CU Denver Wellness & Recreation Services

The September 2021 Rec of the Month highlights the University of Colorado Denver’s (CU Denver) Lola and Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center. 


To promote a culture of belonging at CU Denver through innovative wellness spaces and experiences.


Seven Dimensions of Wellness:
Physical. Spiritual. Emotional. Social. Environmental. Financial. Creative.

Other principles include: Innovation and creative thinking. Equity, diversity and inclusion. Student development and learning. Service and citizenship. Spirit and fun.


The Lola & Rob Salazar Student Wellness Center at CU Denver opened with much anticipation in 2018. The idea came to life by a passionate group of CU Denver students. They understood the value of student-centered wellness amenities for future generations to come.

As a commuter campus, CU Denver students were lacking a place to connect, to be CU Denver Lynx together. The proposed facility produced the largest student-voter turnout in CU Denver history. As a result of the successful student vote, the Salazar Student Wellness Center is funded by a dedicated student fee.

The 85,000-square-foot facility features three levels of unique and flexible spaces designed to meet the holistic wellness needs of the CU Denver campus community. Situated in downtown Denver, this urban wellness destination acts as the campus living room, providing physical space for connection among CU Denver students, faculty and staff. Spaces within the facility have names that helps it feel more like home, such as The Kitchen, The Den, The Loft and The Study. Facility amenity design encourages students to relax, play, study and connect with others.

CU Denver is largely a commuter campus but has a campus master plan to increase the number of on-campus residents. As a result, CU Denver built the Salazar Student Wellness Center with growth, transition and flexibility in mind. Open office concepts, solutions rooms and community amenities have allowed the organization to continue to grow and change with the needs of the campus. Fitness spaces focus on functional training and equipment that offers movement versatility and layout flexibility as trends evolve. The gymnasium was built with the intention to host large-scale university gatherings like chancellor’s town halls and convocation.

EXTRA CREDIT: Find other Rec of the Month highlights here.

In addition to traditional campus recreation spaces like the gymnasium, pool and fitness studios, the Salazar Student Wellness Center provides a physical landing space for students between classes. Commuter friendly options include a plethora of comfortable lounge spaces, a kitchen, nap room, study rooms, reflection suites, food pantry, bike shop and a game den. It’s not uncommon for student users to be in the wellness center for three to five hours as they navigate their day using different spaces.

Wellness & Recreation Services utilizes an integrated operations model that ensures the user experiences the facility in a consistent and holistic manner. All professional staff work together intentionally to ensure consistency in department-wide policy, process and service. Pro staff provide assistance in customer-facing roles like member services or facility supervisor to aid in extremely busy times or to fill scheduling voids.

We truly believe in leading by example, which offers authentic opportunities to create relationships with student staff and facility users. In addition, student staff are encouraged to work in multiple roles within the facility, which has created greater student staff satisfaction, buy-in and camaraderie. Student facility supervisors are selected from a diverse group of students who represent all program areas within Wellness & Recreation. The intention, planning and execution of this integrated model has fostered a tight knit team, and created operational and budgetary efficiencies.


  • Four private, small group study rooms with TVs, tech panels, lounge furniture and whiteboard.
  • Student kitchen with microwaves, vending machines and seating.
  • Six-lane pool with 25-yard lap lanes as well as individual restrooms, locker rooms and showers.
  • Outdoor adventure center with a rental shop, educational bike shop and trip planning services.
  • Fitness areas include flexible, functional training spaces with various strength and conditioning equipment.
  • Three full-size gym courts, including one multi-activity court.
  • The Den features a lounge, study space and gaming area.
  • Climbing wall acts as the visual cornerstone of campus, and provides climbers with a unique view of downtown Denver.
  • The Loft is a functional training space that overlooks the university quad.
  • The Mezzanine is a pocket fitness space for private workouts or stretching that overlooks the gymnasium.
  • The Wellness Suite includes reflection rooms, a seminar room, a food pantry, a personal training suite and a nap room.
  • The Terrace is an outdoor, elevated patio with a view of the Rocky Mountains. It’s used for yoga classes, personal workouts, study time or lunch breaks
  • Two large group fitness studios are for group fitness classes, including Zumba, yoga, cycling and strength-based cardio, and many other group fitness formats.


  • LEED Gold Certified.
  • NIRSA 2019 Outstanding Sports Facility Award.
  • Engineering News Record (ENR) Mountain States Regional Best Projects 2019.


It was intentional the facility was named “wellness center” instead of “rec center” or “fitness center.” CU Denver students felt the word “wellness” was more inclusive to the fit needs of the diverse student body. The CU Denver student population is 49% first generation, and 42% of students identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color.

Given the diverse make up of campus, it is important that programming and services reflect the true and unique needs of the student body. As a result, Wellness & Recreation Services is intentional in efforts to foster a culture of inclusion. In addition, the CU Denver Strategic Plan has a bold goal to become the first equity-serving institution. Connection and belonging are central to all the programs and services offered by CU Denver Wellness & Recreation Services.

