Anyone who’s driven through Illinois knows the state is very flat — it’s easy to see miles away in every direction. With very little to obstruct its view, the Redbird Adventure Center at Illinois State University routinely catches the eye of the passerby in Normal, Illinois.
“It is such a unique facility to the area that it is not uncommon for people who are driving by to turn around, pull into the parking lot, check out the space and come in to ask questions,” said Matt Seibring, the associate director of campus recreation at Illinois State.
Complete with a high ropes course, a full slate of outdoor equipment and resource center for trip planning, the Redbird Adventure Center is Illinois State’s new hub for outdoor adventures. Campus organizations can host leadership and team-building exercises, and students can take climbing classes in the 5,500-square-foot building.
The new facility only saw the light of day, however, when some previously occupied space on campus was vacated.
“The Redbird Adventure Center was envisioned when the original Outing Center was demolished to allow for growth in the center of campus,” said Seibring. “That change gave us an opportunity to consider the addition of a high ropes course.”
The intention behind the facility was to encourage outdoor recreation. “Our goal was to set a new standard for inclusion in adventure, and provide a great amenity for the community that would help with recruitment and retention,” said Seibring.
While there were certainly challenges in the actual building process, convincing the university’s leadership of the Redbird Adventure Center’s merits was the biggest hurdle for the Illinois State recreation department.
“When a space becomes available on a college campus, academic and non-academic departments all have great ambitions for it,” said Seibring. “It can be a challenge to justify why your department needs the space, and how your facility and programs can benefit the student population, as well as the surrounding area.”
After much “advocating and educating,” according to Seibring, the end result has been very satisfying. With an innovative new space that engages students and community members alike, Illinois State is well-equipped to promote wellness and outdoor adventures for years to come.
“Be futuristic and dream with your plan,” said Seibring. “What does research say will be needed in five years or more? Plan for that and be ready if adjustments are needed. You will not get something you don’t ask for.“