UI recreational facilities continue to provide options for students


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Even though a plethora of students flock to their hometowns at the beginning of summer vacation, UI recreational facilities remain in business.

From the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center’s 2010 opening at a cost of $70 million to the continued use of the 1927-era Field House, UI officials say facilities continue to satisfy the needs of both students and community members.

Users seem to agree.   

“We’ve seen heavy use of the building; more use than expected,” said Rod Lehnertz, the director of planning, design, and construction for UI Facilities Management. “… Attendance has maintained its pace.”

He said prior to 2009, the university’s predominant recreation facility was the Field House and the purpose in the creation of the Rec Center was to provide people with services that were lacking at other facilities.

“Having a new facility designed to address all the current and developing interests of students made it an immediate hit,” he said. “Seeing other people participate in those activities encourages people to try new things.”

The inspiration to try something new is not limited to the Rec Center, it has influenced those using the Field House as well.

Lehnertz said the opening of the Rec Center has pushed up the overall recreational use across campus, notably in aquatics. He said campus recreational facilities positively affect each other in many ways, from providing convenient locations for citizens both east and west of the Iowa River to offering different facilities.

One example, he said, is eminent in the shared facility use between the Field House and Rec Center.

“We actually see more use of the Field House pool since the construction of the [Rec Center],” he said. “It wouldn’t work if we didn’t have some of the other facilities around.”

As the Rec Center continues to thrive, UI officials and partnering developers are currently thinking ahead to what they say is a probable expansion in the future as the closure of one facility becomes a reality.

“We feel fairly confident that in the long run we will expand to the south,” Lehnertz said, pointing to the area serving as university landscaping services and engineering and modeling facilities. “The use of the land southward would come into play as we would look at terminating the use of the Field House. But there are currently no plans to do that.”

The UI has no official or immediate Rec Center expansion plans on the table, Lehnertz said.

But despite peak attendance levels during the academic session, Kerry DuBay, associate director of UI Recreational Services, said the transition period between the academic year and the summer-school session typically sees a significant decline in overall recreational campus attendance.

“I can say that historically, our summer-use numbers decrease between 25 to 30 percent compared with our use during the school year,” she wrote in an email.

One UI employee and frequent gym-goer said after seeing an initial slowdown at the beginning of the summer, a noticeable return has been maintained at one fitness facility in particular.

“… Now, it’s pretty close to what it was during the school year,” Andrew Rinner said about Rec Center attendance.

Even though a return of fitness use has resulted, Lehnertz said numbers are well off their school-year highs.

“There are roughly 10,000 students during the summer and 30,000 during the school year,” Lehnertz said. “There’s certainly less traffic.”

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