Most recently, our service model grew to include student basic needs. For example, we have on-boarded a program called Single Stop, which is a software platform that helps students determine if they are eligible for public assistance like SNAP, Medicaid or tax benefits. This program aligns with our Financial Wellness Program. And our on-site, free student Food Pantry complements it. These programs might traditionally be housed in the office of Case Management or Financial Aid office, for instance. However, given our holistic wellness model, these programs fit well within our organization. Students who make an appointment with Single Stop can find a variety of other resources within the facility or across campus. This program was just implemented. However, we hope we can demonstrate this high impact service directly ties to greater university retention rates.

  • LeadWELL:

    • An eight-week leadership course designed to prepare student employees to move into leadership roles such as facility supervisor, program manager or trip leader. It focuses on helping students realize their natural leadership strengths, and helps them learn about others in a way that fosters respect, camaraderie and understanding. LeadWELL is facilitated by Wellness & Recreation Services professional staff. In addition, student leaders attend a LeadWELL retreat each semester to continue to develop their leadership skills. When the facility first opened, LeadWELL was a way to fast track the natural development of students into leaders. The program was well-received. As a result, it will continue on as a way to empower student staff as leaders and foster student leader to pro staff connections.
  • Basic Needs:

    • Single Stop: Connects students to the local community and governmental resources — i.e. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Medicaid — that can help them overcome socioeconomic barriers and assist them in their educational journey. Single Stop is a free online screening tool that can estimate in minutes what supplemental resources students might be eligible to receive. Single Stop efforts support student financial aid, case management and general basic needs.
    • Financial Wellness: The Financial Wellness program strives to provide resources, guidance and activities to help students manage their money and build healthy financial habits toward stability through financial wellness coaching and educational outreach. The CU Denver Financial Wellness program is sponsored by TransAmerica in the effort to help students align financial and physical well-being in order to discover their best selves.
  • Competitive Sports:

    • Club Sports: Eleven teams compete at the local, regional and national level. We focus on developing our players on and off the field to enhance the campus experience and build a sense of community through sports.
    • Intramurals: Students discover new ways to play and socialize through sport and recreation activities. Intramural sports has recently shifted to include more individual, drop-in sporting activities to accommodate busy student schedules.
    • MiloKids Camp: MiloKids focuses on providing campers with a fun, activity-based experience. Games, climbing, swimming, yoga and healthy challenges keep campers busy for instance. This year, MiloKids was reserved for faculty and staff members at CU Denver in an effort to help employees return to campus after the pandemic. The camp was subsidized by CU Denver human resources and is well-received.

  • Health Education:

    • Mental health education: In response to increasing mental health challenges among students, Wellness & Recreation Services began offering Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) certifications to faculty, staff and students. MHFA works toward building a community approach to supporting students with mental health challenges.
    • Health Promotion: Includes substance use education and awareness and peer education. It also includes campus-wide assessment and reporting to understand and address the health needs of CU Denver students. In addition, health promotion oversees an on-site food pantry and contributes to campus-wide food insecurity efforts as well.
  • Fitness:

    • Health coaching: All CU Denver students and new members have access to a free health coaching session to help them identify wellness challenges, explore resources and create a personal wellness plan. Wellness coaches are a mix of professional and student staff.
    • Personal training: Available at a nominal cost to help users explore and reach their fitness goals.
    • Group fitness: Free group fitness classes of diverse formats and modalities make fitness more fun.
    • Aquatics: Open swim, swimming lessons and clinics
  • Outdoor Adventure:

    • Our Outdoor Adventure program strives to remove barriers that prevent students from getting outside by offering guided trips, affordable gear rentals and hands-on educational programs intended for all skill levels. The adventure program has also evolved to offer urban adventures, which help students navigate local trails, parks and other outdoor experiences in downtown Denver.


  • The Wellness Center is the home of Milo the Lynx, the CU Denver Mascot.
  • The Wellness Center is located on the Auraria tri-institutional campus — University of Colorado Denver, Metropolitan State University and the Community College of Denver.
  • Professional staff make waffles and play de-stressing animated movies for student staff during finals week.
  • Recreation & Wellness Services is the host of the annual Gobbler Grind donation based workout to benefit the CU Denver Food Pantry.
  • We encourage all staff to live the Wellness Warrior Challenge for healthy behaviors:
    • Lead by example. For instance, take care of yourself.
    • Inspire your circle of influence — i.e. friends and family.
    • Engage the unengaged. So, look for students who do not currently engage in wellness activities.

Follow CU Denver:

  • Instagram: CUDWellness
  • Facebook: CUDWellness
  • Twitter: CUDWellness
Brittany is an editor at Peake Media. Reach her at

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