Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) needed an upgrade. The recreation weight room on campus was built in 1999, and it had long since become outdated.
“First and foremost, we needed more usable space for our students,” said Keith Becherer, the director of campus recreation for SIUE. “We knew from our card swipe data that between 75 to 80 percent of all students used the Student Fitness Center and a large percentage of that usage was concentrated in the free weight room.”
Becherer and his team conducted focus groups with students, collected data from assessment surveys, analyzed usage trends, and compared industry space standards to determine the needs of SIUE’s students and how best to address those needs.
Over the past 15 years, SIUE had been experiencing noticeable enrollment growth, so there was a much higher volume of students on campus to accommodate. The gym had to become a more welcoming environment.
The result of the project was an updated facility with double the amount of space as the old recreation center, plus dynamic design and lighting.
“We were able to add over 3,600 square footage of usable space, more than doubling our facility to over 7,000 square feet,” said Becherer. “The new space is open and inviting with natural light, high ceilings and a very efficient HVAC system that has created a great environment.”
Swift decision-making from the Board of Trustees at SIUE facilitated an extraordinarily quick turnaround for a multimillion-dollar renovation project.
“The Board of Trustees awarded the contract in March 2015, the contractor broke ground in April 2015 and we accepted ownership of the facility in December 2015, with it opening up to our students at the start of the Spring 2016 semester,” explained Becherer. “We were excited the contractor was able to meet our ambitious schedule and finish on time.”
Though the project felt like a whirlwind with such a rapid completion deadline, Becherer was still able to reflect on a few lessons he learned from the experience.
“First, make sure you have effectively collected data and demonstrated the need for your project,” said Becherer. “Next, be intentional about the layout of equipment in the room. Finally, oftentimes the tendency is to buy as much equipment and fill up the new space. We took the approach that we would acquire new pieces of equipment, but still maintain open space that would allow us to monitor actual usage trends, stay flexible with layout and make future purchases to meet the ever changing needs of our students.”
Ultimately, helping students reach their fitness goals was the purpose of the renovation and the rec center as a whole. “We know we contribute to the overall student success, whether it is related to promoting a healthy lifestyle or how we help retain students by enhancing their collegiate experience,” said Becherer.