Construction Begins on UC Riverside Student Recreation Center Expansion

UCR students play large role in planning and design of new building, which will increase recreation space by two-thirds

An artist’s rendering of the Student Recreation Center expansion and pool area.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( — Construction work has begun this week on a $37.2 million expansion of the University of California, Riverside’s Student Recreation Center (SRC), adding much-needed recreation facilities for UCR’s growing student community.

The project has been extensively student-driven, with both undergraduate and graduate students playing key roles in the research, development and execution of the expansion. Funding will come from a $149 per quarter fee that students approved in a referendum in 2010.

basketball court

An artist’s rendering of the multi-activity court (MAC) in the Student Recreation Center expansion.

“From the beginning this has been a student driven project, and that’s why I think it has been a success,” said Jenni Deveau, a psychology graduate student and member of the Recreation Facilities Governing Board. “Students gave input on their experience at the current Rec Center and what they wanted for the future, they were given the choice through an election whether they wanted to implement these changes knowing the financial impact, and there has been student representation and input on all aspects of the design and construction of the new building.”

The expansion will increase the SRC’s total recreation space by about two-thirds and is designed to accommodate a population of 23,000 to 25,000 students. It will help reduce waiting times to use weight room and cardio equipment during peak hours, while the new multi-athletic court (MAC) gym will give students a place to play when the existing gym is being used for an event.

“When the heavy traffic hours come around there is an obvious sense of overcrowding,” said Spencer Hercules, chair of the Recreation Facilities Governing Board and senior languages major. “There just aren’t enough machines to go around. With the new building there will be an immense increase in facilities and equipment that will make the general Rec Center experience better for patrons.”

jogging track

An artist’s rendering of the indoor jogging track in the Student Recreation Center expansion project.

The first phase of the project is a 75,000 gross square foot expansion that will be built on a portion of the current SRC outdoor facilities adjacent to Parking Lot 25. New amenities include an outdoor pool and aquatics facilities, the MAC court, indoor jogging track, climbing wall and 20,000 square feet of weight room and cardio fitness facilities. New tennis courts, as well as basketball courts, will be built on the southeast corner of the existing nine-acre complex.

The second phase, which is scheduled to be completed by Winter Quarter of 2015, will involve significant renovation of the existing SRC building, which was completed in 1994 and was designed to accommodate a campus population of 11,000 students. The refurbished space will provide the staff with additional office space as well as several multi-purpose rooms. The main gymnasium, which features four multi-activity courts and is home to the UCR men’s and women’s basketball teams, will not be affected.

One of the most important aspects of the project is the fact that students will never be shutout from the facility during construction.

“The one over-arching goal was to minimize any negative impact on all Student Recreation Center users during construction,” Recreation Center Director Lindy Fenex said. “The existing building will remain open while the new building is under construction and will remain so until the new expansion building is opened.  After that, some parts of the existing building will undergo renovations. This plan allows the new facility to provide the needed capacity while the existing building is modified.”

cardio room

An artist’s rendering of the cardio area at the Student Recreation Center expansion.

“The students have been in charge of the program and the purse strings all along,” UCR Campus Architect Don Caskey said. “They were an integral part of the project management committee. They were there every step of the way, through the detailed project program, the student referendum, the space programming and architectural design, and even when we were reviewing the bids that came in.”

The architect was Cannon Design and construction will be handled by C.W. Driver. The winning bid was about $1.5 million less than the project’s total budget. That money will go towards the contingency fund, which is used should additional construction requirements arise during the project.

“That’s a good thing because there are a number of complications that we could run into during the renovation,” Caskey said. “Having extra resources available could be really helpful. If there is money left over, then the students have a list of things that they would like to accomplish as a follow-on project.”

To meet University of California green-building requirements, the new Recreation Center has been designed to meet LEED Silver Certification. Its features include lower operating costs, reduced waste sent to landfills, and energy and water conservation.

As for the cost, Caskey said now is the ideal time to build the expansion.

“You’ll never be able to build it any cheaper,” he said. “If we were to take this project on five-to-10 years from now, that $35 million number could be $50 million or more.”

About the New SRC

lobby rendering

An artist’s rendering of the remodeled lobby of the Student Recreation Center.

The designers of the expansion faced the challenge of creating a structure that was new and exciting, yet still meshed with the existing facility, and Caskey believes they have succeeded.

“You want a facility that is friendly, that feels inviting, and you are using the newer building to upgrade the overall appearance and ambiance of the entire complex,” Caskey said. “It’s an opportunity to push the envelope a little bit and to create a building with its own identity. When you drive by the building, you will know that it is a special place.”

Connected to the existing building via a second-floor bridge, the expansion is light and airy with warm colors, great graphics and a nearly continuous serpentine window wall shaded by a perforated window screen.

“Students told us that they wanted to be able to see out. They wanted to see the pool; they wanted to see the Box Springs Mountains. As a result, there is a lot of glass in this building,” Caskey said. “When you are running on the indoor track on the second floor, you will be looking outdoors all the time.”

The windows will be made of E-glass that absorbs radiant heat and will be “fritted” with small dots that will help diffuse the light coming in. Additionally, a unique metal screen will wrap around the windows on three sides of the building.

“The height of the screen evolves as it goes around the building,” Caskey said. “On the south side of the building, where the sun will be high, you need fewer screens than on the east and west ends. You can see through the screen, but it really knocks down the sun and the heat gain for the building, which helps reduce our costs.”

For many students, the best part of the new facility will be the extensive aquatics complex, which will feature a lap pool, recreation pool and a vortex pool, which is a round pool that features a slight current that can be walked against as an aerobic workout.

“I am excited about the aquatics facility, because it will provide so many options for the campus population, whether it is for swim classes, intramural sports, club activities, or simply recreational use on hot days,” said senior biology and statistics major Gerry Young, the board’s executive secretary.

“The pool was definitely high on the students’ priority list for the expansion,” agreed Deveau. “I think having the pool will add a fun social aspect to the campus environment, especially because of the great weather we have all year round in Southern California.”

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