Worth the Wait

Florida International University

Good things come to those who wait, right? At least that is the case for Florida International University. In 2008, the school proposed a $300,000 Wellness & Recreation Center-MMC expansion. Eight years later, this has led into a $25 million project.

Florida International University is the fourth largest university in the country as far as student population. And with 55,000 students attending the school, their original 50,000 square-foot Recreation Center just wasn’t enough space.

With the Recreation Center averaging 400,000 visits a year or roughly 2,000 visits a day, Charles Judkins, the director of wellness and recreation, said the university knew it needed to expand.

“We’re constantly growing in size, so we have to expand so we can function and meet the needs of our clientele,” explained Judkins.

The 65,000-square-foot expansion connects to their already existing 50,000-square-foot Recreation Center, adding: an expansion of both the men’s and women’s locker rooms with gender-neutral changing areas, a matted cardio room, designated indoor cycling room, two racquetball courts, squash court, multipurpose training room for functional training, an athletic training facility, indoor track, sand volleyball court, three indoor basketball courts and two outdoor basketball courts.

Judkins said the project was proposed by the student government in 2008, and just kept growing — along with the university.

“It was a $300,000 project, but now it’s a $25 million project,” added Judkins. “As more and more people were brought to the table, and more and more ideas came, the money became available and we were able to add certain aspects to the current expansion.”

While it’s called the “Sunshine State,” residents know otherwise. The expansion had a delay after Hurricane Matthew, the 2016 Category 5 cyclone that was extremely destructive to Atlantic coastal areas.

“We’re six weeks behind schedule due to the weather in south Florida,” he said. “We had Hurricane Matthew push us back a couple of weeks when they started the project, because it started in late spring/early summer, which is right during hurricane season, so the weather has been the biggest challenge.”

Judkins said other challenges include inconveniencing their patrons during the expansion.

“Since the two buildings are connected, we have to strip some of our current facility and cut holes, and there are days we’ve had to close it because of electrical issues or connecting the water chillers,” explained Judkins. “We just try to make sure we do a good job at communicating that to our visitors. And when we’re going to close to give notices three or four weeks in advance so that our visitors can adjust their schedules.”

Expert Advice: “When inconveniences happen, just try to remember that for the small inconvenience, there’s a greater outcome … And, you really need to know what your needs are. Make sure they are brought to light, and don’t forget about things like storage space, because that gets left out a lot, and you always need storage space no matter what — you can never have too much. And just try to stay patient.”

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