rec Center to alumni and the community as well, but our primary concern remains students, faculty and staff," Villard said.

Villard said the center was largely paid for through a major donation from Barbara (Brown '73) and David Gibbs (Will Rice '71), in addition to smaller donations from other alumni.

Villard said the need for a new recreation center grew as the intramural and club sports on campus were enveloped by the Rec Center department.

She said President David Leebron was instrumental in pushing for the construction of new facilities. The Rec Center solicited feedback from students through surveys and an advisory committee that talked to the colleges to determine what facilities students most needed. A feasibility study for the building was completed in 2006, and construction began in April 2008.

"They really fast-tracked this project to make sure we got the building in," Villard said.

In compliance with Facilities, Engineering and Planning's goals for all of its new buildings, the Rec Center should receive LEED Silver Certification for its sustainable construction, FE&P Manager of Communciations Susann Glenn said. Several windows in the Rec Center are made out of Kalwall, a material that absorbs heat and cold and also filters light.

This material also cuts down on energy costs, as less air conditioning will be needed for the facility.

"When the building's lit and it's dark outside it kind of looks like a lantern," Glenn said.

While the Rec Center is being introduced to the new community, the former Autry Court is undergoing a facelift. Villard said much of the space at Autry Court will disappear when the temporary metal building, located adjacent to the outdoor tennis courts, is removed. She said the two back gyms will continue to be used for certain club sport practices but that many areas in the building, such as the pool and the locker rooms, need to be revamped.

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