At Clemson University, the primary recreation facility — the Fike Recreation Center featuring Swann Fitness Center — was originally built in 1930. And although it has gone through multiple renovations since, the need for more recreational space was a story the Campus Recreation staff had been telling for a while.
As a result, a project started by Dave and Lynette Snow in 2014 to support student recreation programs created the 35-acre Snow Family Outdoor Fitness and Wellness Complex, and allowed Clemson to expand on its robust Outdoor Adventure, Intramural and Club Sports programs.
Featured within the Snow Complex is the 100,000-square-foot LoConte Family Field, the 140,000-square-foot Championship Field, and the most recent addition: the 16,500-square-foot Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center, the new home for Clemson Outdoor Recreation and Education (CORE).
“The CORE program has always been stellar, but the addition of the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center at the Snow Complex places it in rare air,” said Chris Fiocchi, the senior director of Campus Recreation at Clemson. “Partnering high-quality programming, education, trips and equipment with an amazing facility steps from Lake Hartwell makes it hard to imagine a better scenario.”
With the help of Cooper Carry Global Architecture and Design, the building features hybrid design elements of southern yellow pine, cross-laminated timber that was first tested and developed through Clemson’s Wood Utilization and Design Institute. Inside, the building is outfitted with two academic classrooms, areas for boat and equipment storage, bike repair, adventure trip resources, rentals, and five roll-up doors to not only provide stunning views of the lake but also bridge the gap between indoor and outdoor recreation.
“On the second floor of our building, we have two multipurpose rooms that can be used for academic classes, meetings and events, study areas, and even some health and fitness courses like yoga,” said Austin Souto, the assistant director of Outdoor Recreation. “The panoramic views of the lake and the ability to open up garage-sized doors on one wall really help bring the outdoors into these spaces. On our main floor, students can study on couches in front of our fireplace, look over a map for their next trip at the library conference table, or just hang out with friends on the beach or in the hammocks on our outdoor patio.”
Even though the Andy Quattlebaum Outdoor Education Center sounds like a luxury vacation, Souto said CORE is proud to serve as a hub for students to connect and increase well-being. “Well-being comes from many places, and community — a sense of connection and belonging — is one of the biggest,” he said. “Whether we are taking people on a ski trip, running a skills clinic on bike maintenance, or checking out a paddleboard for someone, we are ultimately creating connection with the outdoors and with other people.”
Being able to create this connection comes from the many resources CORE is now able to provide for the community by removing barriers to accessing the outdoors. These resources include operating a major equipment rental program with gear from Liberty Mountain, NRS and College Outside for activities such as paddling, camping, backpacking, mountain biking, climbing and even fly fishing. But a new venture for CORE has been starting a small retail program where people can purchase items to keep.
“We’ve started small with things like headlamps, stove fuel and sunscreen, but even these few offerings allow us to provide a better and more complete service when it comes to getting people outside,” said Souto. “In all of this, we hope to see students better enabled to get outside. Beyond that, we also hope to see them equipped for a lifetime of pursuing outdoor recreation.”
Another major feature for outdoor equipment is a fully functioning bike shop that is open to the public for anyone to borrow tools and work on their own bikes any time the facility is open. Additionally, CORE partners with Clemson ReCyclery, a student organization on campus that gathers abandoned bikes from around campus, repairs them and then gives them to those in need.
While the equipment is exciting for CORE, Souto elaborated there is something powerful in the simple act of providing a space for students to gather, something they were not able to do in the previous facility because of its small size. In fact, the center originally opened to the public in the wintertime when outdoor recreation typically experiences a lull, but Souto described an immediate increase in students and community members coming to visit and experience the facility.
CORE is not the only program within Campus Recreation to utilize the benefits of the outdoors. Having two Shaw Sports Turf synthetic turf fields within the Snow Complex has greatly improved the quality of playing surfaces for both Intramural and Club Sports, two of the most popular activities at the university.
“Adding these fields to our inventory has allowed us to expand more of our less competitive sport offerings, and have more space and flexibility to introduce new programs and events,” said Rachel Jones, the assistant director of Club Sports. “These fields have also allowed us to dedicate more space for practices, particularly during the beginning of each semester where club tryouts can require more space.”
