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New fitness center sees strong response from UW-River Falls community

Falcon News Service

February 1, 2017

A new fitness center, part of the still-under-construction Falcon Center, opened its doors just in time for the start of spring semester at UW-River Falls.

Work on the fitness center began in 2015 and was completed in the fall. The center is connected to the Strength and Conditioning Center, neighboring the new Karges Gym, and includes three new multipurpose rooms that vary in size.

While the project has remained within budget, construction crews and Recreation and Sports Facilities staff have had to rise above adversity. Minor issues such as floods and natural gas leaks slowed progress at some points, but construction of the Falcon Center is ahead of schedule and the opening of the fitness center reflects that.

Over the past 30 years or so, students have not had an adequate place to work out, said Steve Stocker, director of Recreation and Sports Facilities and a UWRF alumnus. In the past, student athletes have dominated the smaller fitness areas on campus, especially during convenient afternoon hours. The new fitness center gives both students and faculty an opportunity to use the facility at more appropriate times rather than the late night sessions to which some had grown accustomed.

“What this has done, it has opened up a place for students to come and recreate between those hours of 2 to 7 p.m. and that’s what’s really cool,” Stocker said.

UWRF faculty and staff members have steadily been purchasing memberships and using the fitness center along with the students, which is something the campus has never seen, Stocker noted.

“The first day numbers were completely staggering,” Stocker said. A total of 1,062 students, faculty and community members checked in and swiped their identification cards on the first day the fitness center was open. Last year on the first day of spring semester just 62 students and faculty took advantage of the fitness areas on campus.

One section of the fitness center features an array of weight benches and racks, resistance bands, medicine balls, kettlebells, a section of monkey bars and floor mats. Another section fulfills the needs of those looking for a cardiovascular workout. Rows and rows of treadmills, ellipticals, stair climbers and four different kinds of bikes fill part of the overall 15,000 square foot space. The walls are filled with flat screen TVs and towering athlete portraits, while three large fans circulate the air overhead. The easternmost wall of the facility features floor to ceiling windows allowing natural light. Lockers and cubbies are available to use for free, while renting a locker monthly is also an option.

Classes, ranging from yoga to guided fitness courses such as “Butts and Guts,” are held in the three different multipurpose rooms and have seen steady numbers despite the semester just beginning. Some classes have needed to relocate to the largest space available to accommodate the growing numbers. These classes are free to students taking eight or more credits. The new facility also features a fitness consultation office. Once it is staffed, patrons will be able have their questions answered regarding equipment and their workout.

Erika Woodruff, a member of the Recreational Services staff and captain of the club lacrosse team, said she is looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunities the new fitness center provides.

“I am really excited to get our team in to weight train. That is something we weren’t able to do,” she said. “We’ll be able to get all of our athletes on the team in and show them how to correctly lift.”

Woodruff and her teammates found it difficult to accomplish such tasks using the facilities in the old Karges Center gym.

Another section of the fitness center was designed to meet the needs of student-athletes. A separate area with weight racks, benches and other machines gives student-athletes the space they need to work out as a team. While student-athletes are not in session or working with strength and conditioning staff, large glass doors will be lifted and that area will be open for all to use.

For students with fewer than eight credits, UWRF faculty and staff or emeriti, a monthly membership fee of $30 is required. Family and community memberships are also available to purchase and in some cases discounts are available for senior citizens, veterans and UWRF alumni.