Recreation and Wellness Center opens doors to rave reviews

Climbing the new climbing wall

The new UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center is now open for business. Students, members of the campus community and area residents stopped by to try out the climbing wall, pool, fitness classes and much more during an open house Tuesday. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Looking out over a railing along the top floor of a brand-new campus facility, Adam Delgado wore a huge grin. The senior University of Missouri–St. Louis student was taking in the sights and sounds of the new UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center – something he’s been anticipating for a couple of years now.

Caleb Wilkerson shooting hoops

Ferguson, Mo., resident Caleb Wilkerson, a sibling of UMSL students Tira and Iriah Wilkerson, practices his layup in the new rec center’s gymnasium. (Photo by Evie Hemphill)

“It’s awesome,” he said during an all-day July 28 open house that featured tours, classes, rock climbing and even Jamba Juice samples. “I knew it was going to be really, really sweet and everything, but I didn’t know it would be this breathtaking.”

Delgado’s only on campus one more week, since he graduates Aug. 8 and heads home to New York shortly thereafter. But having voted for the project as an underclassman, he said he couldn’t be more thrilled to see it come to fruition. He plans to make the most of the rec center every day leading up to commencement next weekend.

“It’s a really amazing addition to the campus,” said Delgado, who is planning a trip back to St. Louis and his alma mater this fall, “and hopefully it gets a lot of use.”

View of the MSC from the natatorium

The light-filled natatorium sports everything from a zipline and a bouldering wall to a vortex and lap lanes. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Charlotte Kawa, a computer science major at UMSL, has been working inside the facility for a few weeks already. In her role as a climbing wall supervisor, she’s in charge of training rock wall attendants on aspects of the job such as tying knots and proper belaying technique.

“I’m just really excited to see everybody inside enjoying the space,” Kawa said Tuesday as clusters of students, faculty and staff, and community members stopped by to check out the colorful climbing area. “It’s a really incredible space – from the climbing wall to the zipline in the pool.”

climbing up a storm

New St. Louis residents Cooper, 3, and Trevor, 7, tackle the bouldering wall in the UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center. Click here to watch a UMSL student climb the larger wall. (Photo and video by Jen Hatton)

Lifeguard and incoming freshman Guy Goodpaster was on duty in the natatorium as the first water aerobics class got under way in the 155,000-gallon pool.

“It’s pretty exciting – definitely cool to see the place come to life,” said the engineering major, who recently served four years in the U.S. Marine Corps and landed the part-time, on-campus gig at the rec center this summer. “I feel like it’s going to boost the morale of students … I can’t wait to start swimming and using the gymnasium.”

Even before the doors opened Tuesday morning, junior biology majors Ruth Abraha and Charlene Masona were waiting outside the rec center. They agreed it was worth the wait.

“I felt like a VIP [walking through the automated entrance stiles in the lobby],” said Masona, who added that she tried every machine – “there’s so many!” – and expects to stop by for frequent workouts before or after classes this fall.

Abraha, who carpools to campus with her, said she looks forward to a convenient facility at the heart of campus, right near the Millennium Student Center. She was especially in awe of the natatorium.

“It’s very open, and you can see outside,” Abraha said. “It’s beautiful.”

students fitness area

Precious Penny, a junior criminology and criminal justice major, coaches biology senior Julia Yahl on a weight machine at the UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center, which is now open for business. (Photo by Ryan Heinz)

UMSL student Tira Wilkerson’s mother and younger brother joined her at the open house celebration, remarking on the value the facility offers to the surrounding community. The Wilkersons, who live near campus, said they plan to purchase a family membership.

“It’s exciting, because I can come up here and work out too,” said 13-year-old Caleb Wilkerson, an eighth-grader at Ferguson Middle School and avid basketball player.

As steady crowds explored the facility for the first time, Assistant Dean of Students Miriam Roccia helped greet people and direct traffic.

“I’m going to mark this day down as the birth of my second child,” joked Roccia, who has spent three years as part of the team working on the long-awaited project. “More than anything, I am excited to see everything this building will provide for our students. From pickup basketball and intramurals to more than 100 student employment opportunities, this is a student-first building. I can’t wait to see it full of energy this fall!”

First floated as an idea over a decade ago, the new rec center received UMSL students’ vote of support in a March 2012 referendum and was soon after approved by the University of Missouri Board of Curators. The $36 million, student-fee-funded project broke ground in November 2013.

For hours and more information on the UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center, click here.

Zachary Lee

Zachary Lee, a sophomore Engish major from O’Fallon, Mo., runs the elevated indoor track during the UMSL Recreation and Wellness Center Open House on July 28. (Photo by Ryan Heinz)

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