Rec center plans for upgrades

The upgrade and renovation of Northern Kentucky University’s Albright Health Center and the Campus Recreation Center may soon be underway, but exactly what will be added is still up for debate.

Matt Hackett, director of campus recreation, said there is a list of things that university officials would like to add.

“We know that students are interested in weight room space; we need more gym space and outdoor areas,” Hackett said. “So we’re trying to find out what we really want to have when we talk about a leisure pool, outdoor things, a large climbing wall, bouldering cave and an outdoor rope course. We need to fine-tune some of those things with what students really want to see.”

With the approval of the planning process, the next step is to work on a design.

“It should be this semester in which we select an architect,” Hackett said. “The timeline depends on when we get the architect firm on board. We are hoping to start construction by this time next year.”

Now that students and Student Government Association leaders are back on campus, university officials are trying to plan trips with students to see other universities’ facilities to help generate ideas. A consultant firm may be hired sometime this fall as well to assist with the planning.

The project is going to be a staged process, and students will always have access to the facilities. According to Hackett, the expansion of the facility will be the first priority. When that is complete, all operations will move to the newly added portion of the building in order to start work on the currently used space.

The extension to the center will cut into Parking Lot S, but the university is not sure how much of that area is going to be used. Additional parking with up to 100 or more spots may be added on the opposite side of John’s Hill Road.

Director of Campus and Space Planning Mary Paula Schuh said that with the approval of the funding, the university will include the project in the capital budget request, which is an application for a sum of money that will fund NKU’s projects for the next year. This request will be considered by the general assembly and by the legislature in January.

“We have a process that we follow to hire an architect and engineering design team, and we’ll issue a request for proposal in the early fall,” Schuh said. “We have a selection process that is prescribed by the state that we follow, and we will need authorization from the legislature to issue bonds for the project.”

A representative committee met a few times over the winter to talk about the project. Members of the committee want to initiate discussions with students about what sort of activity spaces the building should include. There is really nothing definite yet, according to Schuh.

It would take in the range from 18 to 24 months to build the addition. The existing first floor of the AHC would be renovated which could take up to a year depending on the nature and extent of the work.

Schuh said that the campus health center is an important part of the campus, but it is too small for the size of NKU.

“We’re looking for a campus recreation center that has an open, transparent and welcoming environment,” Schuh said. “Paired with the Student Union, it could become a magnet for student engagement and become a place for students to hang out, make friends, socialize and be involved in healthy physical activity.”

Schuh believes the center is needed for NKU as it continues to expand.

“It’s a necessary project in terms of the growth, the maturation and the completion of the campus. It’s exciting,” Schuh said.