Looking at the data, the annual number of unique participants for Intramurals is between 5,000 to 5,500, roughly 20% of on-campus students, and the annual number of unique participants for Club Sports is around 1,500. With 33 teams hosting over 50 home events and totaling near 2,000 practice hours annually, the Snow Complex has provided a major boost to programming.
“Our most popular Intramural sports are flag football and soccer, both of which have benefitted from the turf fields in the complex,” said Chris Cox, the associate director of Intramural Sports and Club Sports. “We are now able to host roughly 200 teams for each.”
Club teams that utilize the complex include lacrosse, soccer and ultimate frisbee. Additional popular club sports teams that utilize the lakefront access at the complex include sailing and watersports.
The opportunity of the beach and lakefront access benefits nearly all aspects of Campus Recreation at Clemson. Not only does it provide creative programming options for Club Sports, CORE is also planning to increase the ways they utilize water-based recreation, specifically through fishing.
“This is a form of outdoor recreation that doesn’t get promoted a lot through traditional university outdoor recreation programs, and I think it is a big miss,” said Souto. “To use a shopping metaphor of sorts, we target those students who identify with REI, but are missing those students who identify with Cabela’s.”
To meet this need, CORE has added several pieces of fishing-specific equipment to the rental inventory — such as rods, waders and pedal-driven fishing kayaks — on top of offering fishing-specific trips and clinics, in hopes these resources will help students engage with their local waters in ways they might not have otherwise.
Even the most traditional form of recreation, Fitness and Wellness, has plans to better utilize the Snow Complex with opportunities such as Bend and Brew — yoga classes where participants can take a morning class with a view of Lake Hartwell, then stay and socialize with a cup of coffee afterward to increase social wellness.
While Fitness and Wellness is not primarily using the complex as much as CORE, Intramurals and Club Sports, the also new 30,000-square-foot Douthit Hills Fitness Center, on the second level of the Douthit Hill’s Hub building, offers Clemson students two group fitness studios, a functional training space, a fitness assessment room, and modern cardio and strength fitness equipment from CORE Health & Fitness and Life Fitness. This is all in addition to the Fike Recreation Center, placing Campus Recreation in the east, west and central areas of campus.
“Having multiple facilities has allowed us a greater reach in the students we are engaging,” said Jenny Rodgers, the assistant director of Fitness and Wellness. “Our satellite facility, Douthit Hills, is located in the middle of an on-campus residential community, which makes it much easier for students on that side of campus to attend fitness classes or work out on their own.”
With approximately 100 group fitness classes per week, 45 classes of F45 per week, and at least one wellness program or informational tabling each week, Rodgers has found the F45 program to have a tremendous impact on the fitness and wellness community. In fact, its following even stayed active and connected during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We have approximately 450 F45 members each semester, and the community and passion the trainers and participants have is like nothing I’ve ever seen,” she elaborated.
Outside of F45, one of Rodgers’ favorite components of her department is how their efforts stretch beyond campus and engage the community by working with Be Well Pendleton and Smart Fit Girls.
Be Well Pendleton is a free fitness and wellness program for participants who are 55 or older and live in the neighboring town of Pendleton. Some components of this program include bi-weekly workouts and wellness activities. Smart Fit Girls is a program that works with local middle school girls. Its programming intends to improve self-esteem and body image while providing fun and engaging fitness activities. “Getting our students involved in these two programs keep them civically engaged, and helps them see the impact fitness and wellness can have outside of a college campus,” said Rodgers.
When it comes to his team, Fiocchi described Clemson Campus Recreation as loaded with intelligent, thoughtful, creative and passionate professionals who work tirelessly to generate a positive environment where issues are addressed locally and compromise is fostered to bring about the best possible results.
“The team functions well because we all share a common vision but have the freedom to navigate our programs and services in ways that are independently designed,” he said. “Having the freedom to chart your own course with the security of being part of a stable environment makes success possible.”
One of the biggest lessons Fiocchi has learned during his campus recreation journey is to plan the work and work the plan. “Develop a vision for your area and then plan on how that vision can become a reality,” he said. “While you need to be nimble enough to make adjustments, you will benefit from being rigid about your standards and beliefs.”