Plans for new rec center taking shape


Renovation and expansion plans for Northern Kentucky University’s Albright Health and Recreation Center are shaping up as the Department of Campus Recreation aims to better accommodate a growing campus.

The revamped recreation center will be designed with NKU students and faculty in mind. Campus recreation recently gathered student and staff feedback through focus group sessions and campus-wide surveys to help determine their needs.

“We had 12 focus group sessions with students and faculty to try and find out what things they’d like to see in the new building,” said Director of Campus Recreation Matthew Hackett.
Hackett and his associates are working to pinpoint what is most important to the NKU population when it comes to a health center and what things students and faculty would like have that the recreation center currently doesn’t offer.

The recreation staff is not alone in its interest in student input. The architects responsible for the design and layout of the future facility are listening as well.
The Lexington-based Omni Architects team visited the Student Union March 15 to present large picture boards displaying photos of amenities offered in other university health centers, potential additions and popular requests in an effort to gain student opinion and approval.

“Up until now it’s been a lot of words and numbers,” Hackett said. “Now we are trying to get into what some of these spaces would look like and if we are interpreting what you wanted.”
Jay Copley, an Omni architectural staff member believes visuals are a helpful part of the design process because sometimes “students don’t realize what they would find useful until they see it,” he said.

“An awesome pool would be amazing,” said Mitchell Patterson, sophomore and frequent recreation center visitor.
Criminal justice major Jake Olberding said he would like to see “more space in the gym for basketball” in the new building.
According to Hackett, the majority of students surveyed showed an interest in a recreational swimming pool that could feature zip-lines and climbing areas as well as an “outdoor adventure” area with rock walls and ropes courses. Campus recreation hopes such amenities will also be useful for team building and fundraising for student organizations.
“We need more of a lot of the basic things,” Hackett said. “More gym space, more room in the weight room, Norse fitness and aerobics classes.”
Currently the recreation center provides one space to be shared by club sports, physical education and fitness classes. The expansion will feature multiple areas for several activities to take place simultaneously.

Hackett said the new health center will attach to the current location and expand behind the building into what is now a gravel driveway. The improved space is projected to take up roughly 200,000 sq. ft. of area, which is a little over twice the current size.

Hackett said construction will begin during the fall 2012 semester and is estimated to take 18 months to two years. Lighted, artificial turf fields will be installed outside the building for intramural sports, clubs and student organization to use during construction. Campus recreation hopes the new edition will be open to the public in 2014.
NKU needs to have finalized design and layout plans by May or June of this year, along with state budget approval for construction on higher education campuses. Until then, Hackett and the recreation staff are all ears.

“We are early in the design process,” Hackett said. “Nothing is definitely in and nothing is definitely out. We are still looking at possibilities.”